Hello everyone, just returned from an 11 day vacation to Europe (France, Belgium, and the Netherlands) and was actually able to squeeze in about 8 hours at the Disneyland Resort Paris. My train into Paris for my flight back home arrived a day earlier than the flight due to scheduling issues, and thus I was left with a half-day and an evening to kill. I wasn't able to get a room at the resort (they were completely full), but I took the Thalys train there (it runs immediately into the resort--so cool) and was stepping foot into Euro-Mouse by about 12:20pm. I have been many times to the Disneyland park there when I worked in Paris for a summer, but of course had yet to see the new park. As many of you may know, admission to the new park also allows admission to Disneyland for the final three hours of the day. And what a bargain Paris Disney is--only 38 euro (38 USD) for a one day pass. I happily plunked down the money knowing that I'd have a good 7+ hours in the new park and three more in Disneyland that night before searching for a hotel somewhere before my morning flight. Talk about winging it.
The entryway hasn't changed too much, but the parks are REALLY close together. It's much like DL in California, only instead of entrances opposite each other, the Studios entrance is 90 degrees from Disneyland and nestled back a bit. You can see a few areas of Disneyland from the park, but I never saw any of the Studios from Disneyland (nice).
I entered the park through the large gates into the entry plaza, which was a nice open area that had a cute fountain of Sorcerer Mickey and some brooms. Shops and all of the necessary places (bag check, guest relations, strollers, money exchange, etc..) were here. At the other end of the plaza was the huge Studio 1 building, which serves as a mini-Main Street for the park. You enter through regular sized doors that are flanked with HUGE changing poster-type ads for the different attractions. As you enter Studio 1 is a huge Hollywood set area that is bright with neon and music, and there were lots of atmosphere characters around, plus some music acts along the "street" that ran through the center. It looks really nice, but all of the signage you see (Brown Derby, Hep Cat Club, loads of others) are just facades that cover on one side--a long counter restaurant, and on the other--a store. So in this structure is basically a pass through and a store/restaruant. Sort of strange, but then again the building was MUCH smaller than I had anticpated it being.
And that held true for the park. Having already looked at the map I knew the layout and figured it was pretty small. But upon exiting Studio 1 into the heart of the park, I was really surprised to realize that I could see literally from one end of the park to the other from the central location. Wild, and in my opinion too small. They have lots of land at DLP, and of course there's always expansion ability, but I'm just so surprised my how small of a physical area there was to the public areas. But the park wasn't very crowded, which was good. In the central area they have erected their newly-acquired Parteners statue. It looks VERY strange in the Studio park, especially when there is a beautiful flower bed in Disneyland park that is begging to have it.
A note about the look of the park. They went straight forward into making the park look like a studio lot. While of course this is perfectly appropriate and the park was far from ugly, it really lacked any sort of whimsy or eye candy. Most all of the attrations are housed in big grey or yellowish buildings with a colorful sign on or in front of it. There is very little foliage (there's actually no room for it) and the lighting and sound towers are large steel things that are strewn about very visibly. While I thought it lived up to looking a lot like a studio, it was certainly not a relaxing and immersive environment at all. Of all the things about the park, the way it looks is my least favorite aspect. I felt like I was in a CityWalk or Downtown Disney that was all spread out.
Getting back to the juice--My first stop was a Fastpass for Rock & Roller Coaster, then to the Moteurs...Action! show. This show was amazing. They do incredible thing with these vehicles and the cost and talent it must take to stage this show four times a day is unfathomable. The crowd loved it and so did I. My only real issue with it is the same I have with Indiana Jones in MGM--the sets and action scenes are so terrific, but there are people that must kill the time between them for everything to set up. And like at Indy, it wasn't always that entertaining and got rather long at times. But that's minor, because that show is a real winner. The grand finale involved a car crashing through a second story window, landing on the ground, then jumping a ramp through a huge fireball over a small fire filled moat and landing UNDER the audience seating area. It was truly great, and was the best attraction there.
Next was Art of Disney Animation, which was a mixed bag. The entry area was really nice, with a large display of the history of animation from the cave drawings, to all of the flicker wheel type things, to the multiplane, etc. It was all very hands on and really interesting. Then they showed a short film with Roy and Walt explaining how animation began long before it was on a movie screen, etc. Now--I am all for attractions and shows being in the language of the country of origin. I read so many trip reports that balk at going to Tokyo Disneyland and dicovering that the attractions are in Japanese, and this to me is ludicrous for what I think are obvious reasons. Contrary to a lot of America's beliefs, much of the world does NOT actually speak English, nor should they have to in their own country. BUT, in this animation film, they introduce Roy and Walt, and then dub them in French. Why it is not subtitled as in several of the other preshow films in these parks I will never understand. Surprising for sure. But the English and many other language translations were available on the screens as well. We were then ushered into a theater where they showed an identical copy of the final film of MGM's tour, with the classic clips, only the language of the films kept changing. It was nice. Then into another theater, where a copy of DCA's Mushu section was located. I'm pretty sure this was exact, though I have yet to get to DCA. And that was it. You emerge into an interactive area with several exhibits to add your voice to films (the same Ursula one as DCA I think), add sound effects, add color, draw your own flicker wheel, etc. What they had was nice, but it was not at all comprehensive enough. There was no instruction at all as to how they actually MAKE a film, only how they draw the characters and color them. Odd. But overall, not a failure at all.
At this point I completely cannot remember the order of what I did next, so I think I'll switch gears and just explain the attractions by area from now on, haha! Sorry, my memory is terrible I guess.
Walked by the flying carpets (the only attraction in the park that I did not actually do) and they are identical to the MK carpets only without any of the foundation and surrounding details (no water, no camels, no jewelled walkways or trees). Instead they have a large painted set of Agrabah around half of the ride and a Genie directing the "shoot" going on. They made it fit the Studio theme, but just barely. A very haphazardly thrown in attraction, and one that just looks odd sitting in that park.
Next in this area was "Animagique", a live stage show that has Donald magically transported into several Disney animated films. It was almost completely done in blacklight (same effect as Under the Sea in the Mermaid show at MGM only FAR bigger), and the effects of the show were very impressive. The story was a great concept, but the execution was a little poorly paced. I think it is simply that the novelty of blacklight wears off after a while, and it essentially turns out to be a really high tech puppet show. There are lots of fun moments, though, along with some really nice staging effects, and kids would really love it. Not a home run, but nice.
Over in the Production Courtyard area there are also three attractions. First is the Studio Tram Tour, which looks pretty much the same as MGM's. Instead of a tour guide, the tour is narrated on very nice screens at the front of each car segment in two different languages. Each car has an independent sound system for it's screen, so total of six languages are spoken for each long tram--which was pretty ingenious for the international diversity there. The tour is VERY lackluster, just going by some dull sets and props from Pearl Harbor and Dinotopia. One highly disturbing thing I saw was a few models from "Dinosaur", where I guess they used real objects instead of computer generating. One of the items there was a full sized Iguanadon/Aladar animatronic without the "skin" on. While if course I can't be sure, I would guess it is the ultra cool Iggy from the early days of Animal Kingdom's Discovery River cruise. If it is, his days are already done, because it's rotting in the rain and elements now. Sigh. Anyway, you do get to go to Catastrophe Canyon, pass through the costuming building for the new resort--both pretty much identical to MGM, and a new London rubble segment that is for Reign of Fire. As you go here a dragon roars from underground and some fire and smoke belch out at the cars. And that's it. end of tour. It's really odd and one of the two duds I came across in the park. Sad since it takes up SO much space.
Speaking of space, in this section there is also a very noticeable hole in the park. It is one of the only parts of the park that has a specific decor, and that decor is the California-Spanish-whatever that is the exact same decor as DCA's new-look Tower of Terror. If that isn't slated to go in here soon, then I'm giving up completely. It literally looks as though a "coming soon" sign is weeks away.
Next is "Cinemagique", a film that includes TONS of classic film clips. It stars Martin Short and a French/English actress that I know but cannot recall the name of. The film is VERY nice, and one of my favorites there. Martin is a tourist that gets trapped in the movies, and winds up in every genre and alongside a lot of stars in trying to both get out of the film and get to fall in love with the girl. It was a really sweet film and had some really nice special effects involving some live actors and in-theater stuff. I thought it was a winner and the audience especially enjoyed this.
Lastly is the Television Production Tour. This is pointless. You enter a control room where Buzz Lightyear of all people explains how this is the command center for the facility. Then you go into a room where you can watch the show "Zapping Zone", a hugely popular French Disney Channel show, being filmed. We did. And that was it. The end. 5 minutes, tops. They have added a second room to the tour that has nothing to do with Television at all. It is simply more interactvice exhibits like web surfing and such. And the most odd of all? They have all of Chicago's DisneyQuest CyberSpace Mountain simulators there for people to ride. Why I don't know. This was the second flop of the park for me.
The rest of the park is the Backlot. This had Armageddon, Les Effets Speciaux, a two part attraction with a rather dumbed down explanation of effects in general before heading off for a demonstration of how they can be done. The attraction takes place in a round room that is designed like a space station. The guests stand in a circle, in a doughnut shaped area (the center of the circle is railed off, as is the outer circle) on a metal grate-like platform. This attraction was really fun, even though some of the effect is confusing with too many languages being spoken. But basically, asteroids start to wreck your station, and the whole place starte falling apart. This one is hard to explain in words, but lets just say that it's pretty exciting. You don't know where to look next, and often the action happens right next to you or even under your feet. Kids were not pleased with the realism, and it is actually a very similar feel as if you combined Twister at Universal with Alien Encounter at MK. A terrific fireball effect from the ceiling of the room ends the show, and though it could perhaps have used a more coherent structure and clearer sightlines, it was really enjoyable!
Last of the attractions was Rock 'n Roller Coaster. I had kept reading about how this was an improved version of WDW's ride. While I may agree that the actual ride itself is more thrilling, this attraction pales in comparison. Basically they have completely removed the entire storyline and now you are just randoomly riding a roller coaster while listening to Aerosmith music. The building is a HUGE eyesore, as there is nothing at all on the outside of the mammoth gray buildings but a flat sign and a few "Tour de Force Records" signs. You enter in a lobby with a few guitars on display, and then enter the studio. Here's where any similarity ends. Aerosmith is there, but instead of being inside a recording studio they are just babbling on about how cool the roller coaster they just rode is, and they are looking at a model. This lasts for literally 10 seconds max before the doors open and you move on. You enter not a parking garage, but a warehouse with a bunch of equipment lying around. There is no music or sound at all in here. The cars are of course no longer "super-stretch" limos of course, since that is not part of the plot any longer. Instead they are these weird purple cars that I think may be meant to look like radio speakers? I couldn't figure it out. Anyway, you pull forward and face a black hole (no street signs or radio broadcast at all), before Steve Tyler screams 3-2-1 and off you go. The ride is identical, but the effects are all lighting effects as opposed to actual sets. It is a very nice effect sometimes, as the trippy rock lighting helps to disorient you and make the ride feel a bit wilder than it is. You exit into a gift shop, and there's no post-show explaining that you'vce arrived anywhere. In my opinion, this is a pale comparison in overall experience to MGM's version, but the ride itself is still pretty nice.
The last thing to do at the park was the Disney Cinema Parade. I had heard that this parade was really nice, but it suffered from very small parade floats due to a very small corridor to work with. It was cute and had some nice moments, but was very small scale much like all of MGM's parades have been.
And with that, 6 hours later I was done with the new park. I would have liked to spend longer there, but I had done everything and I usually sprinkle in lots of sitting time to relax in the scenery or enjoy a sit-down meal. But the park was not a relaxing atmosphere really, and had no eye candy to just take in. It had the feel of just going from building to building to see the next attraction. And only counter-service restarants would be OK, but they were all pretty much themed as big backstage studio areas and not nice peaceful places. So I opted to leave the park a bit early and see if I couldn't sneak into Disneyland an hour before the 8pm evening access and dine there. And wouldn't you know, it worked...! I'll write about my DLP evening soon, there's not much to tell but what the heck.
Overall? The park's offerings are mostly good, with a few exceptions. But none of the offerings except Motuers...Action and possibly Cinemagique were really anything exceptional. The looks of the park was very dull, even if it was "in-theme". I would say it is fine to go there if you are already seeing Disneyland, but it's not the greatest addition to the lineup of parks. In fact, since DCA is the only one I have not seen yet, I can say that not including CA's new kid that this is easily the weakest park to date. But I've heard MGM was no beauty when it opened either, so I guess time will tell.
Thanks for reading and sorry it's so long!!!