A friendly greeting to all, and many thanks for the time you are considering taking to read my breakdown of Disneyland Paris and Disney Studios! There are so few reviews of these parks in MC forums, and an even smaller number that include photographs – I wanted to do my part for future travelers to DLP. As was reiterated by a few hardcore Disney Park fanatics, I was advised when experiencing DLP and the Studio, to refrain from comparing it with the Disney parks in the states. Be objective, and act as though you are reviewing a stand-alone park, judge it on its merits and how it performed not in competition, but how it measured up in terms of general expectations of a theme park, they said. I tried; I really did. But I couldn’t help matching this park up with Anaheim. That said, you will read a semi-unbiased review of DLP, Disney Studios, and maybe a few bonus tips for anyone considering a trip to the city of lights, Bruxelles, and/or Amsterdam.
We flew Delta via Air France with a non-stop flight from Minneapolis, MN (MSP) to Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) and were fortunate enough to have those seats that go into full sleeping position. That, the fact that there are hundreds of movie and TV show options to watch on your personal screen, and the virtual absence of children make these long flights go by in a jiffy. Took off at about 5:30 pm and arrived in Paris the next morning - eight hours and forty five minutes later we landed and were ready for action.
We were staying in an apartment in Paris, right in the heart of the left bank Latin Quarter. It was large by European standards, and had all the amenities you might need. If you are wondering where you should stay, this is the part of town you might consider. Best food, tunes, sounds, smells, art, and no more than an 8 minute walk to the Louvre – if you are into seeing the single most ogled painting of all time. The oldest café in all of Paris is located here, a haunt of Hemmingway’s, and a place where you can get some real-deal Pernod (Absinthe). We took some French courses leading up to our trip; I would recommend this as it helps break the ice, creating a good chuckle by all when you undoubtedly butcher the pronunciation. They appreciate the effort and you will be rewarded…with better service, solid suggestions, and a kiss on the cheek. I would gladly give the name of the apartment owner should anyone be interested, but be warned, there are no elevators in this building, and there are eight flights of spiral stairs to get to the apartment.
Getting to the park:
Paris has great public transportation via the slow trains (ex. RER) and the metro, and it is pretty inexpensive. If you are going to be in Paris for more than two weeks, and want to get around, get a Metro pass. Find a metro station, take it to Chatelet Les Halles, and take the Red ‘A4’ RER line to Marne-la-Vallee - Chessy. It is the last stop on that line and dumps out directly into the Disney Village, gateway to both parks and a faded Planet Hollywood. Trains can be crowded, especially during morning commute hours – plan on standing. They come in 15-minute intervals so if you miss one, no worries. Really, anyone that has lived in a large city should have no problem navigating Paris – it is much more straightforward than many US cities, and everyone speaks English.
So we get there and one rumor is dispelled immediately – the parks are not dirty. They are many things, both good and bad, but full of liter and debris is not one of them. There is a great photo op after getting through the bag scan in front of the Magic Kingdom gates. There are some pools of water and bridges that you can take long-arm selfies from, or, ask a friendly guest to snap a polaroid that will actually get some of the background up in there. The Disneyland Hotel on site is quite large, and you will pass beneath it when entering the park. We arrived about 15 minutes before the rope was dropped, and the ticketing lines were pretty short. I will say this, Parisians are late risers. Both here, and other places we went, the morning was the time to get there if avoiding lines was a priority.
We grabbed a map, rubber-necked on Main Street a little; just taking it in. Because I have been to the Anaheim park a few hundred times, it felt like a dream being on this version of Main Street USA. Yep, USA – this was the first place we saw Old Glory fly since arriving in France. By a dream, I mean just slightly off. The run of storefronts and faux apartments seemed shorter in length to the hub, but taller in height – just a smaller version of Anaheim…dare I say similar to Nara Dreamland? It was clean, all buildings appeared to be in use and were peddling branded merchandise for all. Where the Partners statue might have been, there were delightful floral presentations of Bambi, Lion King, and 101 Dalmatian characters – pretty classy and cool.
The first attraction we graced with our presence was the Manor of Phantoms, after getting fast passes for Thunder Mountain. Apparently, Europeans in this area don’t have the same understanding of personal space as we do in the states; group of girls literally had their arms around us. The architecture of the manor was great – real nice. Beautiful Victorian hilltop manner, complete with guard box, verandas, and its very own boot hill, all with better days seen. One thing that bugged me was the graveyard that the queue snaked through. Yes, it had headstones and statues, but they repeated themselves. Maybe 3-4 of each, scattered around – so you would see the same engravings, and the same dog, obelisk, and urn statues multiple times. We get inside and realize that also unlike California theme parks, the show buildings are not air conditioned at the same frigid level we have become accustomed to. This was actually the warmest day of our trip, topping out at 81-degrees. So between the lack of AC in buildings, and the lack of personal space available, things got toasty.
The ride was interesting. What I mean is, you could tell there was a romantic, but tragic story being told – but where it began, and how it flowed was confusing. I thought the portraits of Melanie in the stretching room were a little forced; kind of flat. I liked the homage paid to the original artist in the one of her in the boat holding the umbrella. Just a little easy; not as creative as Anaheim. The stretching room scrim was not lit up enough from above to see who or what was hanging in the belfry. Clearly someone was hanging, but there appeared to be another shape, possibly interfering, or instigating the hanging of another. The loading area was actually really well done, and seemed to make more sense than that of the HM in Anaheim (giant spider?) The Omnimover seemed to move quite rapidly through the estate; maybe too quick to catch everything on both sides. The ghouls were different. They weren’t zany, cartoon-looking – they were classically spooky skeletons with tattered clothing blowing in all directions. The Leota effect seemed less advanced and her face lacked animation. It just seemed more like a spook house of age, than a Disney attraction, especially when you got to the graveyard and Phantom Canyon scenes. The story was a little hard to follow – nothing going on out of the ordinary, and then BOOM, a boudoir with the bride draped over a vanity, crying. Assuming something must have happened to the groom, you carried on. I guess she finally realized after wandering about the manor that her gentleman suitor may be “hanging” out somewhere else. In the canyon, there was a skeleton who appeared to have been adorned with the last remaining shreds of a tuxedo – I guess he could have either been the Phantom or the groom. That’s what I mean by confusing. But alas, Confucius say, never play leapfrog with unicorn.
Thunder Mountain was very agreeable in terms of aesthetics, but because we got stuck in the middle of the train, went a little slow. Looking out at this attraction from Phantom Manner made for one of the best photo ops in the park.
It was never very clear as to whether Indy was opened or closed –in the end, it was closed and had been for a while. The park maps indicated they were open, along with the attraction poster in the tunnel. But when we found the entrance, it was covered in plant growth and surrounded by utility vehicles. I think the old guy from Up may have been fishing in a nearby creek?
It was time for Pirates. I won’t go into a whole long thing here, but they did this attraction RIGHT. It looked like, smelled like, and felt like the Caribbean. It was just the right amount steamy, sweaty, and romantically lit to give off that pirate’y vibe. I can’t get over the power of a solid queue – this one harnesses the good, blocks out the bad. Interior of ride seemed a bit brighter, but was much darker on the hills – couldn’t see a thing. After main drop the ride boats came broadside to the attacking pirate ship – very cool and abrupt.
- Sometimes in lands like Frontierland or Adventureland, we had a hard time figuring out where all the rides were? Paths were not always clearly marked and seemed more reminiscent of a zoo for some reason.
- Restaurants and cafes kept very odd hours. They would close all but two dining options in the whole park, causing those two spots to have lines as long as Space Mountain.
- The Disney Village still has a Planet Hollywood. How are those still in business?
- The “Swing into Spring” facades at the park entrance were really cool and contained all kinds of real flowers. The arrangements were top-notch and were very France. What I mean by that, is they were without that plastic feeling that we have all become so accustomed to here in the states.
- Anaheim has a high percentage of couples in their 20’s and 30’s that frequent the parks. I always thought that was an LA thing. Turns out Disney theme park going is just as common over there with this age group. Maybe more so, as the park seemed to have way more French locals than it did tourists.
- The majority of the park guests seemed to be, on average, in fine physical condition. There was not one single rascal or scooter to be found. I liked this. Everyone doing it on their own.
- Volume of in-ride announcements was cranked up a little high.
- Some of the coasters did not have the mesh gear holders in front of you. Bummer when you are holding $2500 in glass on your camera and have to white-knuckle it while careening through the galaxy.
- I noticed that we had to “pardon the pixie dust” more here than other Disney parks. They were not as good at shrouding the current projects as parks in the states have been.
- Hard to find custom and interesting pins at DLP – pin trading must not be as big here?
- You will see a photo of this, but there was a point (between Fantasyland and Adventureland) where you went out a gate (to get to Tomorrowland) where I could have been sure we just left the park. You just walked down this very nice path, but there were no guard rails, line leaders, signage, or anything – it could have been a random park in a small community. People had taken kindly to the grass, and were lying about, whispering sweet nothings, or flat out snoring. Either way, this area was clearly being used as it was intended, for napping.
- Space Mountain was funky in that it started outside. Starting in the sunlight kind of made for a less powerful spacey-feel. The meteors were cool, though, and the ride had a much more jerky motion than, say, Anaheim.
- We noticed that the attractions leaving guests with a photo after riding usually took the shot early on, or no more than mid-ride – whereas we were used to the photo being at the end.
- Crush’s coaster was the longest of all the lines – a good 95 minutes in 80-something degree heat. No big deal if they had misters or a better canopy – but it was a hot, very slow moving line.
- Crush’s coaster was also probably the most innovative of the attractions we experienced, and was a barrel of fun! Seemed liked the theming and attraction would go really well in the Wharf area at DCA. One bummer, because one part of the coaster faces forwards, and one back, we were backwards and never saw the sharks’ faces on the first hill climb.
- Fashion. People are not wearing sweats, pajama pants, giant oversized tie-dye moo moos. Guests were dressed well and were not complaining about their shoe choices. Most children seemed a little more reserved than those in the states, and we generally saw fewer temper tantrums. There was also much less in-line, bored vandalism (etching of initials in the rock, sticking of gum in all types of places, etc.).
- Peter Pan was much more enjoyable! Ride seemed longer, and the pirate ship was far less bumpy than that of the states. You know that part when it angles down as you approach Tiger Lilly? Well then you know how in Anaheim in bumps around all over at that scene? Not here. You are going to desire a fast pass for this one – regular wait time was 75 minutes.
- Be aware, Toad Hall is a restaurant here, not a ride. And it has very limited hours of operation, but probably the best eats.
- We really wanted to hit up Buzz – always fun combining sport and entertainment. However, the wait was an hour and a half. Dude. In Anaheim we have the same ride, and the wait is usually 10 minutes or less.
- They were not sending those red time tags through the attraction lines – so whatever wait time is posted, regardless of attraction, add 15 to 30 minutes.
- Snow White queue let in too much light, causing the element of suspense and fear to falter. That said, once you were on the ride and got into the forest chase scene, it got real.
- Horses on Main Street wear hats.
- The Dragon. This thing was pretty ballin. It was also so close you could reach out and touch it. Touch it I say! (little homage to the Sleeping Beauty Golden Book cassette tape) This would not be the case in the states as kids can’t be controlled and parents would be tossing them over the enclosure rail as they too, cannot be controlled. Another note on that, not all the props at DLP are bolted down. We talk a lot about freedom in the states, and I am about as patriotic as they come – but here, lots of trust, folks.
- So the little Cars Land thing over at the studios – what?? It was miniature and not very functional. It basically looked like a Pixar version of the tiny town of Rainbow Ridge. The ride with the rats was not open, but looking over the fence, it looks like it will be pretty incredible. The RC ride where he shoots up and down the ramp was fun, but short, and the line was super long and slow.
- The back lot tour was just awful. Sorry, but it was. We only made two stops, and when the narrator spoke about costumes – I guess we all expected to see some…nothing – not even on the monitors, which did not handle the suns glare very well.
- Aerosmith ride, DOPE! This one was real cool and we had a ball.
- Umm, are they aware that Armageddon came out in 1998? There is a lot of hype surrounding this film in the studio park; unacceptable. The French need to demand upkeep over here. DLP is excellent – studios is a relatively sad place.
Okay j’all, I am sure you are either sick of the text, or you have already skipped straight to the photos. No worries! In short – DLP was wonderful in its own way. I love France, especially Paris. The people and the food did it for me – history was a close second tied with Pernod/Absinthe. The more I look back on Phantom Manner, the more I realize I need to go back and ride this again about 50 times. The story is fantastically developed, and maybe I missed it because it was my first time on the ride and I was trying to take in too much all at once. I am giving it the benefit of the doubt solely due to the effort and enthusiasm I have seen from Jeff Burke in interviews. But even he advises not to take the attraction too seriously. Lighten up, he says.
Below are some photos and some captions. Enjoy!
TR6 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Doesn't look to crowded, does it? Imagine Disneyland in CA 10 minutes before rope drop. Parisian's sleep in.
TR7 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Fresh flowers galore
TR8 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Disney in the details, per usual
TR9 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
It seemed like the horses here looked more healthy than the state-side parks. Look at the cool park logo on the horses blind. Again, the detail Disney puts in to things may make projects take a little longer, but it's worth it.
TR10 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Finally found old glory...are at least a variation of.
TR11 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Just something about people in Europe - they are cool and they get it.
TR12 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Your attention please...
TR13 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Sorry, one more of this dude. I guess I like horses now.
TR14 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
A couple jungle cats making the most of the nice day. Comprised of all real, wonderfully smelling flowers.
TR15 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
An elephant graveyard?
TR16 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
TR17 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
I'm thumpin'! That's why they call me Thumper!
TR18 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
That wimpy deer?
TR19 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Entrance to the dungeon
TR20 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Hang on to them bouchons and lunettes, because this here...
TR21 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
The manor of phantoms
TR22 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
The mine went dry and they stopped painting
TR23 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
A bigger problem than potential ghosts are these bad shingles. There is a good chance there could be moisture and mold issues inside.
TR24 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Such a fine job by imagineering of creating something that looks old and decrepit, but yet you are easily able to imagine it during a different time. They certainly have succeeded at the art of guiding your thought process.
TR25 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Just some random plush toy amidst frightening Phantom Manor apparel.
TR26 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Ye' come seeking the Indiana Jones ride the maps told you was still open?
TR27 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
...sure you've come to the proper place.
TR30 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
But, it's closed.
TR28 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Yip, yip, yip!
TR29 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Adventureland and Frontierland were blended more in Paris than other parks.
TR31 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
We'll be on our way to the Endor Moon without.any.further.delay...
TR32 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Oops, figured you probably wanted to see what the castle looks like.
TR33 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
TR34 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
WALL-E, get in there and clean your room. And get rid of the cockroach.
TR35 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
TR36 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Tower, this is control...
TR37 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Control, this is sub. I look like a ride, and you would think I was part of something bigger. But no, I just sit here and blow bubbles. Sorry for any confusion I may have caused.
TR38 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Monica scoping out Tomorrowland
TR39 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
Shoot me! (Arrested Development)
TR40 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
This was a very cool looking attraction...
TR41 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
le souffle me bermuda!
TR42 by kyledaneanderson, on Flickr
The time is nearing...
*More to come!