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Disneyland Paris 5 Years Later

There was a time I went to Disneyland Paris a lot. This was back when I was going to Disney World a lot. We’d be doing Disney World twice a year and then averaging two Disneyland Paris, sometimes up to four, trips dotted throughout the year. Hell, I think one year we did Disney World three times.

We were essentially a Disney Vlogging couple before it was possible, so the videos remained private. We went so many times to Disneyland Paris I started to hate the place.

The last time I went was five years ago when it was the 20th anniversary. It was a different back then as I was still married, so it was strange to go back five years later for the 25th anniversary.

The Channel Video

The associated video from the Fandom Life Channel

Why Did I Hate Disneyland Paris

I know hate is a strong word, but it’s the correct one. The thought of going to Disneyland Paris had become something I really didn’t want to do. The magic that originally surrounded the experience had turned into something rotten through familiarity breeding contempt.

Anyone who knows my approach to Disney can see how this was inevitable.

Disneyland Paris is largely a Magic Kingdom experience and last time I went to Disney World I probably spent around eight hours in the Magic Kingdom across the whole 14-day trip and those were spread across three days.

The 25th Anniversary Trip

I had no interest in going to Disneyland Paris. Then the 25th anniversary stuff kicked off and everyone was enjoying their trips so much some of that rubbed off. It didn’t even take the vlogs, which I’ve still not watched (spoilers), just the tweets.

I still wasn’t going to go as the degree to which I’d grown to hate Disneyland Paris was really hanging over my head. I certainly didn’t see it as an experience I was remotely interested in doing solo.

Discussions started. Talk of a group trip was sort of mentioned. My nephew wanted to go and one thing lead to another and we had a trip booked. One of those things was a special Star Wars event taking place on only two evenings.

I clinched it. Sorted.

The Disneyland Paris Fantastic

There are a number of things that were brilliant about Disneyland Paris this trip. Rides and moments that totally made the trip. What’s interesting about some of these moments is a core of them are are linked to how Disneyland Paris has trodden its own path rather than zeroxed what is in the US.

Discoveryland At Night Is Awesome

The Discoveryland (essentially Tomorrowland) section of Disneyland Paris is amazing at night. It is so amazing the parts of Discoveryland that aren’t utilising the 19th century Jules Verne theme stand out and just look a bit…ordinary. It is a pity that the whole of Discoveryland isn’t focused around the 19th century ‘future vision’ exhibition.

While I must have done this before, this trip we did a walk around Discoveryland at night filming and taking photos and it was one of the most magical experiences I’ve had in a Disney theme park.

Space Mountain at night with the Nautilus in the lake was amazing.

The Castle Is Beautiful

Traditionally, not being a Magic Kingdom person, I’m not a person obsessed with the castle. It’s not a signature experience. I don’t rush to it when I arrive. It’s more likely to be the The Tower of Terror. Even I admit the Disneyland Paris castle is a thing of beauty. It is an amazing piece of design, primarily because they’ve managed to make a massive, pink edifice something that works.

It’s great that Disneyland Paris didn’t zerox the US castles. As the castle defines the park and Disneyland Paris would have lost something if it was the same. It even has the dragon under the castle which is not only unique, it’s very well done and, in itself, gorgeously beautiful.

I find myself enjoying the hub in front of the park more at Disneyland Paris, especially now with the 25th anniversary statues. Even the weather variation works. I got to see the castle covered with mist this trip and it was great.

The New Ratatouille Area

This area was totally new to me as they were building it back in 2012. It wasn’t all a win, as I tended to be fascinated by the technology being used in the Ratatouille ride rather than how brilliant the ride was itself, but the Parisian area that houses the ride is beautiful.

They’ve created an idealised, but not overly fantasized, Parisian square and it is really nice, pleasant and gorgeous both during the day and at night. I wasn’t expecting to be amazed by it. I was thinking it might be ‘nice but shrug’. I was wrong. It was great.

Like the Discoveryland section at night, it was one of the experiences that gave me that quintessentially magical experience that you only get in certain places. It’s very nice.

Disney Illuminations

I know people are shooting off to Disney World at exorbitant cost to see Wishes one last time but they should really be saving themselves some money and just seeing Disney Illuminations instead as it’s a far superior show.

Instead of getting something slow and ponderous with a small child lecturing you from a self-help book you actually get something that is a visual spectacle worth watching.

It’s easy to forget that the projection technology that is used throughout Disney now was pioneered for a Disneyland Paris show and they did it first at least 5+ years ago (just based on when I was going).

The Walt Disney Studios Park

I know the Walt Disney Studios park has its issues. It needs to be a bit larger, though that has significantly improved since its launch, and the theme applied to the park is not consistent. It does have some truly weak attractions.

Despite this, if I was to tick things off on the park map I’d probably have more to do in Studios park than the Magic Kingdom. It has some truly great attractions: Crush’s Coaster, The Tower of Terror, Rock n Roller Coaster, Moteurs Action and Mickey and the Magician.

Mickey and the Magician is amazing. It’s basically celebration of musical numbers from the 90’s films that have been turned into stage musicals (and Frozen, but that’s like the 90’s films and it is becoming a stage musical). This show demonstrates the future of Disney shows and puts things like the Beauty and the Beast show in Disney World to shame.

The park has serious potential, it just needs to keep working its way away from its rocky start. The parts opened since its initial opening have proven to be fantastic. They just need to keep working it.

Star Wars Soiree

Last, but by no means least, was the Star Wars Soiree. The event was a large part of the reason we went, but there was a part of me that thought it would be a let down. Why? Simply because Disneyland Paris and unique events haven’t gone down well historically. I still remember going to the Bonfire Night stuff, it was totally hopelesss.

The Star Wars Soiree was amazing. Not going to go into the details but it was impeccably organised, full of content and was done in a way, that I believe, was distinctly european. It would not have happened in the way it did if it was Disney World.

When they said it was a party they weren’t kidding. Brilliant.

They Disneyland Paris Not So Fantastic

Despite really enjoying the trip there are things that stand out as detracting from the experience. All of these come down to items that are about organisation and structure which make the experience just not as frictionless as it should be.

Communication Could Be Better

This is probably something that is to be expected as, more so than Disney World, it is a multi-lingual park. Disney World rarely leaves you confused unless you go out of your way to be uninformed. A combination off on-hand staff and apps means your experience is not put at risk due to ignorance.

Disneyland Paris is just a bit more difficult. It will sometimes take a few attempts to get the right information. You’ll sometimes be given the wrong information as I’m not sure what each part of the experience is doing is known by other parts. You can access what you want, it’s just a bit more difficult.

They Love Paper

If you’re the person who takes on the responsibility for ‘organising’ on your Disneyland Paris holiday then the place will drive you slightly nuts. It’s not joined up. They don’t make it easy. They love giving you bits of officially important paper which you then don’t need.

Permission to enter the parks during early magic hours: a bit of paper. If you’re on a meal plan you get paper vouchers for every, single meal. When you book a restaurant you get, wait for it, a bit of paper which is stressed as important to take to the restaurant.

Despite this I never did need that ‘extra magic permission’ piece of paper as your park ticket says which hotel you are in so the park looks at that. Why do the hotel stress the need for the extra bit of paper? It’s like one element of the park doesn’t know what they other is doing. Similarly the restaurants had you booking on the computer so all was well when I didn’t remember to bring the ‘booking permission paper’ on our second restaurant trip.

As for the restaurant vouchers. Get rid of them. Just get some computer system that debits restaurant credits when you use them. Vouchers are like, well, it all just feels so cheap.

Disney World has everything joined up behind the magic band. Simple. They make doing everything easy for you. Disneyland Paris doesn’t exactly make it hard, but they surely don’t make it frictionless.

Rules That Get Ignored

The strange thing about Disney World, at least across all my visits, is people are very polite, follow the rules and self-organise in a way that makes the whole trip pleasant, which is saying something considering it is a theme park experience in blistering, high humidity heat. Everyone will have exceptions, but I can count them on one hand across innumerable visits.

Disneyland Paris is slightly different but it’s now a lot better.

The problem Disneyland Paris used to have was they had rules but they got ignored and the staff didn’t seem that interested in enforcing them. Smoking was always a problem but this does now seem controlled and limited to specific areas. The mobbing, and I mean that literally, of characters, is now controlled by them all being in roped off areas (they’ve given up on self-organisation).

The rule that now exists that is completely ignored is the selfie stick rule. They are banned, but you see people using them all the time. I think the spawning point is the Walt statue in the Studios park. At any point there is 2-4 against the ruled 2-4 foot selfie sticks being used.

Early Magic Hours Isn’t Worth It

Early Magic Hours at Disneyland Paris is a bit..lame. It only happens for the Magic Kingdom as Studios doesn’t do it. They don’t really have that much open as the big rides in Frontier and Adventureland aren’t open. This means Big Thunder Mountain, Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean aren’t open. These are all open during the magic hours in the Disney World.

The best bit of using the magic hours was seeing the park in the early morning fog, in terms of rides it was a chance to do Star Tours with no queue (not that it ever really had one during a weekday).

I was confused by this at first as I was pretty sure Big Thunder Mountain had the magic hours ‘mouse icon’ but I was probably wrong in that. It is so shocking what isn’t open during magic hours that you’re brain can’t help but think something odd is going on.

The truth is nothing much seems to be open.

There Is Little Escape

I feel trapped a bit in Disneyland Paris. I realise some people enter the parks and then do a whole day. I’m not sure how they do this, even in the Disneyland Paris Magic Kingdom, from both a content and physical stamina perspective.

I sort of get it if they have kids, but an adult riding the teacups to fill out the day? Not so much.

This means I know I am going to have a problem as I start to get sick of the place 2-4 hours in. That’s normally the time at which I’d be reading and swimming in and by the pool. In Disneyland Paris you’re only options for a good, long park break are other things that involve walking around!

It can feel a bit like you’re trapped.

And, Finally…

I really enjoyed the Disneyland Paris trip. I am now tired and, in some small part, physically broken, but it was fantastic. It’s still not a place I’m drawn to in a way that I can serially go to every 3-6 months like some people do. Disney World has something that makes it a holiday destination that happens to have theme parks, Disneyland Paris is not like that.

I am going to keep an eye out for unique events, that may trigger another trip at some vague point in the future. This is because the Star Wars Soiree was an amazing and unique experience.  The people who went to the Halloween Soiree also gave similar reports, so potentially Disneyland Paris are onto something in this area.

To anyone thinking it’s not worth going and isn’t as magical as Disney World? There is some truth to that, but there is unique experiences to be had and those are truly magical.

About Ian O'Rourke

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