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February 6, 2010

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror -- Part Three

In Part One and Two of this blog series, I discussed in detail the Tower of Terror (TOT) attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios. In Part Three, I'm going to give you an overview of the other three TOT's around the world. Let's start with the second tower to be built.

Disney's California Adventure

Disney's California Adventure (DCA) did not open to the rave reviews Disney had hoped for. Beginning operation on February 8, 2001, it struggled for an audience. Guests continually compared it to Disneyland next store -- and there was no comparison. Something needed to be done. DCA needed more "E" attractions.

Since DCA has a "land" known as Hollywood Pictures Backlot, similar in concept to Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards at Disney's Hollywood Studios, the Imagineers looked to Florida to see what could be copied and brought to Anaheim. It didn't take too much thought to realize that the highly successful TOT would be a natural at the California park. However, there wasn't as much land in California as there is in Florida and the bean-counters wanted to spend less building the second tower. To accomplish this, the attraction would need to be redesigned significantly.


Hollywood PIctures Backlot


In Florida, guests board the elevators in four loading zones. Each elevator has its own ascent shaft and looks into its own, separate "hallway" sequence. Once the elevators reach the Fifth Dimension Room, two vehicles merge and share a single track and move toward one of the two drop shafts. Once the elevator finishes its ride and unloads its passengers, it completes the circuit and returns to the loading dock.

This configuration required a significant amount of land, something that was at a premium in California. Also, if one of the shafts was out of service, the ride's capacity was cut in half. In addition, the Fifth Dimension Room was prone to breakdowns. It was decided that a fresh look and redesign of the attraction could possibly remedy some of these problems and bring construction costs down.

First, the Imagineers eliminated the Fifth Dimension Room. Without this section of the ride, the elevators would not need to make a complete "circle" for each cycle. This would significantly reduce the footprint of the building. Now, loading and unloading would take place at the same location. However, to increase capacity, each shaft would load from one of two floors in the boiler room. As car "A" was loading on the ground floor, car "B", which had loaded from the second floor, was experiencing the ride. But since two cars cannot occupy the same shaft at the same time, the elevators travel horizontally between the shaft and loading platforms. And finally, a third drop-shaft was added to increase capacity. Now, if a problem occurs, only one third of the attraction is out of service while repairs are being made.


DCA Tower of Terror

DCA Tower of Terror

DCA Tower of Terror


It is interesting to note how similar, yet different the attractions are from one another. Take for instance the lobby. At a first glance, the DCA version looks just like the reception area in Florida, but upon closer inspection, you can see a number of subtle differences.


DCA Tower of Terro Lobby


The Imagineers felt bad about eliminating the popular Fifth Dimension Room. To make up for this, they added a new effect. Now the elevator makes a second stop on its journey to the top of the hotel. At this floor, the elevator doors open and you see a reflection of the car's inhabitants in a mirror hanging on the wall. Rod Serling tells us to "wave goodbye to the real world." A moment later, lightning strikes and electricity arcs around the mirror and everyone's face morphs into a ghostly green and eventually fades into nothingness. In the end, the mirror's reflection reveals only empty seats in your elevator.

Another change involved the hallway scene. In Florida, we see a window at the end of the hallway that eventually floats and breaks before us. But in California, we see an open elevator at the end of the hall. When you arrive at this floor, the narration says, "What happened here to dim the lights of Hollywood's brightest showplace is about to unfold once again." Then we see the doomed five appear then disappear, in the same manner as in Florida. But in California, they reappear in the open elevator at the end of the hall, which eventually drops out of sight, taking its passengers with it. A moment later, the elevator you are riding in also drops before making its numerous ascents and descents.

Tower of Terror opened at Disney's California Adventure on May 5, 2004. It is 183 feet tall, making it shorter than the Florida tower which is 199 feet in height. However, the California version extends 40 feet underground. Unofficial sources put the construction cost at $90M, $50M less than its cousin in Florida.

Tower of Terror is one of DCA's more popular attractions. And like all of its cousins around the world, the view from the top is fantastic. From here you can see the Disneyland Hotel, Disney's California Adventure, Downtown Disney, and much of Disneyland.

Walt Disney Studios Paris

Like Disney's California Adventure, The Walt Disney Studios in Paris was also suffering "theme park envy" when compared to Disneyland Paris next door. And once again, TOT came to the rescue. But unlike Florida and California, the Paris park did not have a comparable Hollywood street. One would have to be created to surround the tower.


Walt Disney Studios Hollywood Section


The Paris version of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is an extremely close copy of its cousin at Disney's California Adventure. Both were designed in the “Pueblo Deco” style of architecture which is the blending of Art Deco and Native American art from the Southwest U.S. In addition, it uses the same loading system as California and has no Fifth Dimension Room, but features the mirror effect.

Paris' TOT is also the only tower to present Rod Serling's introduction in a language other than English. As the library fills, the bellboy can change from the original English recording to a French narration. Serling's voice in the French version was dubbed by a vocal artist whose voice resembled the original dubbing of the “La Quatrième Dimension” when the Twilight Zone TV show was shown in France. Both recordings feature subtitles in the opposite language.

The attraction opened on December 22, 2007. Here are a few pictures of it taken by my friend TDLFAN. Compare these to the pictures of the Disney's California Adventure tower and you can see they are practically twins.


Paris Tower of Terror

Paris Tower of Terror

Paris Tower of Terror

Paris Tower of Terror Lobby


This picture is from a Paris ad campaign.


Paris TOT Ad Campaign


Tokyo DisneySea

One of the "lands" at Tokyo DisneySea is called the American Waterfront. This section of the park is divided into three areas, New York City, New York Harbor, and Cape Cod. The time? Just after the turn of the 20th century.

One of the most recent additions to Tokyo DisneySea and the New York City section is the Tower of Terror. However, this tower varies in several ways from its cousins in the other Disney parks. In Paris and California, the exterior of the buildings have a Southwestern motif while in Florida the building has a Moroccan flavor. The Tower in Tokyo is built of red brick and has a gothic feel. To me, the Tokyo tower is the most elaborate and beautiful of the four.


Tokyo DisneySea TOT

Tokyo DisneySea TOT


Another change to the Tokyo attraction was necessitated because the Japanese are not familiar with the Twilight Zone television series. To remedy this, the Imagineers came up with a completely new storyline. Since the tours of the hotel are presented in Japanese, English speaking guests are given a handout explaining the storyline. The following five paragraphs are a direct quote from that handout.

“Welcome to the ‘Tower of Terror' tour, presented by The New York City Preservation Society. On New Year's Eve in 1899, explorer, antiquities collector and multi-millionaire Harrison Hightower III held a press conference in the luxurious Hotel Hightower to announce his latest find " a statue called ‘Shiriki Utundu' which he had acquired in a remote region of Africa.


Shiriki Utundu


That very night, the hotel's main elevator crashed to the ground with Hightower and the idol inside! Shiriki Utundu was recovered from the shattered elevator, but of Harrison Hightower III there was no sign. He had vanished. After his disappearance, Hotel Hightower was closed. People began calling it the ‘Tower of Terror.'

Rumor has it that Shiriki Utundu is a cursed statue, and that it may have something to do with the disappearance of Mr. Hightower.

As you tour this magnificent building and view Harrison Hightower's collection of rare art from across the globe, you will also hear about the mystery of his disappearance.

The tour climaxes with a ride on the service elevator up to the top floor to see Mr. Hightower's penthouse. Please enjoy the ride.”


Tour Sign in Queue


Unlike the other three towers, the queue for the Tokyo version actually christcrosses its way through the lobby.


TOT DisneySea Lobby


In the pre-show room, we see a stained-glass likeness of Harrison Hightower and a statue of Shiriki Utundu sitting on a pedestal. As the story unfolds Mr. Hightower's image changes from an arrogant robber-baron to a very fearful man. Then the lights dim and Shiriki Utundu disappears from sight. The effects are excellent and sets the stage for the terror to come.


Stained-Glass Window


From here we enter the storerooms that house Mr. Hightower's vast collection of art that he's commandeered from around the world. Eventually, we're taken to an elevator for our journey to the penthouse. An interesting note, the elevators in Tokyo's tower have shoulder harnesses as well as lap restraints. Shiriki Utundu continues to play a major roll during your rise and fall and appears over and over again.


TOT Storeroom


The exterior of the building also adds a bit of excitement to the show. Before each elevator drops, a flash of green light erupts from Mr. Hightower's penthouse and then the light travels to the window of the next elevator to fall.

Photographs of Harrison Hightower can be seen throughout the attraction. A keen eye will notice that Mr. Hightower bears a striking resemblance to Joe Rohde, designer of the Animal Kingdom.


Harrison Hightower


TOT opened at Tokyo DisneySea on September 4, 2006. I can't say that the Tokyo version of this attraction is better than the other Towers around the world. But with the storyline being so different, it does add a new excitement level. The Tokyo attraction does not have the 4th dimension room like the one in Florida. Instead, the elevator makes a second stop on its way to the top as do the Towers in California and Paris.

This completes my blog series about the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I think the Imagineers outdid themselves when dreaming up this magnificent attraction. No matter how many times I ride, I keep discovering new details.

April 29, 2009

Disneyland Paris Resort – Last Blog

I have written 36 blogs about the Disneyland Paris Resort, and I've barely just scratched the surface.

Although the Walt Disney World resort is larger, take a look at how many pages the Allears.net website includes to try to describe everything. A Paris website would also have to be enormous to cover all of the information there is about the resort. My goal was simply to give you an overview and try to point out some of the highlights.

As I've mentioned earlier, Disneyland Paris is my favorite of the five Magic Kingdom-type parks. And it's my second favorite Disney park after Tokyo DisneySea. If you're into theme parks, you definitely should see this one.

I know I was somewhat harsh in my description of the Walt Disney Studios Park. But I haven't been there in three and a half years and the Imagineers are making some decent progress to bring it up to snuff. It is worth seeing.

Also, the overall resort is very nice. I've spoken to many Disney World fans that tell me they enjoy hotel-hopping. They find pleasure discovering what each inn has to offer, even if they never stay there. Well, there are six themed hotels to explore at Disneyland Paris. Not to mention Disney Village and all of its shops and restaurants.

As I mentioned in my first blog, I would try to separate the Disney portion of my trip from the rest of my European travels. Plan on spending two or three nights at Disney and immerse yourself in the magic. I feel that you should plan on spending two full days at the Disneyland Paris Park. You can see everything in less time, but I can guarantee you that you'll want to experience a number of the attractions twice " maybe more.

I think most guests could see all of the Walt Disney Studios Park in one full day. This would leave you some time to see CinéMagique twice.

I would avoid visiting in the winter. It gets cold! Very cold! It snows.

Well that's it. I'm going to post a few more pictures just to whet your appetite.

Bon voyage.


Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

Disneyland Paris Resort

April 24, 2009

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris - Part 8 - Toon Studio – Flying Carpets Over Agrabah, Cars Race Rally, and Crush's Coaster

Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Logo


Les Tapis Volants " Flying Carpets Over Agrabah


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Flying Carpets Over Agrabah


For those of you familiar with the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, “Flying Carpets Over Agrabah” is the exact same attraction as “The Magic Carpets of Aladdin” in Adventureland. Sixteen flying carpets circle and soar around an ornate structure and the Genie's lamp. However in Paris, the attraction is part of an elaborate movie set rather than an event outside the marketplace of Agrabah.

A large backdrop encircles almost half of the ride. Painted on its surface are various scenes from the movie, Aladdin.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Flying Carpets Over Agrabah


To the side of the attraction we can find Director Genie, megaphone in hand, watching over his actors. Before the carpets take flight, he yells “Action!” and the “movie” begins.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Flying Carpets Over Agrabah


One nice feature that “Flying Carpets Over Agrabah” has over its Florida counterpart is a viewing stand on the second floor. This allows parents to get close-up photos of their little pilots as they fly by.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Flying Carpets Over Agrabah


Each carpet holds four guests, two in the front seat and two in the back. The front seat has a control that regulates the carpet's height and the back seat controls its pitch. The adventure last approximately two minutes.

This ride is intended for children, but its fun for everyone.

The next two attractions are new since my last visit. The pictures were provided by my friend TDLFAN.

Cars Race Rally


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Cars Race Rally


Welcome to Radiator Springs!


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Cars Race Rally


Walk down Route 66 and you'll see some of your favorite stores from the Disney/Pixar movie “Cars.” You can stroll by Flo's V8 Café, Luigi's, Ramone's, Doc Hudson's, and Tow Mater's. These buildings house the queue for “Cars Race Rally.” While in line you can enjoy a number of props such as street signs, an old gas pump, a map of Radiator Springs, and a lot of other gas station paraphernalia.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Cars Race Rally

Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Cars Race Rally


The ride itself is reminiscent of the Tea Cups. You board four-passenger cars that spin and turn. But instead of being on a large turntable, here your cars ride on a figure-eight and they nearly collide with one another as they cross over from one circle to the other. Country music plays and driving advice is dispensed by Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater as you race in the desert landscape.


Toon%20Studios%2035.jpg

Toon%20Studios%2033.jpg

Toon%20Studios%2034.jpg


Although I have not seen this attraction in person, I have seen videos of Cars Race Rally and it is visually appealing to watch.


Crush's Coaster


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Crush's Coaster


The exterior of Crush's Coaster is reminiscent of a Wyland sculpture and painting. First we see a statue of Crush enjoying himself in the sun and in the background, Soundstage 5 is painted with a large mural depicting creatures of the sea.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Crush's Coaster

Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Crush's Coaster


The boarding for Crush's Coaster takes place at Angel's Cove, a Sydney fishing pier. The area is rustic and you can almost believe the ocean is nearby. The selfish Seagulls are perched nearby squawking “Mine, mine, mine.”


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Crush's Coasterpg

Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Crush's Coaster


Crush's Coaster is sort of a cross between “Primeval Whirl” at Disney's Animal Kingdom, “The Seas with Nemo and Friends” at Epcot, and “Space Mountain” at the Magic Kingdom. Four guests ride in a turtle shell, two facing forward and two backwards. The seats are tight so larger folks might want to request a seat to themselves.

As soon as your shell leaves the pier, you enter a dark tunnel and you travel up a small incline. As you descend the hill, you emerge outside for a short moment before reentering the building.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Crush's Coaster


Your vehicle slows slightly and a number of sights come into view. You're surrounded by a coral reef and you see Nemo and Squirt playing in the water. You might also encounter an angry Angler Fish who is hungry for a bite. Another turn and you see a number of jellyfish bobbing up and down. A short while later you enter a sunken submarine and ascend a second, larger hill. While traveling upwards you see Bruce and some of his shark friends hungrily peeking out at you.

At the top of the hill you enter the EAC (East Australian Current). With the exception of bubbles being projected everywhere, it's very dark. At this point, the coaster portion of your voyage begins, as does the spinning of your turtle shell. With each dip and bank and rise and fall you turtle shell spins accordingly as you travel through the EAC.

The ride is approximately two and a half minutes in length. It reaches a speed of 37MPH and the spinning can be intense for some. If you're okay on “Primeval Whirl” and the “Tea Cups,” you should be okay on Crush's Coaster, otherwise, you might want to think twice before riding.

Toon Studio offers a great photo op. Here you can stand in front of a façade of ToonTown. Occasionally a character or two might show up.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio


Well, that's it for my description of the Walt Disney Studios Park. I'll be writing one more blog to sum everything up.

April 21, 2009

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris - Toon Studio – Part 7 - Art of Disney Animation & Animagique

Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Logo


When the Walt Disney Studios Park opened in 2002, Toon Studio was known as Animation Courtyard. The area was uninspired and building exteriors lacked magic. In January 2005, Disney announced that Animation Courtyard would receive a makeover and expand. In June 2007 the renovations were complete and the name was changed to Toon Studio. The area is now much more fanciful and it's a pleasant environment in which to spend time.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio


One of the original attractions in Toon Studio is the Art of Disney Animation, which I'll discuss in more detail in a moment.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animation Building


The building has been painted blue since I visited in 2005 to fit in better with its new surroundings. Also, the façade of a Hollywood Boulevard structure is now adjacent to its left side. The “Animation” building now seems to be part of a greater whole rather than just a stand alone structure. My friend TDLFAN provided me with the picture below.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animation Building


Surrounding the Sorcerer's Hat are 12 bronze statues of Disney characters.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animation Building

Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animation Building

Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animation Building


The “Art of Disney Animation” tour begins in a pleasant room full of unique exhibits and Disney art. Here you can explore the history of animation from the Magic Lantern to one of Disney's multi-plane cameras.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Art of Disney Animation


In the center of the room is a zoetrope. A zoetrope is a device that creates an illusion of movement from a quick succession of still pictures. Here we see Dumbo take flight.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Art of Disney Animation


An abundance of Disney art is also on display.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Art of Disney Animation

Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Art of Disney Animation

Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Art of Disney Animation


Before the actual tour begins, you're invited to watch a short video of Walt Disney paying tribute to the European pioneers of animation. Then you move into a theater reminiscent of a Hollywood studio screening room. Here you watch an array of clips from Disney's wonderful library of animation. You'll cry and you'll laugh. You'll cheer and you'll boo. All of your emotions will be brought into play. This film is similar to the one shown on the old animation tour at the Disney/MGM Studios in Florida.

The next stop is “Drawn To Animation.” In this theater, Mushu, the little dragon from Mulan, and your human host explain how characters are developed and chosen to be in a Disney animated film. This is the same show as seen on “The Magic of Disney Animation” tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Art of Disney Animation


The final leg of this attraction is also similar to the Disney World animation tour. You enter a large room filled with various “stations” where you can play and explore. You can give Ursula your voice at the “Speak for Yourself” kiosk. “Colourful Characters” lets you paint with an electronic brush. And “Sound Tracks” lets you add your own sound effects to a Disney scene.

But the best part (just like at Florida) is the “Animation Academy.” Here an animator will walk you through the process of drawing Mickey Mouse or some other Disney character.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Art of Disney Animation


Animagique


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animagique


Animagique is presented multiple times a day in a 1,100 seat theater. The building is a copy of the CinéMagique Theater found in Production Courtyard; however the Animagique Theater has been painted blue since my last visit. The show is 25 minutes in length and a schedule is posted on a marquee out front.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animagique


The queue is rather unremarkable.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animagique


In an odd way, the story of Animagique is the same as Mickey's Philharmagic, except it uses real characters and puppets rather than animation. The show starts with Mickey and Donald onstage, each at their own easels. Some sort of contest is taking place to see who is the better artist. I'm sure I don't have to tell you who wins. At the end of the competition, Mickey leaves the stage.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animagique


A frustrated Donald walks around in a huff and eventually finds Mickey's magic key to the vault located behind him. He unlocks the door to reveal hundreds of reels of film from Disney's animated classics. A moment later, some of the characters come to life. First we have the pink elephants from Dumbo. They dance out onto the stage and surround Donald as the haunting “Pink Elephants on Parade” is played. Black lights are used and their florescent colors come alive.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animagique


This routine is followed with the characters from Jungle book, Little Mermaid, and finally The Lion King. Each segment is about four to five minutes in length. Portions of the production will also remind you of the “Voyage of the Little Mermaid” show at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Black lights and puppets are used imaginatively and it's intriguing to watch. In the end, Mickey joins the fun for a big finale.


Walt Disney Studios Park Toon Studio Animagique


This show does have a catchy theme song which I like. But I'll warn you, it will be stuck in your head all day like “it's a small world.”

I have to be honest; this show doesn't really work for me. Obviously I was supposed to like it, but I didn't. I thought it was juvenile. I enjoyed the “black light” segments, but I don't feel they're executed as well as the “Voyage of the Little Mermaid” show. But I also wanted to be fair and not pan this production without some other input. So I asked four of my friends who have seen Animagique for their opinions. Here are their responses:

Flo: I've seen Animagique three times - 2002, 2005, and 2007. I loved it the first time I saw it, as did my traveling companions (all hard core Disney freaks). But sadly, the next two times I found it to be a watered-down version of its former self. For example, there is a part that has puppet performers that walk in the aisles with puppets that are like kites on sticks (similar to the ones in Finding Nemo). In 2002, the theatre seemed like it was filled with them. They were in every aisle, surrounding you. The next times, there were only two. It made a big difference. There were other things that were reduced too. In 2002, we liked it so much that we made time to go back and see it again. The next two times, one viewing was enough. I still liked it, but didn't love it. Unfortunately, it appears to have followed Disney's usual pattern - open a great attraction but then let the bean counters drag down the show quality by cutting the performers back to the bare minimum.

TDLFAN: I honestly do not care much for "Animagique". I disliked the music the first time I saw it. In fact, the one aspect of the show I liked was the use of black lighting, which made the characters and props on stage glow to some degree. But the show was a bit slow, amateurish and mediocre for my taste. Maybe because I am so used to the big budget standards used at the Tokyo Disney Resort for these types of show/stage attraction. I could only recommend this show for families who bring small kids into the parks or for those who are “character lovers” to the core. Besides that, "Animagique" is not worth it.

Anita Answer: I thought it was unintentionally hilarious. It was so bad, I laughed out loud at some of the dialogue, such as when Baloo says in a monotone, "Hey buddy, gimme some." Slang always suffers in translation, I guess. I literally fell out of my seat and into the aisle I was laughing so hard. Verdict: Like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, "It's the Cheesiest!"

Donald: I was so unimpressed with the show I can hardly remember seeing it.

So the vote is 1 in favor, 4 against. But don't take our word for it. You should ALWAYS judge these things for yourself. So if you ever find you're at the Walt Disney Studios Park, I think you should give this attraction a try. You just might love it.

I have heard a rumor. Let me say this again. I have heard a RUMOR, that this show will be retired and replaced with Mickey's PhilharMagic. I think this would be a great improvement and I hope it's true.

In my next blog I'll be discussing Cars Race Rally, Crush's Coaster, and Flying Carpets Over Agrabah.

April 18, 2009

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris – Part 6 – Backlot – Armageddon - Les Effets Speciaux & Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Logo


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Armageddon


Armageddon - Les Effets Speciaux (Special Effects)

As you might have guessed from the title, this attraction is about movie special effects in general and specifically about the 1998 Touchstone movie Armageddon.

On display outside the attraction is the drilling machine Armadillo. This was the actual prop used in the movie to bore into the impending asteroid.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Armageddon

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Armageddon


The adventure begins inside Studio 7-A.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Armageddon

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Armageddon


Your first stop is the preshow. Via film clips, you are introduced to the works of legendary French film maker Georges Méliès, the creator of many early special effects.

Following this tribute, a second video is shown, showcasing well-known special effects from some of our favorite movies of the last century. A close observer will notice that an inordinate amount of this footage is from Disney films. As the movie climaxes, Michael Clarke Duncan, one of the stars of the movie Armageddon, appears on screen. He presents a very high-level explanation of some of the special effects used in the movie Armageddon and sets the mood for the adventure to come.

The entire preshow is presented in French with English subtitles.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Armageddon


When the preshow concludes, you exit this room and proceed to the main attraction, a Russian space station. As you enter the craft, you are struck by an array of computers, lights, hoses, and instrumentation. Everyone gathers around the circular room and then the doors are closed and sealed. After a few safety announcements, the director yells “Action” and the set comes alive.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Armageddon


As the lights dim, you can hear com-chat in both Russian and English. Viewing screens open and it soon becomes apparent that a number of small meteors are on a collision course with your ship. As the particles begin to pummel your vessel, mayhem ensues. The floor starts to shake and sparks begin to fly. Then one of the walls of your craft is punctured and vast amounts of steam are sucked out into space. A pipe breaks and everyone is sprayed with liquid. All the while the ceiling keeps dropping, inch by inch. To add excitement, these events are accented by loud noises. Then everything goes dark. For a moment you think you might survive. Then all of a sudden a massive explosion erupts from the middle of the ship.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Armageddon


When everything calms down, the lights come up and the doors open. As you exit the building, you pass by a number of movie props.

If Disney still used ticket books, I'd give this attraction a “C” coupon (maybe a “D” if I was feeling very generous). It's exciting, but I wouldn't call this a first-class event. The preshow lasts about twelve minutes and the space station segment is about five. This attraction is NOT suitable for small children who are easily frightened.

Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular


“Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular” is basically the same attraction as the “Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show” at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. And as you might already know, it opened in Paris first.

The basic premise is the same for both shows. You are witness to a filming of an action packed stunt sequence involving good guys and bad guys and cars and motorcycles. Since the shows are so similar, I'm only going to discuss the variations.

The first difference is in the queue. While walking passed the garages, the interior is far more visible through the various windows. The cars and mechanics are in plain sight and you can see them working on the vehicles.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular


This attraction is sponsored by Opel Automobiles. (Opel cars are used as the stunt vehicles here and in Florida.) When you enter the stadium, a number of current models are on display in the main arena.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular


While you're waiting for the show to begin, a stunt motorcyclist entertains the crowd.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular


The arena is almost identical to its Florida cousin. It's kind of spooky how similar they are.

The show is presented in both French and English. Two “directors” alternate with explanations of the events unfolding before you.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular


About 15 “extras” are selected from the audience and used in a portion of the show. I can't say they do much, but they are directed to run from one spot of the arena to another.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular


The segment of a car riding on two wheels is not part of the chase scene in Paris. Instead, it's simply a stunt performed for the audience.

First, one car drives out on stage, rides up the incline ramp, then travels across the arena on two wheels. After returning to all four, the vehicle circles around to the starting point and is joined by a second car. This time both cars position themselves in this precarious manner and travel across the arena. Once again, they return to normal, circle back, and are joined by a third car to perform the stunt once more in triplicate.

I actually like this better than the Florida version. It allows you to concentrate on the stunt and not be distracted by other events.

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular


Another thing I like about the Paris show is that they don't try to hide the air cushion that the car lands on after flying off of the top of a truck. It's in plain view and it's interesting to see it deflate as the vehicle hits it.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular


Okay everyone. I'm just the messenger here. Remember, don't kill the messenger.

Instead of selecting a child to drive the remote control car, a woman is chosen " and many jokes about women drivers are bandied about.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular


Other than what I've mentioned here, the two shows are pretty much the same. The identical footage is used on the overhead screen. Herbie makes an appearance. A stunt man jumps off of a building and a motorcyclist crashes through a window. And of course, cars go flying through the air.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular


That finishes the Backlot. In my next blog I'll be discussing Toon Studio.

April 16, 2009

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris – Part 5 – Backlot – Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Logo


Peppered throughout the Walt Disney Studios Park are street signs with the names of famous American and French film makers. In addition, an informational plaque mounted on the pole gives a brief description of the honoree's accomplishments in both English and French.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Sign


The Georges Méliès' plaque reads as follows: “Méliès, a popular Parisian stage magician, made over 500 films between 1895 and 1914. He is credited with discovering such quintessential special effects as stop motion, slow motion, dissolves, fade-outs, and superimposition.”

On the other side of the park, another plaque for the Disney Brothers reads: “In what is arguably the longest and most successful partnership in the history of show business, Roy, the financial genius, and Walt, the creative visionary, together ran the Disney company for nearly half of a century. They changed the face of entertainment and virtually created the genre of the animated feature film.”


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock ‘N' Roller Coaster


Rock ‘N' Roller Coaster is one of the premier attractions at the Walt Disney Studios Park. As you can see by the picture below, the exterior is quite different from its cousin at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock ‘N' Roller Coaster


Parked nearby the entrance to the “Tour de Force Records” sound studio is Aerosmith's touring bus. The group arrived earlier and is working inside.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock ‘N' Roller Coaster

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock ‘N' Roller Coaster


After winding your way through the queue, you eventually find yourself in Studio C where you can see Aerosmith discussing their latest idea.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock ‘N' Roller Coaster


This is where you begin to realize that the storyline at the Parisian version of this attraction is quite different from that of Florida.

Aerosmith has decided that it's not enough to just listen to their music, but that people need to experience it as well. To that end, “SoundTracker” vehicles were developed to make their fans “part” of the concert rather than just passive listeners.

You board the SoundTrackers in a backstage area of a rock performance. A sound man can be seen nearby and it's obvious he's in charge of the goings on.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock ‘N' Roller Coaster


After you're fastened into your seat, the SoundTracker is jettisoned into the middle of the concert, music blasting from all 120 onboard speakers. As you race around scaffolding, strobes flash, lasers shine, spots turn on and off, and you plunge through a blanket of dry-ice mist. One of five Aerosmith's songs is selected for each event. Depending on the number chosen, the lighting and effects will be different.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock ‘N' Roller Coaster

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock ‘N' Roller Coaster

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Rock ‘N' Roller Coaster

The track layout for the Parisian version of Rock ‘N' Roller Coaster is identical to Florida's as are the musical numbers. But the experience is quite different. I prefer the Florida version, but that's probably because I'm more familiar with it. If you ever visit the Walt Disney Studios, I would certainly recommend giving this attraction a try even if you have been on the Disney World version a dozen times or more.

The Backlot Express Restaurant

The Backlot Express Restaurant is the primary dining facility in this area.

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Express Restaurant


Like its cousin at Disney's Hollywood Studios, this restaurant is fashioned to look like a prop warehouse. Hanging from the walls and stashed in cages is a collection of just about everything.

This is a counter service restaurant and features International and French “fast food.” This includes salads, baguettes, and quiche.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Express Restaurant

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Backlot Express Restaurant

I've never been a big fan of the Backlot Express at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The food is fine, but eating in a warehouse just doesn't work for me. When I dine, I want the ambiance to be a little bit more upscale than an oversized storage room. The Parisian version of this restaurant doesn't feel quite as dingy as Florida's, but neither of these restaurants will ever be high on my list of places to eat, simply because of the surroundings.

In my next blog I will discuss Armageddon Special Effects and Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular.

April 12, 2009

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris - Part 4 – Production Courtyard – TOT & Backstage Tour

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard


In an earlier blog I wrote that when the Walt Disney Studios Park opened, it lacked soul. Much of this was due to the fact that many of the buildings either looked like soundstages or office buildings. And most of the other structures and facades were uninspired. But I'm happy to report that the Imagineers are correcting this problem. The “changing” picture below was taken from roughly the same spot. See for yourself how much things have improved in a little over three years.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard


With the exception of the Tower of Terror, most of these structures are facades, like the Streets of America at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. But none the less, they add a lot of welcome atmosphere.

This next picture is looking across the street at the other side of Hollywood Blvd.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard


The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror


The Paris version of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (TOT) is an extremely close copy of its cousin at Disney's California Adventure. Both were designed in the “Pueblo Deco” style of architecture which is the blending of Art Deco and Native American art from the Southwest U.S.

Along with its other cousin in Tokyo, all three of these Tower of Terrors have three shafts and utilize two elevator cars in each. Unlike Florida, the loading for these elevators takes place on both the first and second floors of the boiler room.

I have not ridden on the Paris version of this ride, but I have experienced Tokyo's and California's so I have a reasonable idea of what the experience is all about.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror


Paris' Tower of Terror is also the only tower to present Rod Serling's introduction in a language other than English. As the library fills, the bellboy can change from the original English recording to a French narration. Serling's voice in the French version was dubbed by a vocal artist whose voice resembled the original dubbing of the “La Quatrième Dimension” when the Twilight Zone TV show was shown in France. Both recordings feature subtitles in the opposite language.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror


The Paris, California, and Tokyo versions of Tower of Terror do not have the “Fifth Dimension Room.” Instead, the elevator makes a second stop on its journey to the top of the hotel. At this floor, the elevator doors open and you see a reflection of the car's inhabitants in a mirror hanging on the wall. A moment later, lightning strikes and electricity arcs around the mirror and everyone's face morphs into a ghostly green and eventually fades into nothingness. In the end, the mirror's reflection reveals only empty seats in your elevator.

The deviation from the Florida version of TOT was made for a number of reasons. First, it was less expensive to build. Second, it required less land which was important at Disney's California Adventure. Also, if one of the shafts breaks down, only one third of the attraction is affected, whereas in Florida, if one of the shafts malfunctions, half of the ride's capacity is lost. I've also heard that the “Fifth Dimension” room is prone to breakdowns and the Imagineers wanted to rid themselves of this problem. However, I can't substantiate this.

I really like the Fifth Dimension room. To me, the scariest part of the entire attraction is when you exit this room and your car moves into the inky black elevator shaft. I'm always certain that the technology is going to fail at that moment and my elevator car is going to plunge into the bowels of the building. Yikes! But I also like the mirror effect. It's imaginative and fun.

The rest of the attraction is relatively the same as its cousins. Your elevator car takes its uneasy passengers on multiple drops until finally arriving safely back where you began. And like all of the world-wide TOT's, the view from the top is fantastic. From here you can see the Disneyland Hotel, Sleeping Beauty Castle, Space Mountain, and Disney Village. Have your camera ready.

Disney's Hollywood Studios Florida - Tower of Terror

Disney's California Adventure California - Tower of Terror

Tokyo Disney Sea - Japan - Tower of Terror


Studio Tram Tour®: Behind the Magic

The Walt Disney Studios Park offers a backstage tram tour. The entrance is located at the end of Hollywood Blvd. The picture below was taken over three years ago and the entrance has changed since then. Unfortunately, I do not have a current photo.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


Parked in front of the attraction is Cruella de Vil's car. If you look closely under the rear of the vehicle, you can see oil stains in the shape of Mickey Mouse.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


The trams are very similar to those used at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


But unlike Florida, a cast member does not narrate this attraction. Instead, each car of the tram is equipped with a TV monitor. During your journey, a prerecorded video is played with descriptions of what you are seeing and also of movie making techniques. French is handled by Irène Jacob alternating with Jeremy Irons who provides the English dialog.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


In the first few years of operation, some cars offered Dutch & German and others Spanish & Italian. But this caused difficulties managing the queue, and eventually these languages were dropped in 2005.

The first segment of the trip takes you past the boneyard where you can see props once used in various movies.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


You also pass by a large set from the short-lived 2002 Disney TV show, Dinotopia. Thirteen episodes were made and shown in Europe, but only five were ever broadcast in the U.S.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


The next stop on the tram tour is Catastrophe Canyon. This is an extremely close copy of the one at Disney's Hollywood Studios. And just like Florida, the folks on the left side of the tram have the better view and the better soaking.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


From Catastrophe Canyon you turn around and aim back. Along the way the tram passes through the wardrobe building used for park costume design and production.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


As your journey continues you pass by the attraction entrance and the second leg of the tour begins. You soon pass a topiary garden and a car shed with over 20 different vehicles.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


The second highlight of the tour is based on the 2002 Touchstone movie “Reign of Fire” starring Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey. Here, you enter a beautiful recreation of London.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


But you soon learn that all is not well. The city has been destroyed by flying, fire-breathing dragons.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


The recreation of the devastated city is chilling. The set designers did a fantastic job. But I was somewhat disappointed. After the multiple effects experienced on Catastrophe Canyon, the London scene is a letdown. As you pass by a large, cylindrical brick wall, you can hear the rumblings and growl of the dragon hiding within. But all you get to see is his flame. No audioanimatronic creature appears. No rubble falls from the walls. No pipes burst. Just a large flame.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Studio Tram Tour®:  Behind the Magic


On a side note, Reign of Fire was in production during the same time the Walt Disney Studios Park was being planned and built. I'm sure Disney was hoping that this would be a blockbuster movie that guests could identify with while on the tram tour. Unfortunately, this movie only grossed $82 million on a $95 million budget and received generally negative reviews.

From London your tram passes by the warm-up area for the “Motours… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular” and a few minutes later you're back at the attraction entrance/exit.

Well, that's it for Production Courtyard. Next stop, the Backlot.

April 9, 2009

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris - Part 3 – Production Courtyard – Stitch Live

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard


Walt Disney Television Studios

When the Walt Disney Studios Park opened, the “Walt Disney Television Studios” offered guests a backstage tour of the Disney Channel's French headquarters.

When I took this tour in September, 2005, I was never so bored in all my life. Most of the tour was presented in French with English subtitles. But beyond the language barrier, the subject matter was exceedingly dull " no matter how hard they tried to breathe excitement into it. This attraction closed in 2007 to make room for “Stitch Live.” Thank goodness.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard  Television Studios


I have not been on the Paris version of “Stitch Live,” but my friend TDLFAN tells me that it is almost exactly like its cousin attraction “Stitch Encounter” in Hong Kong, which I have seen.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard


The picture below is from Hong Kong, but the interior of the two attractions are practically identical.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard


“Stitch Live” uses the same technology as “Turtle Talk with Crush” in Epcot.
However, the story here is a little different. Using one of the Disney Channel satellites, your human host hones in on a ship in outer space and contacts Stitch. From then on, this mischievous prankster interacts with the audience in real-time conversations. The shenanigans are different with each contact and no two shows are ever exactly the same.

To be honest, I'm not a big fan of Stitch, but I loved this attraction in Hong Kong. It made me laugh both times I experienced it.

Since the Walt Disney Studios Park must deal with two languages, “Stitch Live” is presented in either French or English. Outside of the attraction is a marquee that lists the show times and the associated language.

Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant

Next to “Stitch Live” is the buffet restaurant Rendez-Vous des Stars (Meeting Place of the Stars).


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard  Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard  Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant


This art deco building offers the most upscale dining experience of any of the restaurants found at the Walt Disney Studios Park. The interior is large with over 300 seats. But despite its considerable size, this establishment can get busy during the lunch hours. The “storyline” of this eatery is that it's a place for the cast and crew to grab a bite to eat between takes. The walls are decorated with photos of movie stars and the bill of fare is European.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard  Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant


Disney Cinema Parade

No Disney park would be complete without an afternoon parade and the Walt Disney Studios Park is no exception. In keeping with the Hollywood theme, each float is given a movie-making touch to showcase a given film. For example, we see Minnie in her dressing room and Mary Poppins on reels of film.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Disney Cinema Parade

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Disney Cinema Parade


This parade is a lot of fun and if you have kids, this is the perfect way to let them see an abundance of characters. The procession lasts approximately 20 minutes.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Disney Cinema Parade

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Disney Cinema Parade


There are a number of good spots to watch the Disney Cinema Parade, but Production Courtyard offers a lot of space to line the street.

In my next blog I will discuss the Tower of Terror and the Studio Tram Tour.

-------------------------

It seems a few things have changed since my last visit. Please read Marnix's comment below.

April 6, 2009

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris – Part 2 – Production Courtyard - CinéMagique

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard


Production Courtyard is the first “land” you come to when exiting Studio 1. One of the first things you'll notice is a large film-strip etched in the concrete. This is a pathway of sorts that leads from one end of the park to the other.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard


Also in Production Courtyard is a bandstand where live music is occasionally heard.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard Bandstand


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard CineMagique


CinéMagique (Film Magic) is the crowning jewel of the Walt Disney Studios Park. In fact, it could be the crowning jewel of a lot of theme parks. This is truly a wonderful attraction " a true crowd pleaser.

The outside of the attraction looks like a soundstage and the queue area is unremarkable at best. This “history of the movies” is shown several times a day so check your schedule.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard CineMagique

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard CineMagique


Inside the soundstage you find a large theater that seats 1,100 guests. And of course, this is where the magique takes place.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard CineMagique


Much of the charm of this attraction comes from the unexpected events that take place during the film. This is a spoiler alert. I'm going to describe what happens inside this theater. So if you're planning a trip to the Disneyland Paris Resort and want to be surprised when you see this movie, skip the rest of this blog. But please note, this is an absolute MUST SEE at the Walt Disney Studios Park.

You are seated in the theater, expecting to see a “history” of film. Before the movie begins, a cast member, dressed in an usher's costume of the 1930's, walks on stage. You are welcomed to the show and reminded that there is no flash photography or video taping and asked to turn off your cell phones. A moment later, the movie begins.

The first film clips shown are from the silent era. Piano music plays and you settle in to enjoy the movie. All of a sudden, you hear a cell phone ringing from a seat near the front of the theater. A man answers it and starts a loud conversation with the airline who it seems has lost his luggage. During his conversation we learn that his name is George. A cast member rushes to the man and tries to quiet him. In his attempt to ignore the cast member and continue his call, George gets up from his seat and walks up onto the stage. His back is to us at all times.

All the while, the silent films continue to show on the screen. In the next clip we see a young sheik and his fiancée, Marguerite. They are in the midst of a love scene when they “break the fourth wall” and become aware of the annoying man talking on stage. After a moment's irritation, the sheik summons a wizard. The wizard takes one look at George and starts to conjure a spell. Then he sprinkles some magic dust and POOF, there is a blast of smoke on the stage and the annoying man disappears. A moment later, George (played by Martin Short) reappears IN the movie. Being a silent movie, no sounds are emitted when George tries to speak.

The sheik, who was angry to have his romantic scene interrupted, punches George in the face. But Marguerite (played by Julie Delpy) takes pity on George and attends to him. The sheik, seeing a tenderness developing between them, starts to chase after George. It's here that the insanity really begins.

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard CineMagique

George runs through the castle looking for an escape route and finds a window. When he crawls through it, he's transported to the ledge of a skyscraper in New York City with Harold Lloyd. When he climbs down the fire escape, he joins a pie fight with Charlie Chaplin.

As he continues to jump from movie to movie he soon finds that he's in the age of the “talkies” and he can now speak. Next we find George at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre with Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis. Eventually color comes to the movies and soon, wide screen. All the while, George continues to experience the cinema first hand.

But Marguerite, who is falling in love with George, wants to find him and she too begins to jump from film to film looking for him. They occasionally meet and their love for one another continues to grow.

There is very little dialogue, and it really isn't needed to tell the story. When words are wanted, George speaks in English and Marguerite in French. But the story is so excellently told that you can understand everything.

George continues his journey and meets Pinocchio, Hannibal Lector, and Inspector Clouseau, just to name a few. He climbs aboard the sinking Titanic, dances in Mary Poppins, and is involved in a western shoot-out.


Walt Disney Studios Park Paris Production Courtyard CineMagique


Eventually, George and Marguerite are reunited in a medieval battle scene. But George is weary of the “movies” and wants to return to the real world. A chivalrous French knight agrees to help and climbs a nearby hill. He takes his mighty sword and flings it toward the screen. Magically, the sword slices the screen and is impaled on stage. The effect is magnificent and the audience applauds.

George exits the film via the sliced screen, but alas, Marguerite cannot. Then, as quickly as the tear appeared, it disappears and George cannot reenter the film world.

But all is not lost. The wizard, who originally brought George into the film world, creates a door on the screen. George opens it, walks through, and immerges back on celluloid once more. The movie ends with George and Marguerite walking down the Yellow Brick Road toward Oz.

CinéMagique is about 30 minutes long, but it seems shorter because you are so engrossed in the story. You will laugh and you will cry. And you will want to see it again! I can't recommend this movie enough. If you only see one attraction at the Walt Disney Studios Park, let it be this one.

I really wish Disney would bring this attraction to Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. It would be an instant success. But I've heard that Disney only secured the rights to show these film clips in Paris and nowhere else. If this is true, it's a real pity.

In my next blog I'll be discussing "Stitch Live."

April 2, 2009

Walt Disney Studios Park Paris – Part 1 – Front Lot

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park


Disney has eleven theme parks around the world. I rank Tokyo DisneySea as my favorite and Disneyland Paris as my second favorite. I rank the Walt Disney Studios Park dead last. Visiting this park makes me long for Disney's California Adventure, which I rank at number ten.

The Walt Disney Studios Park was designed and constructed during the latter years of Michael Eisner's tenure as the head of the Walt Disney Company. This was during his “cheap” years and it shows. This park is soulless.

I often tell people that Tokyo DisneySea is so magnificent that you can pay your admittance fee, never go on one attraction, and you'll still get your money's worth. Just “being” at Tokyo DisneySea is worth the price of a ticket. On the other hand, if you pay your admittance fee for the Walt Disney Studios Park and go on every attraction, you may want a partial refund at the end of the day " or should I say half-day.

But of course, every Disney story needs to have a happy ending and I'm going to try to provide one here. I haven't been to the Walt Disney Studios Park in almost three and a half years. During that time, Bob Iger, the current CEO of the Walt Disney Company, is trying to fix this property (in the same way he's trying to fix Eisner's other fiasco, Disney's California Adventure). The company is investing money in both of these parks and trying to bring them up to Disney standards. My good friend TDLFAN has provided me with some pictures of the improvements made at the Walt Disney Studios Park during the last several years and things look promising.

That being said, I'm going to discuss what I experienced over three years ago, and what has changed and been improved upon during this time. I'm planning another trip to Paris in about a year and a half and I'm hoping that I can delete the opening paragraphs to this blog when I get home.


Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Entrance


The Walt Disney Studios Park is situated somewhat next to Disneyland Paris. It's about a ten minute walk from the main gates of one park to the other. The entrance to the Studio looks like the quintessential Hollywood movie lot of the 1930's and 40's. There is a large arch, typical of many of the early studios and a water tower, characteristic of the era. Disney was smart when designing this park, the Imagineers placed the Earful Tower near the entrance where it could easily be seen by all.


Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Entrance

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Entrance

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Entrance


Within the gates is a very pleasant courtyard. Shops and Guest Services can be found in the buildings that flank the square.


Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Entrance

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Entrance


Character Meet-&-Greets are common in the courtyard.

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Courtyard


In the center of the courtyard are a fountain and a statue of Mickey as the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Sorcerer's Appretice

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Sorcerer's Appretice


When I visited this park in September 2005, Disney's animated movie “Chicken Little” was opening soon and they were promoting it heavily. The large building (covered by Chicken Little) is called Studio 1. It's actually an attractive structure if you could see more of it.


Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park


Studio 1 is the equivalent to Hollywood Blvd. at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. Inside this massive soundstage is a movie set that is supposed to represents a quintessential “Hollywood” street during the golden age of film. To enter the park, all guests must walk down this thoroughfare. But what separates this street from its Florida cousin is that all of the buildings here are facades. Nothing is real.


Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Studio 1

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Studio 1

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Studio 1

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Studio 1

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Studio 1


Behind these facades are a number of shops and a large counter service restaurant, the Restaurant en Coulisse. This eatery serves hamburgers, pizza, and salads. Note, there are no full service restaurants anywhere at the Walt Disney Studios Park.


Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studios Park Restaurant en Coulisse

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studios Park Restaurant en Coulisse


Studio 1 opens about a half an hour before the rest of the park. This gives guests time to check out the shops and grab a quick bite before starting the day. At opening, grand announcements are made in French and English welcoming everyone to a day of excitement. All the while, search lights crisscross the street and buildings. When the doors finally open at the far end of the soundstage, guests stream out en mass. Outside, cast members applaud everyone as if they had just completed acting in a marvelous scene.


Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Studio 1

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Studio 1


Standing outside the Studio 1 soundstage is the Partners Statue.


Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studio Park Studio 1 Partners Statue


Here's my overall impression of Studio 1. It has its charms. I like that it's perpetually nighttime within the soundstage. This gives the area a nice atmosphere and the many animated neon lights are a lot of fun. And it does resemble an actual movie set " which is what Hollywood is all about. Also, on a cold Parisian winter day, I'm sure it's nice to have a place to escape from the weather.

But after seeing Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards at Disney's Hollywood Studios, I can't help but think that the Imagineers were given a directive to build “Hollywood” as cheaply as possible. They did a decent job, but it just doesn't compare to its Florida cousin.

In my next blog, I'll discuss Production Courtyard.

March 30, 2009

Disneyland Paris - Discoveryland – Part 4 – Star Tours, Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, and Autopia

Star Tours


Disneyland Paris Star Tours


Star Tours is the one attraction in Discoveryland that deviates from the overall theme of the area. Instead of looking like the future as seen through the eyes of early visionaries, this ride's exterior features architecture more in line with a 20th century view of the future. Or maybe in the case of Star Tours, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” But for some reason, this departure in architectural design seems to blend seamlessly with its surroundings.

The exterior of the attraction is marked by an X-Wing fighter. This is a cool picture spot.


Disneyland Paris Star Tours X-Wing fighter


Also outside of the attraction is a shop called Star Traders. Imagine that.


Disneyland Paris Star Tours Star Traders Store


There isn't a lot I can tell you about this ride that you probably don't already know. It's the same movie and experience as in Florida, California, and Tokyo. Even the queue is remarkably similar to all the rest.


Disneyland Paris Star Tours


You exit the attraction through a video arcade called L'Astroport Services Interstellaires.


Disneyland Paris Star Tours L'Astroport Services Interstellaires


Since I don't have much to share with you about this attraction, I'll give you a little bit of trivia.

When Disney replaces an older ride with a new attraction, they try to leave some sort of legacy behind. In other words, gone, but not forgotten. For example, in the Winnie the Pooh attraction at Walt Disney World, there is a picture of Mr. Toad handing over the deed to the property to Owl. And at Mission: Space in Epcot, the old Horizon logo can be seen on the rotating space station in the queue area.

Star Tours was first built at Disneyland, California. It replaced Adventures Thru Inner Space. To pay homage to the earlier attraction, the Mighty Microscope (below) from Adventures Thru Inner Space was used in the Star Tours movie.


Adventures Thru Inner Space Mighty Microscope Disneyland


Here's what to look for:

As you begin your Star Tours adventure, you unexpectedly take a wrong turn. Then your vehicle drops off the edge of a platform and plunges downward. As Captain Rex regains control of the craft, he pulls you out of your freefall. At that moment, if you look to the right-hand side of the screen, you can see the Mighty Microscope. You must look quickly, but once you know what you're looking for, there is no mistaking it.

Disneyland Paris Star Tours Mighty Microscope


Honey, I Shrunk the Audience " Cherie, J'ai Retreci le Public

Like Star Tours, this attraction is located behind Space Mountain. Out front is a large sign. On one side it says “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” in large letters and “Cherie, J'ai Retreci le Public” underneath in smaller letters. On the opposite side of the sign, the English and French titles are reversed.


Disneyland Paris Honey I Shrunk the Audience

Disneyland Paris Honey I Shrunk the Audience


Also outside of the attraction is a topiary in the shape of the “Inventor of the Year” award.


Disneyland Paris Honey I Shrunk the Audience Topiary


The actual entrance to the “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” theater is located underneath the Disneyland Railroad tracks.


Disneyland Paris Honey I Shrunk the Audience

Disneyland Paris Honey I Shrunk the Audience


Like Star Tours, there isn't a lot I can tell you about this attraction that you don't already know. It's the exact same show as seen in the other Disney parks.

The awards ceremony is presented in either English or French depending on the time of day. Check the schedule for more information. If you do show up when French is the language du jour, there are headphones available that offer a number of different languages, including English.

When Disneyland Paris opened, Captain EO played in this theater. It closed in August 1997.

Autopia

The architecture of the Autopia attraction is a cross between Jules Verne and retro 1950's.


Disneyland Paris Autopia

Disneyland Paris Autopia


The attraction is similar to its California and Hong Kong cousins in that you drive on a “futuristic” highway and enjoy the sights along the way. Florida and Tokyo both offer a race-car theme with little to see along the journey.

You drive in sporty little gas-powered vehicles. The cars hold two passengers and the trip takes about four minutes to complete.


Disneyland Paris Autopia


Here's a picture of me taking a Sunday drive.


Disneyland Paris Autopia


The next picture shows the two loading areas. The left side is closed but if you look closely, you can see people standing in line on the right side. A number of good pictures can be taken while in the queue.


Disneyland Paris Autopia


What distinguishes the Paris, Hong Kong, and California versions of this ride from Florida and Tokyo are the sights along the road. In Paris, you pass by a futuristic city and a number of retro-billboards.


Disneyland Paris Autopia

Disneyland Paris Autopia


The following billboard actually advertises a real place. The Rocket Café is located near Honey, I Shrunk the Audience and serves salads, snacks, and drinks.


Disneyland Paris Autopia

Disneyland Paris Autopia


Well, that's it for Discoveryland and Disneyland Paris. Next stop, the Walt Disney Studios.

March 27, 2009

Disneyland Paris - Discoveryland – Part 3 – Space Mountain: Mission 2 and Les Mystéres du Nautilus

Space Mountain: Mission 2


Disneyland Paris Space Mountain


Once again, I have to say that Disneyland Paris takes first prize when comparing one of its attractions to its overseas cousins. Space Mountain is easily the most beautiful of the five futuristic peaks and it definitely offers the most thrilling ride.


Disneyland Paris Space Mountain

Disneyland Paris Space Mountain


This attraction was inspired by Jules Verne's book "From the Earth to the Moon.” In the story, a Frenchman and two Americans build a large cannon (named Columbiad) and blast themselves to the moon in a projectile-type spacecraft. Disney took this idea and built their own cannon on the side of Space Mountain from which rocket-trains are launched into inky darkness.


Disneyland Paris Space Mountain


Unlike the other four Space Mountains, which are all painted white, this rendering continues the Discoveryland theme. Jewel tones accent a structure which looks like a complicated machine riddled with riveted girders, iron trusses, gears, dials, and ominous antenna. At night, this structure is especially compelling.


Disneyland Paris Space Mountain


This is also the only Space Mountain in which you can walk around the entire building. In fact, the Disneyland Railroad, Star Tours, and Honey, I Shrunk the Audience are all located behind Space Mountain.

The queue begins outdoors and progresses along the side of the building. Eventually you enter the structure and a number of sights and sounds are on tap as you progress toward the loading area.


Disneyland Paris Space Mountain

Disneyland Paris Space Mountain


Paris' Space Mountain has two loading platforms, similar to Big Thunder Mountain at the Magic Kingdom in Florida. Once you're securely restrained in your seat, your rocket-train pulls out of the station and advances toward the cannon.


Disneyland Paris Space Mountain

Disneyland Paris Space Mountain


Once “loaded” into the Columbiad, a countdown proceeds (in French). At launch time the outside of the cannon cocks itself, there is a blast of steam, then you are propelled at 42MPH to the top of Space Mountain and your adventure begins.


Disneyland Paris Space Mountain


This coaster reaches a top speed of 43.5MPH and there are two inversions (sidewinder and corkscrew) and an overbanked turn. Synchronized music is piped to each seat (similar to Rock ‘N' Roller Coaster at Disney's Hollywood Studios) which adds a nice effect. Along the way you pass planets, meteors, and an explosion or two. This is an intense ride and not for those with a weak stomach.

Of course, your photo is snapped during the ride and is for sale at the exit. Here is a picture of me and my friend Donald.


Disneyland Paris Space Mountain


Les Mystéres du Nautilus

When Walt was building Disneyland, money was extremely tight and Tomorrowland was being neglected. To remedy the situation, a last minute addition to this area was made by using the props and sets from the “20,000 Leagues under the Sea” movie (which opened in 1954) to create a walk-through exhibit. The results were somewhat cheesy, but hey, it was the 1950's and expectations were lower then when it came to theme parks.


Disneyland 20,000 Leagues under the Sea walk through


Here's a bit of trivia for you. The organ that Captain Nemo played in the movie and then was seen in the 20,000 Leagues exhibit (below) was eventually relocated to Disneyland's Haunted Mansion Ballroom scene in 1969.


Disneyland Paris Nautilus


When the Imagineers were designing Disneyland Paris, they remembered the 20,000 Leagues exhibit at Disneyland and decided to recreate the attraction " but this time do it right. For starters, they built a full-sized Nautilus submarine and anchored it in Discovery Lagoon next to Space Mountain.


Disneyland Paris Nautilus


Located along the lagoon's railing is a plaque with a blueprint of the Nautilus and some facts and figures.


Disneyland Paris Nautilus


Guests may board the submarine via a nearby, circular-shaped terminal topped with a fascinating lighthouse.


Disneyland Paris Nautilus


After descending a spiral staircase, you walk through a long, dimly lit corridor to reach the Nautilus.


Disneyland Paris Nautilus


One of the first sights you see is Nemo's storage locker filled with the treasure he's plundered from various ships sank by the Nautilus. If you look carefully, you can also see the guitar Ned Land (Kirk Douglas) carved out of ivory and a turtle shell.


Disneyland Paris Nautilus Nemo's Storage Locker

Your tour of the Nautilus continues through an array of compartments. Nemo's quarters, the engine room, and diving chamber are all on hand.


Disneyland Paris Nautilus

Disneyland Paris Nautilus


In the navigation room, a map of Vulcania is on display.


Disneyland Paris Nautilus

Disneyland Paris Nautilus


The climax of the tour is the Grand Salon. On both sides of the chamber, large circular viewing portals can be seen. The protective covering on one of these portals occasionally opens up to reveal a giant squid. A few moments later, electrical charges are fired to frighten the creature away. The portal's covering then closes and things return to normal. If you look at the picture below and compare it to the Disneyland picture of the Grand Salon (above), you can see a definite similarity.


Disneyland Paris Nautilus

Nemo's pipe organ sits prominently at the end of the room. The maniacal captain's face periodically appears in the mirror then fades into nothingness.


Disneyland Paris Nautilus

This is a walk-through attraction that takes approximately ten minutes to complete. It's not the most thrilling attraction at Disneyland Paris, but I like it. The detailing, as always, is magnificent and one can really get lost in the moment.

Disney magic never fails to amaze me. I have know idea how the Imagineers could fit all of those compartments into the ship anchored in Discovery Lagoon (wink, wink).

On a side note… When I visited Tokyo DisneySea, I was excited to learn that the Nautilus was also found at this park and is anchored at Mysterious Island (below). However, my excitement turned to disappointment when I found out this is nothing more than a “photo op.” There is no “below decks” tour of this craft.


Tokyo DisneySea Nautilus

Tokyo DisneySea Nautilus


My next blog will finish Discoveryland with descriptions of Star Tours, Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, and Autopia.


March 25, 2009

Disneyland Paris - Discoveryland – Part 2 – Orbitron and Videopolis

One of the first attractions you see when entering Discoveryland is “Orbitron - Machines Volantes” (Flying Machines). This is a simple, yet visually appealing attraction.


Disneyland Paris Orbitron

Disneyland Paris Orbitron

Disneyland Paris Orbitron


Twelve 2-passenger rocket ships circle a stylized orrery. (An orrery is a mechanical apparatus that displays the relative positions and motions of the moon and the planets as they orbit the sun.) The ride lasts about two minutes and you control the up and down movement of your rocket by using a small lever on the front panel of the cockpit.

In reality, this is nothing more than a carnival attraction, but the ornate theming turns an ordinary ride into an adventure.


Disneyland Paris Orbitron

Disneyland Paris Orbitron


Videopolis


Disneyland Paris Videopolis


The Videopolis building is modeled to be a large airship hanger. The craft docked here is the Hyperion.


Disneyland Paris Videopolis

Disneyland Paris Videopolis

DLP%20Videopolis%2003.jpg


For you movie buffs, Disney released a film in 1974 titled “The Island at the Top of the World.” The movie starred Donald Sinden as Sir Anthony Ross who hires Professor Ivarsson, played by David Hartman, to help him locate his missing son somewhere in the arctic. The airship Hyperion was their means of transportation to this remote area. The movie was a box office failure.

An interesting bit of trivia… In the early years, the Disney Company had a studio on Hyperion Ave. in Los Angeles. Also, Disney has a publishing company that operates under the name Hyperion.

In the mid-1970's, a new land was planned for Disneyland in California called Discovery Bay. This future area was to represent San Francisco immediately after the gold rush. If you look at the artist rendering of the land (below), you can see the Hyperion docked in a large hanger. You can also see the Nautilus from “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”


Discovery Bay Disneyland California Artist Rendering


For a number of reasons, one being that “The Island at the Top of the World” was a flop, this land never materialized. But the idea was not completely forgotten. As we can see, the Hyperion airship rose from the ashes and the Nautilus also lives elsewhere in Discoveryland.

The Videopolis building houses both a counter service restaurant and a theater. The restaurant is called Café Hyperion and serves hamburgers, sandwiches, and salads.


Disneyland Paris Videopolis Cafe Hyperion


This interesting vehicle is a topping bar for your burgers and sandwiches. The funny looking machine is a beverage dispenser.


Disneyland Paris Videopolis Cafe Hyperion

Disneyland Paris Videopolis Cafe Hyperion


The Videopolis Theatre has a separate entrance from the food facility.


Disneyland Paris Videopolis Theatre


The productions here are first rate, Broadway-type shows. They could be compared to the “Beauty and the Beast” show at Disney's Hollywood Studios or the “Festival of the Lion King” at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Coincidentally, “The Legend of the Lion King” is currently playing at the Hyperion. However, the shows are completely different.

The theatre is large and non-dining guests are seated in the front section of the auditorium. Guests with meals are seated in the back half of the theatre at long tables.


Disneyland Paris Videopolis Theatre


Like any Disney theatrical show, it's a good idea to arrive at least 30 minutes before the performance for the best seats. The presentations are offered in either English or French. Check the schedule for appropriate times.


Disneyland Paris Videopolis Theatre


In my next blog I'll discuss Space Mountain: Mission 2 and Les Mystéres du Nautilus.

March 21, 2009

Disneyland Paris - Discoveryland – Part 1 – Entrance, Le Visionarium, and Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast

When I was a kid, Tomorrowland at Disneyland, California was my favorite land. For me, Walt's vision of the future was fantastic. Space-aged architecture and vast amounts of concrete created an exciting world for an impressionable mind.

In the early years, I could pilot a flying saucer, ride in a monorail, and visit the House of the Future. As Disneyland grew and changed I could blast off to the moon and then Mars or be shrunk to the size of an atom. For a young teenager, this was cool stuff. But as I grew older, my tastes changed and I started to appreciate the less sterile, and more graceful charms of New Orleans Square or the rustic characteristics of Frontierland.

Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed the attractions Tomorrowland had to offer. But this was no longer a place I wanted to “hang out.” Tomorrowland was “cold.”

One of the continual problems Disney has faced over the years is that Tomorrowland keeps becoming Todayland. Technology changes so rapidly that it was/is a constant battle to keep the realm of the future futuristic.

When the Imagineers started to design Disneyland Paris, this problem was forefront in their minds. How do you design a Tomorrowland that won't need to be ripped out and reconstructed every ten or fifteen years?

The answer to their problem… don't build Tomorrowland. Instead, build Discoveryland. This would be a vision of the future as seen through the eyes of such visionaries as Leonardo da Vinci, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells. In other words, what the men of the past thought the 20th and 21st century would look like.

The architecture in Discoveryland is stunning, imaginative, and warm. Giant pavilions built with Iron girders, an airship, a submarine, and a massive cannon populate the area. And a vibrant color palate brings life to everything. This is a place that as an adult, I feel very comfortable. I like to “hang out” in Discoveryland.

The Imagineers have tried to retrofit Disneyland, California and the Magic Kingdom in Florida with this Discoveryland theming. They have had modest success, but neither comes close to the wonderful atmosphere achieved in Paris.

Like Frontierland and Adventureland, Discoveryland is set back from The Hub. An intricate armillary sphere marks the land's beginning and volcanic rocks thrusting from the earth point inward toward the “future.”


Disneyland Paris Discoveryland

Disneyland Paris Discoveryland

Disneyland Paris Discoveryland


Once you enter Discoveryland, a park-like memorial sets the mood for the adventures to come. On a plaque, the following phrase is engraved:

Tout ce qui est dans la limite du possible doit etre et sera accompli.

Which translates:

All that is within the limit of possibility must be and will be accomplished.


Disneyland Paris Discoveryland


At all Disney parks, attractions are constantly being updated or replaced completely and Disneyland Paris is no exception.

“Le Visionarium” in Discoveryland was an opening day attraction. This 360-degree movie was filmed for Disneyland Paris and was later adapted for the Magic Kingdom in Florida and Tokyo Disneyland. We know this attraction better as “The Timekeeper” (or “From Time to Time” as it was originally titled in the U.S.)


Disneyland Paris Discoveryland Le Visionarium


“Le Visionarium” was narrated by an audioanimatronic robot named The Timekeeper. With the help of his assistant 9-Eye and his time machine, we were spirited all over Europe from the age of the dinosaurs to the year 2189. The European version featured a hot-air balloon ride over Red Square in Moscow. This was cut from the American version and a flight over Manhattan was substituted.


Disneyland Paris Discoveryland Le Visionarium

Disneyland Paris Discoveryland Le Visionarium


“Le Visionarium” (and The Timekeeper) has closed in all three parks. In Florida it was replaced by “Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor” and in Tokyo it was been replaced by “Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters.” In Paris, it was replaced by “Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast.”

Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast

This attraction was still under construction on my last visit to Disneyland Paris. But thanks to my friend TDLFAN, I have a few pictures to share with you. Like its overseas cousins, this is a “dark” ride shooting gallery where you use laser guns to hit various targets and rack up points.


Disneyland Paris Discoveryland Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast


The California, Tokyo, and Hong Kong versions of this ride are practically identical. TDLFAN tells me that the Paris version is same as the other three. Florida, being the first incarnation of this ride, has a different track layout. Also, in Florida the laser guns are attached directly to the ride vehicle. In the other four parks the laser gun is attached to the vehicle via a cable. This allows for much better control and aiming.

This is a great ride that all ages can enjoy. Fastpass is available for this attraction.


Disneyland Paris Discoveryland Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast

Disneyland Paris Discoveryland Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast


There is a cute shop near the entrance of Discoveryland called Constellations. For the most part, this is just another souvenir shop selling appropriately themed merchandise. But what makes this shop special for me is the decorative ceiling.


Disneyland Paris Discoveryland Constellations

Disneyland Paris Discoveryland Constellations

Disneyland Paris Discoveryland Constellations


In my next blog I'll be discussing Orbitron and Videopolis.

March 19, 2009

Disneyland Paris - Fantasyland – Part 5 – “it’s a small world”

Like so many other attractions at Disneyland Paris, I think their version of “it's a small world” is superior to all the rest.


Disneyland Paris it's a small world


Let's start with the exterior of the attraction. The first IASW (“it's a small world”) was in California. (Yes, I know, it was actually at the New York World's Fair, but I'm skipping that.) This attraction has a sweeping exterior, wonderful topiary, and the Disneyland Railroad actually passes in front of the main building.


Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world


The exterior of IASW at Walt Disney World is basically unremarkable. Apart from its signage, there's nothing about it to distinguish it from any other “dark” ride in Fantasyland. I will give the Imagineers a lot of credit. They did an outstanding job of reinventing the loading area a few years back. But it's still has the least attractive exterior of the five versions of this ride.


Walt Disney World it's a small world

Walt Disney World it's a small world


IASW in Tokyo has a nice exterior. But the entrance and inside loading area leave a lot to be desired.


Tokyo Disneyland its a small world

Tokyo Disneyland its a small world


Hong Kong's IASW has a decent exterior, but not as grand as California or Paris. The Loading area is nice, but nothing to take your breath away.


Hong Kong Disneyland its a small world

Hong Kong Disneyland its a small world


IASW at Disneyland Paris is closest in concept to California's. It has a sweeping exterior, topiary, fountains, and the Disneyland Railroad passes by. I also prefer the pastel paint job, but I know many favor the original white and gold color scheme.


Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world


In reality, it would be difficult to say that the exterior of Paris is any better than California. Personally, I think it is, but for argument sake, I'll call it a draw. But that's not the only criteria on which I rank the French version of IASW as my favorite. The interior is definitely better than all the rest.

Your journey starts outside, under a covered loading area " and you stay protected from the elements throughout the entire attraction.


Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world


As you enter the show-building, you travel through a long tunnel. This is necessary as the Disneyland Railroad runs above this area. Along the way you see stylized travel posters from locations all around the world.


Disneyland Paris it's a small world


Q. So what makes the interior of this IASW better than all the rest?

A. The staging.

The same, simple dolls with minimal movement are all present. Nothing about these cute boys and girls and animals has changed. But the settings in which they reside have. All of the backgrounds are more elaborate. Most of these sets are still two-dimensional, but there are layers upon layers of cut-outs and colors. There are also more bridges and overcrossings to sail beneath.


Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world


Paris' IASW was also the first to add scenes of Canada and the U.S.


Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world


Here is a picture of me wearing a cast member's hat.


Disneyland Paris it's a small world


There is a cute walk-thru post-show near the exit of IASW. In this area, small TV screens are housed within various world landmarks and offer views of cartoon children communicating with one another. Basically, this is a commercial for France Telecom which sponsors the attraction. But since the theming is consistent with the ride and the videos are entertaining, it doesn't smack of commercialism.


Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world

Disneyland Paris it's a small world


Across the way from IASW is “Pizzeria Bella Notte.” This is a counter service restaurant inspired by the classic animated movie “Lady and the Tramp.” The menu here offers pizza, pasta, and salads.


Disneyland Paris Pizzeria Bella Notte

Disneyland Paris Pizzeria Bella Notte


Sitting outdoors is pleasant when the weather is nice and a number of tables offer nice views of the parade which passes nearby.


Disneyland Paris Pizzeria Bella Notte

Disneyland Paris Pizzeria Bella Notte


Indoor seating is also quite pleasing and features an Italian theme. Be sure to look for Tony and Joe carved into two of the columns.


Disneyland Paris Pizzeria Bella Notte


When the Mary Blair mural in Tomorrowland at Disneyland, California was removed, some of the broken pieces of tile were saved and have been imbedded in the walls here at “Pizzeria Bella Notte.”

Also in this area is an entrance/exit to/from Fantasyland via The Hub.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Entrance


That completes my description of Fantasyland. Next stop, Discoveryland.

March 15, 2009

Disneyland Paris - Fantasyland – Part 4 – Le Pays des Contes de Fées (Land of the Fairytales) & Casey Jr. – le Petit Train du Cirque (The Small Train of the Circus)

Both “Le Pays des Contes de Fées” and “Casey Jr.” are located outside the perimeter of the Disneyland Railroad. To reach these attractions you must pass under a trestle.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Casey Jr. Entrance


Le Pays des Contes de Fées (Land of the Fairytales)


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Land of the Fairytales


This ride is an updated version of "Storybook Land Canal Boats” found at Disneyland in California. You board European-style canal boats and enter the land of make-believe. Your journey takes you past the homes of some of your favorite fairytale characters in one of the most charming of any Disney attractions.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Land of the Fairytales

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Land of the Fairytalesjpg


Unlike Disneyland, where all of the boats run independently, these vessels are tethered to one another underwater with a chain. You load and unload the boats from a revolving turn-table in the same manner as you do on Kali River Rapids in the Animal Kingdom. Also different from Disneyland is the lack of a tour guide to explain the sights along your journey. Here, each character's residence is clearly marked and appropriate music plays in the background.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Land of the Fairytales

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Land of the Fairytales


After loading, you sail under a bridge used by Casey Jr. and your voyage begins.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Land of the Fairytales

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Land of the Fairytales


The following pictures are in the order that you would experience them if actually on the attraction. I have included many, but not all of the vignettes. Here we have the Dwarf's cottage from Snow White.

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Land of the Fairytales Dwarfs Cottage from Snow White


I do not know why the witch's cottage from Hansel and Gretel is included on this attraction. I could only find two references between the story and Disney. First, there was a Silly Symphonies released in 1932 titled “Babes in the Woods.” It featured two children who could or could not be Hansel and Gretel, but the story is significantly different than the one I knew as a kid. Also, the witch's house in the movie does not match the house in the attraction.

The other reference was a Tim Burton short released in 1982. This was an animated/live action film that was only shown on the Disney Channel once. I find it hard to believe that this obscure feature would qualify for a spot in this attraction.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Land of the Fairytales Hansel and Gretel


Next we find Prince Eric's ship and castle from “The Little Mermaid.”


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Land of the Fairytales Prince Eric's Ship and Castle Little Mermaid


Here we find intrepid Peter looking for the wolf. (The wolf can't be seen in this picture, but he's hiding behind the next tree.)


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Land of the Fairytales Peter and the Wolf


Bald Mountain and Chernabog can also be seen along the way.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Land of the Fairytales Bald Mountain and Chernabog


On the Disneyland version of this ride, your voyage begins by sailing through Monstro's mouth. On this attraction, Monstro is missing, but instead you sail through Aladdin's Cave of Wonders halfway through your journey.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Land of the Fairytales Aladdin's Cave of Wonders


The next picture is of the Emerald City of Oz. If you're perplexed as to why an MGM movie is represented here, you have to remember that Disney made a sequel to the “Wizard of Oz” called “Return to Oz” in 1985. I'm not quite sure why the Imagineers chose to include this vignette as the movie was pretty much considered to be a flop.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Land of the Fairytales Emerald City of Oz


Below is of the town square in Belle's village. The Beast's Castle is located nearby and is the centerpiece of the attraction.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Land of the Fairytales Belle's Village

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Land of the Fairytales Beast's Castle


This is a charming ride and can be enjoyed by all ages. The voyage takes approximately ten minutes.

Casey Jr. " le Petit Train du Cirque (The Small Train of the Circus)


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Casey Jr.


In case you've forgotten, Casey Jr. is the circus train that transports animals in Disney's “Dumbo” movie.

Like the “Le Pays des Contes de Fées,” the Casey Jr. attraction is also an updated version of its Disneyland, California cousin. The big difference here is the track. In California, the ride uses traditional steel rails and wooden ties and the train chugs along at an unhurried speed.

In Paris, the track is tubular steel. This turns the train into a roller coaster of sorts. Although not as thrilling as Goofy's Barnstormer or Gadget's Go-Coaster, this train does run at a reasonable clip in and around the sights of “Le Pays des Contes de Fées” (Land of the Fairytales).

All passengers ride in various train cars that resemble circus animal cages. As this is a “petite” train, the seating can be tight.

As the ride begins and you head for the first bridge you can hear Casey Jr. puffing, “I think I can. I think I can.”


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Casey Jr.

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Casey Jr


For the next two and a half minutes you travel around the Land of the Fairytales. You are able to catch quick glimpses of the sights below, but to truly enjoy their beauty and intricacy, you need to take the boat trip.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Casey Jr

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Casey Jr


Many would classify this as a “Kiddy Coaster,” but I think any adult with a Disney heart will find it entertaining.

In my last blog, I said that I thought “Alice's Curious Labyrinth” would fit nicely into the area once occupied by the 20,000 Leagues attraction at Disney World. I think “Casey Jr.” and “Le Pays des Contes de Fées” should also be considered for this spot.

My next blog will discuss “it's a small world.”

March 12, 2009

Disneyland Paris - Fantasyland – Part 3 – Dumbo, Tea Cups, and Alice’s Curious Labyrinth

Dumbo the Flying Elephant


Disneyland Paris Dumbo the Flying Elephant


Dumbo is a timeless classic. Both the movie and the attraction have been delighting children and adults for years. And the Dumbo attraction at Disneyland Paris is perhaps the most delightful of them all.

Much of the beauty of this ride can be attributed to its location. It sits on the banks of a picturesque stream, surrounded by flowers. Also, one side of the ride is flanked by an impressive waterfall.


Disneyland Paris Dumbo the Flying Elephant

Disneyland Paris Dumbo the Flying Elephant


Dumbo also loads and flies over an intricate fountain. This water feature is similar to the Dumbo attractions at California and Hong Kong.


Disneyland Paris Dumbo the Flying Elephant


Below is a picture of me videotaping the Paris park.


Disneyland Paris Dumbo the Flying Elephant - Jack Videotaping


Here is an interesting bit of trivia. Timothy the Mouse holds a whip at Tokyo and California. In Florida, Hong Kong, and Paris he holds Dumbo's magic feather.


Timothy Mouse Dumbo the Flying Elephant


Like its overseas cousins, this is a very popular ride. If you have children who simply must ride on Dumbo, it's a good idea to make this one of your first stops in the morning.

Mad Hatter's Tea Cups

This is another classic attraction that makes an appearance at all five Magic Kingdom-type parks. But once again, I think the Paris version is the most attractive.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Mad Hatter's Tea Cups


The beauty of this attraction is two fold. First, it sits on the banks of the same stream as Dumbo. It is also surrounded by manicured lawns and wonderful landscaping. But the structure itself is where the real beauty comes from. A delicate roof of tinted glass covers the riders below. This canopy provides protection from the elements, but also lets the sun shine in for a brighter experience than that found at Walt Disney World.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Mad Hatter's Tea Cups


But no matter how beautiful the Imagineers designed this attraction, the experience is the same. Spin and puke.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Mad Hatter's Tea Cups


Alice's Curious Labyrinth


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Alice's Curious Labyrinth


This attraction is unique to Disneyland Paris. The experience here allows you to take on the role of Alice and venture into Wonderland. You travel through a hedge-maze that is relatively easy to navigate. There are a few dead-ends, but for the most part, it's difficult to get lost. Along your journey you see a variety of characters from Disney's “Alice in Wonderland” movie.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Alice's Curious Labyrinth


Some of the characters are minimally animated. Others emit sounds or talk.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Alice's Curious Labyrinth

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Alice's Curious Labyrinth White Rabbit

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Alice's Curious Labyrinth Cheshire Cat

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Alice's Curious Labyrinth


The Caucus Race is represented in all its confusion as your path spirals inward, then out again. All the while, music from the movie can be heard.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Alice's Curious Labyrinth

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Alice's Curious Labyrinth Cheshire Cat


Eventually you reach the realm of the Queen of Hearts.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Alice's Curious Labyrinth Queen of Hearts


The Queen makes several appearances along the way yelling “Off with their heads” in French. She pops up from behind walls and bushes, but only the most timid child would find this frightening.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Alice's Curious Labyrinth Queen of Hearts


Her minions are also on hand to add merriment to the day.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Alice's Curious Labyrinth


Eventually you reach the royal castle. Look up and you can see the King of Hearts looking out on the confusion below. If you want to pay him a visit, feel free. There is a stairway inside the castle to the upper levels. From the top, a great view of Fantasyland can be had. Note, it gets VERY crowded inside this small structure.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Alice's Curious Labyrinth King of Hearts

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Alice's Curious Labyrinth King of Hearts

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Alice's Curious Labyrinth


It takes about 20 minutes to make your way through the entire labyrinth. Even though it's basically a one-way path, there is a lot of back-tracking taking place as everyone is trying to get a picture of this and that.

I really like this attraction. It's simple, but delightful. I think this would be a nice fit at Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. It could be placed were the old 20,000 Leagues attraction was located " and it would be relatively inexpensive compared to other options.

The Old Mill (Les Pirouettes du Vieux Moulin - Turning of the Old Mill)

This attraction is based on Disney's Academy Award winning short “The Old Mill.” This is a simple Ferris wheel where guests ride in buckets and are afforded nice views of Fantasyland. Due to its low capacity, it was permanently closed in 2002. A snack bar is located within the main structure.


Disneyland Paris The Old Mill

Disneyland Paris The Old Mill

Disneyland Paris The Old Mill


In my next blog I'll be discussing Casey Jr. and Le Pays des Contes de Fées.

March 9, 2009

Disneyland Paris - Fantasyland – Part 2 – The Dark Rides

The Imagineers did an excellent job when designing Fantasyland. They took the charming aspects found in Disneyland, California and expanded them into a larger space without losing any of its appeal. Now, instead of having a small village, you have a lush countryside. A meandering stream runs through the area and unifies the space. Manicured gardens line its banks and the abundance of greenery has a calming effect on what could have been a frenetic place.

I was so impressed with the beauty of Fantasyland that I took a number of pictures of nothing in particular. The following photos aren't of any specific attraction; they are of the general area. Take a look for yourself and see of you don't agree that this is by far the most beautiful of all the Fantasylands.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland


A “dark ride” is defined as an indoor attraction that uses special lighting to highlight various scenes and sights along the vehicle and passenger's journey. Although the scenes may be dimly lit and use black lights, they can also be brightly illuminated.

Most people can easily relate that carnival-type attractions such as “Snow White” and “Peter Pan” are dark rides. But “it's a small world” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” also fall into this category.

Fantasyland has four “dark” rides, Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains (Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs), Les Voyages de Pinocchio (Pinocchio's Fantastic Journey), Peter Pan's Flight, and “it's a small world.” In this blog I'll be discussing the first three.

Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs (Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains)


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs


This attraction has more similarities to its California cousin than to Florida's. To begin with, the exteriors are almost identical. The ride is housed in a Black Forrest type castle. From the second story window we can see the Evil Queen peeking out sinisterly at the guests below.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs


Along the inside queue you pass a portion of the Evil Queen's dungeon and can see her potion for poison apples.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs


Although the word “Scary” is not in the attraction's name, this is virtually the same ride that you experience in Florida and California. So, if your little ones are frightened in the U.S. they'll be frightened in Paris.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs


Of course, like all Disney movies and attractions, a happy ending is in store.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs


Pinocchio's Fantastic Journey

The French name for this attraction is “Les Voyages de Pinocchio” which translates into “The Voyages of Pinocchio.” However, the English guide maps call this attraction “Pinocchio's Fantastic Journey” -- which is interesting because the California and Tokyo versions of this ride call it “Pinocchio's DARING Journey.” Go figure.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland  Pinocchio's Fantastic Journey


The exterior of this attraction is also very similar to California's, however the indoor queue is larger.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland  Pinocchio's Fantastic Journey


Other than that, this ride is almost identical to its overseas cousins. Pinocchio is lured by the cunning Honest John and Gideon to join Stromboli's puppet show. He escapes to Pleasure Island and is partially turned into a donkey. With the help of Pinocchio's conscience, Jiminy Cricket, he locates Geppetto and saves him from Monstro. In the end, the Blue Fairy turns Pinocchio into a real boy. Like all Disney dark rides, it helps a lot if you know the story before experiencing the attraction.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland  Pinocchio's Fantastic Journey


Just outside Pinocchio's Fantastic Journey you'll find Stromboli's wagon. It serves as a concessions cart and sells snack foods.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Stromboli's Wagon


Next door to Pinocchio's Fantastic Journey is Au Chalet de la Marionnette (literal translation: With the Country Cottage of the Puppet). This is a counter service restaurant that serves hamburgers, chicken, and salads. Its atmosphere is very similar to the Village Haus Restaurant in California and the Pinocchio Village Haus in Florida. Indoor and outdoor seating is available. There is also access to this restaurant via Adventureland.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Au Chalet de la Marionnette

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Au Chalet de la Marionnette


Peter Pan's Flight


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Peter Pan's Flight


Across the river from Au Chalet de la Marionnette we find Peter Pan's Flight and a trip to Neverland. Just like its U.S. and Japanese cousins, this ride is a perennial favorite. This is the only attraction in Fantasyland that uses Fastpass and it is strongly suggested that you take advantage of it.

The exterior of Peter Pan's Flight is reminiscent of the California version, but on a larger scale. English Tudor is the architectural style used to set the mood before your flight to Neverland.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Peter Pan's Flight

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Peter Pan's Flight

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Peter Pan's Flight


All of the Peter Pan attractions worldwide are very similar. You start your journey in the nursery of the Darling home then fly above the skies of London. Then it's off to Neverland to meet mermaids, Indians, Mr. Smee and Captain Hook.

An interesting note, the ride vehicles in Paris hold four guests (in a front and back seat) instead of two as they do in Florida, California, and Japan. This helps with ride capacity, but you should still Fastpass this attraction.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Peter Pan's Flightpg

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Peter Pan's Flight


Toad Hall Restaurant

Just around the corner from Peter Pan we find the country mansion of Mr. Toad. This stately manor houses a counter service restaurant. As you might guess, Fish & Chips are the featured menu item here.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Toad Hall Restaurant

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Toad Hall Restaurant

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Toad Hall Restaurant


This is a fun place to eat. The theming is exceptional and everywhere you look you can find references to the egotistical Mr. Toad. Even the wallpaper pays homage to this crazy character. Since this restaurant is at the back of Disneyland Paris, it is often less crowded than other eateries.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Toad Hall Restaurant

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Toad Hall Restaurant

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Toad Hall Restaurant

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Toad Hall Restaurant

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Toad Hall Restaurant


In my next blog I'll discuss Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Mad Hatter's Tea Cups, and Alice's Curious Labyrinth.

March 6, 2009

Disneyland Paris - Fantasyland – Part 1 – Castle Courtyard and Carousel

When I visit a Disney park, it's not always necessary for me to ride on an attraction. Sometimes, simply being immersed in the wonderful atmosphere is pleasure enough. And for me, Fantasyland at Disneyland Paris is near the top of the list when it comes to ambiance. It is truly a magical place that allows you to do absolutely nothing and still enjoy the experience.

Even though “Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant” (Sleeping Beauty Castle) is technically a part of Fantasyland, I discussed it in detail in my blog about The Hub. However, I didn't present any pictures of the back side of the castle. Here are two.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland


After passing through the castle you enter a beautiful courtyard. Here you're surrounded by covered walkways and charming shops. In the middle of the courtyard is a raised area bordered by a low granite wall. Inside this enclosed area is a stone and anvil with the sword Excalibur embedded deep within it.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland


Here is a picture of me taken in 1993 trying to become the King of England.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Excalibur Sword


Perhaps I needed Merlin's assistance to become a Royal.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Merlin


Here are a couple of pictures of the courtyard taken from the balcony of Sleeping Beauty Castle.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland


Within one of the courtyard shops you'll find the Seven Dwarf's cottage and some of Snow White's animal friends.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Seven Dwarf's cottage

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Seven Dwarf's cottage


One of the most delightful restaurants of Disneyland Paris can also be found near the courtyard. Called the “Auberge de Cendrillon” (Inn of Cinderella), this elegant eatery offers an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring classic French countryside cuisine. I have no pictures of the restaurant's interior, but the outside is stunning. Here you dine in the small courtyard of a French château. In the corner, Cinderella's coach awaits.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Auberge de Cendrillon

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Auberge de Cendrillon

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Auberge de Cendrillon

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Auberge de Cendrillon


The pictures below are of the La Menagerie du Royaume (The Menagerie of the Kingdom) and Sir Mickey's. As you can see, the exterior of the “Menagerie” is shaped like a carrousel. In the interior, you'll find Sir Goofy astride his steed.

Both of these shops sell Fantasyland and storybook merchandise. These include plush toys, books, and souvenirs. Notice the beanstalk Mickey climbed to reach the giant.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland


“Le Carrousel de Lancelot” is the first attraction you encounter when entering Fantasyland. Unlike other Disney carrousels, where all the horses are painted white, Lancelot's Carrousel features an array of colors. Shades of black, brown, tan, and grey can all be found. The sixteen steeds on the outer ring are adorned in elaborate armor worthy of a jousting knight. This is also the first Disney carrousel to have two chariots for guests who are unable to climb aboard a mount.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Le Carrousel de Lancelot

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Le Carrousel de Lancelot

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Le Carrousel de Lancelot

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Le Carrousel de Lancelot


Here is a picture of me taken in 2003.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Le Carrousel de Lancelot


This is a picture of one of the carrousel's canopy panels. It's a little more graphic than we're used to at the California or Florida parks.


Disneyland Paris Fantasyland Le Carrousel de Lancelot


In my next blog I'll discuss the three “dark” rides of Fantasyland.


March 3, 2009

Disneyland Paris - Adventureland – Part 3 – Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean

In the furthest reaches of Adventureland, intrepid explores can discover “Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril.” Here you'll find an abandoned temple decaying in the jungle.


Disneyland Paris Adventureland Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril


As you near the temple, a stone lion can be seen guarding the entrance. Continuing further into the underbrush, you pass the base camp used by the archeologists who are exploring the ruins.


Disneyland Paris Adventureland Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril

Disneyland Paris Adventureland Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril

Disneyland Paris Adventureland Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril


Eventually you come to a large staircase guarded by a menacing cobra.


Disneyland Paris Adventureland Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril


Your trek continues beneath scaffolding and around stone artifacts until eventually you reach the loading area and board an old mine car.


Disneyland Paris Adventureland Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril


From then on, hold on tight for a very rough and wild ride around and through the ancient ruins. Along the way your car will make a 360° loop. This is a hair-raising experience and not for the faint of heart.


Disneyland Paris Adventureland Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril

Disneyland Paris Adventureland Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril

Disneyland Paris Adventureland Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril

Disneyland Paris Adventureland Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril


“Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril” opened in July 1993. At the time, the only other thrill ride at Disneyland Paris was Big Thunder Mountain and the park desperately needed another roller coaster. But money was tight as the resort was losing money. The solution, buy an “off-the-shelf” coaster and spiff it up with some Disney-inspired theming and a storyline.

The Imagineers did a decent job, but this isn't one of Disney's best attractions. In my opinion, only teenagers and avid roller coaster fans will get any real enjoyment out of this quick ride (about a minute and a half). It's just too rough for the average visitor and it doesn't provide enough Disney magic.

In order to breathe new life into this attraction, it was shut down and retooled in late 1999. In April 2000, it reopened with the cars running backwards, adding a new excitement level to the experience. In November 2004, the cars were once again reversed and currently run forward.

This attraction is extremely similar to Tokyo DisneySea's Raging Spirits. However in Tokyo, the seats and restraints are padded so extensively that you're practically pinned to your seat.


Disneyland Paris Adventureland Pirates of the Caribbean


The “Pirates of the Caribbean” attraction is located across the bay from Captain Hook's Jolly Roger and Skull Rock. The Imagineers kept the two pirate-themed attractions of Adventureland in close proximity. Also near “Pirates of the Caribbean” is an entrance into Fantasyland. The first attraction you come to when taking this path is “Peter Pan's Flight,” adding a third pirate-based attraction into the general vicinity. Once again, the transition from one area to another is practically seamless.


Disneyland Paris Adventureland Pirates of the Caribbean


The setting for “Pirates of the Caribbean” is a Spanish Colonial fortress somewhere in the West Indies.


Disneyland Paris Adventureland Pirates of the Caribbean

Disneyland Paris Adventureland Pirates of the Caribbean


To reach the attraction you walk under the mast of an old ship and proceed along a lush path, shaded by palms and outstretched canvas sails


Disneyland Paris Adventureland Pirates of the Caribbean

Disneyland Paris Adventureland Pirates of the Caribbean


After boarding your craft you set sail and pass the romantic Blue Lagoon Restaurant. Soon after, your boat turns and aims toward a flooded fortress. A winch grabs hold of your craft and you're hauled up a cargo ramp. Once inside the citadel, you sail through a number of chambers where you can see a fierce pirate battle being raged. As your journey continues, you pass by some traditional “Pirates of the Caribbean” scenes such as the Bride Auction and Burning Town. But there are also some new things to see like a swinging buccaneer and sword fight. These new sights and a different track layout help make this feel like a brand new ride to those of us familiar with the U.S. and Tokyo versions.


Disneyland Paris Adventureland Pirates of the Caribbean

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Eventually, you ride a waterfall down into a murky place where pirates live out eternity as skeletons. These scenes are right out of Disneyland, California.


Disneyland Paris Adventureland Pirates of the Caribbean

Disneyland Paris Adventureland Pirates of the Caribbean


Eventually you return safely home and disembark from your harrowing adventure.

I like this version of “Pirates of the Caribbean” a lot. In fact, I'd have to rank it as my favorite of the four world-wide versions. The first time I rode “Pirates” at Disneyland, California it didn't make sense to me seeing the skeletons at the beginning of the attraction. It seems far more logical to see the dead pirates appear after the big battle scene.

I like that at Disneyland Paris you ride “up” the cargo ramp at the beginning of the ride and save the “splash down” for a finale. Also, this version of “Pirates” is a “complete” attraction and not scaled down as is the one in Florida.

Like so many other attractions, you exit “Pirates of the Caribbean” through a shop. No big surprise there. When you emerge, you're in a town square built beneath the fort's protection.


Disneyland Paris Pirates of the Caribbean

Disneyland Paris Pirates of the Caribbean

Disneyland Paris Pirates of the Caribbean


Nearby you can find the entrance to the Blue Lagoon Restaurant. This dining establishment is located within the “Pirates of the Caribbean” attraction. From your table you can watch the boats sail by as they begin their perilous journey to adventure.

The Blue Lagoon Restaurant is similar in concept to the Blue Bayou Restaurants found in Tokyo and California. But in those locations you dine on the patio of a New Orleans plantation. At the Blue Lagoon you eat outside of a tropical village. Thatched roofs, waterfalls, and palm trees blend to create a romantic setting. In the distance you can see fireflies flittering in the night. This is the perfect spot to enjoy a fine meal and relax for a while.


Disneyland Paris Blue Lagoon Restaurant Adventureland

Disneyland Paris Blue Lagoon Restaurant Adventureland


The Blue Lagoon Restaurant is divided into several sections. The tables in the back are terraced to afford better views of the boats sailing by. But the best seats are waterside and it's always worth asking if you can wait for one to open up.


Disneyland Paris Blue Lagoon Restaurant Adventureland


As you might expect, seafood is the specialty here, but other choices are available. And since alcohol is served at Disneyland Paris, you can enjoy a nice glass of wine with your meal.

Well, that's it for Adventureland. Next stop, Fantasyland.


February 28, 2009

Disneyland Paris - Adventureland – Part 2 – Adventure Isle

Disneyland Paris does not have a Tom Sawyer Island. It was decided that most Europeans were not familiar enough with Mark Twain's writings to design an entire attraction around his stories.

Instead, the Imagineers came up with Adventure Isle. Here, pirates and castaways are used as a backdrop for this colorful environment. This is a wonderful place to play and explore.


Disneyland Paris Adventure Isle

Disneyland Paris Adventure Isle


You can reach Adventure Isle by one of four bridges.


Disneyland Paris Adventure Isle

Disneyland Paris Adventure Isle


When Disneyland opened in 1955, it featured a wonderful restaurant/play area " the “Jolly Roger” (Captain Hook's ship). And in 1960, “Skull Rock” was added. The Jolly Roger was a counter service restaurant sponsored by Chicken of the Sea. Not surprisingly, it served tuna sandwiches, clam chowder, and other goodies. Cast members affectionately called the ship the “Tuna Boat.” Besides providing food, kids could climb aboard the ship and pretend to be Peter Pan, Wendy, and Captain Hook. A wonderful dining area was nestled among the boulders and waterfalls of Skull Rock.

In the early ‘80's, Fantasyland underwent a major rehab and the Tuna Boat and Skull Rock were razed. The “new” Fantasyland is a vast improvement over the original, but many still look back nostalgically at this visually appealing restaurant and play area. Below is an early Disneyland postcard of the Chicken of the Sea and Skull Rock.


Disneyland Postcard of Jolly Roger and Skull Rock


But all is not lost. Captain Hook's ship and Skull Rock have risen from the ashes and can be found on Adventure Isle. Like its predecessor, this vessel serves as a counter service restaurant called Captain Hook's Galley. On the docked side of the ship the gun turrets open up to create service windows. The offerings here are hot dogs, fries, and drinks. The deck of the ship is also open for kids to explore.


Disneyland Paris Captain Hook's ship and Skull Rock

Disneyland Paris Captain Hook's ship and Skull Rock


Deep within Skull Rock you'll find Ben Gunn's Cave. (Ben Gunn was a character in Robert Louis Stevenson's “Treasure Island.”) This labyrinth of passageways is far more extensive and elaborately decorated than those found on any of the Tom Sawyer Islands. You can “almost” get lost down here.


Disneyland Paris, Skull Rock Ben Gunn's Cave

Disneyland Paris, Skull Rock Ben Gunn's Cave


This next picture was taken looking out of the mouth of Skull Rock.


Disneyland Paris, Skull Rock


From the mouth of evil we venture deeper and deeper into the bowels of the earth.


Disneyland Paris, Skull Rock Ben Gunn's Cave


Hidden within the cave we find another skull etched into the stone.


Disneyland Paris, Skull Rock Ben Gunn's Cave


Above ground is a peak called Spyglass Hill. Near the top is a lookout platform with a pirate canon aimed at a partially sunken vessel below. The view is great from up here. When it comes time to “escape” from the pirates, there is a suspension bridge that crosses high above the bay and the submerged ship.

If you're afraid of heights, you might want to turn back and skip this bridge as it is higher than any found on the Tom Sawyer Island counterparts. It also bounces a lot, which could add to your discomfort. But for the hearty buccaneer, this bridge is a lot of fun.


Disneyland Paris, Skull Rock

Disneyland Paris, Skull Rock


At water level, an unsteady barrel bridge crosses over the sunken ship. You can't board this soggy vessel, but there is still some good exploring to be had in this area.


Disneyland Paris, Skull Rock

Disneyland Paris, Skull Rock

Disneyland Paris, Skull Rock


Watch out for crocodiles on this sandy beach.


Disneyland Paris, Skull Rock


At the opposite end of the island from Skull Rock is “La Cabane Des Robinson.” We know it better as the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.


Disneyland Paris Swiss Family Robinson Tree House


This tree is remarkably similar to its Disney World and Tokyo cousins. You start at the tree's base and climb a whole lot of stairs to view the home of the castaways.


Disneyland Paris Swiss Family Robinson Tree House

Disneyland Paris Swiss Family Robinson Tree House

Disneyland Paris Swiss Family Robinson Tree House

Disneyland Paris Swiss Family Robinson Tree House


Entangled within the roots of the tree is another series of caves. “Le Ventre de la Terre” is the name of this cavern which translates into “The Belly of the Earth.” Although not quite as extensive as Ben Gunn's cave, there are still a number of chambers to explore. If you're lucky, you might even find where the pirate treasure is hidden.


Disneyland Paris Swiss Family Robinson Tree House Le Ventre de la Terre

Disneyland Paris Swiss Family Robinson Tree House Le Ventre de la Terre

Disneyland Paris Swiss Family Robinson Tree House Le Ventre de la Terre


Pirate's Beach is located near the base of the treehouse. This is a children's amusement area with a number of slides, rope ladders, and other fun stuff for kids to climb and play on.


Disneyland Paris Swiss Family Robinson Tree House Pirate's Beach

Disneyland Paris Swiss Family Robinson Tree House


I like Adventure Isle a lot. In my opinion, it's much more enjoyable than any of the Tom Sawyer Islands " and easier to get to. It's a great spot for kids and adults alike.

In my next blog I will discuss Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril.

February 25, 2009

Disneyland Paris - Adventureland – Part 1 – General Area

Just like Frontierland, Adventureland is set back from The Hub. Because of this, it is much less intrusive in this otherwise Victorian area.


Adventureland Disneyland Paris

Adventureland Disneyland Paris


I've also mentioned that the transition between lands is remarkably seamless at Disneyland Paris. Here is a picture taken from Fantasyland, looking through a portal to Adventureland. If you study the photo carefully, you can see that this portal is a covered walkway with a different architectural style on each side " Tudor on the Fantasyland side and a sandstone-look on the Adventureland side.


Adventureland Disneyland Paris


Returning to The Hub we move closer to the primary Adventureland entrance. Like the other Adventurelands around the world, this version is a collection of far-off exotic lands. Here you'll find romanticized adaptations of the Middle East, the West Indies, Africa, Southeast Asia, and a make-believe land called Adventure Isle.

On the other side of this arch we enter Aladdin's home town, Agrabah. Here in the Adventureland Bazaar we find busy shops and a tasty restaurant.


Adventureland Bazaar Disneyland Paris

Adventureland Bazaar Disneyland Paris

Adventureland Bazaar Disneyland Paris

Adventureland Bazaar Disneyland Paris

Adventureland Bazaar Disneyland Paris

Adventureland Bazaar Disneyland Paris

Adventureland Bazaar Disneyland Paris

Adventureland Bazaar Disneyland Paris


Agrabah Café can be found within the Arabian Bazaar.
This buffet-style restaurant serves Mediterranean and Asian delights. There are a number of small, adjoining dining rooms, each with a mysterious, faraway feel and an outdoor courtyard for al fresco meals. This restaurant is open seasonally.


Agrabah Café  Adventureland Disneyland Paris

Agrabah Café  Adventureland Disneyland Paris

Agrabah Café  Adventureland Disneyland Paris

Agrabah Café  Adventureland Disneyland Paris


Near the entrance of Adventureland and Agrabah you'll find “Le Passagé Enchant' d' Aladdin.”


Le Passagé Enchant' d' Aladdin Adventureland Disneyland Paris


This is a walk-through attraction that tells the story of Aladdin and his magic lamp. A series of minimally animated tableaus and storybook passages recreate Disney's animated classic in this charming attraction. Definitely low-tech, but very enduring.


Le Passagé Enchant' d' Aladdin Adventureland Disneyland Paris

Le Passagé Enchant' d' Aladdin Adventureland Disneyland Paris

Le Passagé Enchant' d' Aladdin Adventureland Disneyland Paris

Le Passagé Enchant' d' Aladdin Adventureland Disneyland Paris

Le Passagé Enchant' d' Aladdin Adventureland Disneyland Paris


As we journey deeper into Adventureland, the Middle Eastern architecture of Agrabah transforms into Timon and Pumba's Africa.


Timon and Pumba's Africa in Adventureland Disneyland Paris

Timon and Pumba's Africa in Adventureland Disneyland Paris


The Restaurant Hakuna Matata has a few references to “The Lion King” but overall, this eatery is more about the exotic locale than our animated friends. This is a counter service restaurant serving African inspired dishes.


Timon and Pumba's Africa in Adventureland Disneyland Paris

Timon and Pumba's Africa in Adventureland Disneyland Paris

Timon and Pumba's Africa in Adventureland Disneyland Paris

When the Imagineers were designing Disneyland Paris, they labored under the opinion that Europeans would prefer to linger over a meal at a table service restaurant rather than grabbing a quick bite to eat at a snack bar. But they were wrong. It turned out that most Europeans, like their American and Japanese counterparts, were more interested in experiencing the attractions than spending an hour or more eating.

Before there was Colonel Hathi's Pizza Outpost, there was the Explorer's Club. This was an elegant, table service restaurant located in a Colonial building found in some remote locale. Audioanimatronic birds and animals entertained guests as they enjoyed their meal. But due to a lack of need, this restaurant was eventually closed and converted to its present day, counter service incarnation serving pizza and pasta.


Colonel Hathi's Pizza Outpost in Adventureland Disneyland Paris

Colonel Hathi's Pizza Outpost in Adventureland Disneyland Paris


Today, audioanimatronic birds still sit high above the dining room in a large tree. They move and sing and tweet, while watching the guests below enjoy their meals. And when you think about it, it makes you very happy that these birds are mechanical and not real!

Colonel Hathi's Pizza Outpost in Adventureland Disneyland Paris


In my next blog I'll talk about Adventure Isle.


February 21, 2009

Disneyland Paris - Frontierland – Part 4 – Phantom Manor

Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris


Phantom Manor is Disneyland Paris' version of the Haunted Mansion. It is neither better than nor inferior to its cousins around the world. It's simply different. And these differences make it very intriguing for those of us familiar with the original version.


Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris

Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris


Phantom Manor has a more complete storyline than the Haunted Mansion. It goes something like this.

Henry Ravenswood made his fortune in the Big Thunder Mountain gold rush. With his money he built an elegant Victorian manor high atop a hill, overlooking the town and mine that made him rich.

Ravenswood was very possessive of his only child, Melanie. When Melanie became engaged to a local miner, Ravenswood swore he would stop the wedding at all costs. But before he could enact his plan, an earthquake struck Thunder Mesa and Henry and his wife Martha were killed. Melanie survived.

Locals believe that the Phantom, who now inhabits the house, is actually the dead Henry Ravenswood and he killed his daughter's intended from beyond the grave. You can see the groom's dead body hanging in the “stretch room.” After the death of her fiancé, Melanie wandered the manor, dressed in her wedding gown, for the rest of her life and after.


Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris


I've read several possibilities as to what building Phantom Manor was modeled after. One prospect is the cartoon house in the Charles Addams drawings.


Charles Addams House


Or the Edward Hooper painting, House by the Railroad.


Edward Hopper House by the Railroad


Maybe the Fourth Ward School House in Virginia City, Nevada.


Fourth Ward School House Virginia City


But I think it looks most like the Psycho House, which also sits high atop a hill. What do you think?


Bates Motel


Ravenswood Manor, now Phantom Manor, was built in the better part of town. Its entrance is near the Silver Spur Steakhouse, which was a fine gentlemen's club. You enter the estate at the bottom of the hill and pass through an iron gate. Here you see me with two of the staff in 1993.


Jack at Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris


As you ascend the hill, you pass by a lovely gazebo. The table inside is set for tea and you can hear the faint sounds of a music box playing from within.


 Gazebo Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris


You continue your way up the hill and through the gardens, eventually reaching the porch and front door. From here you get a sweeping view of Thunder Mesa and Big Thunder Mountain.


Phantom Manor View From Porch


You then enter an anteroom before proceeding to one of the stretch rooms. Here we see three pictures of Melanie and another of her and her bridegroom.


Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris

Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris


When you exit the stretch room, you're in a hallway/picture gallery. This floor plan is reminiscent of Disneyland, California. At the end of the hallway you can see a beautiful picture of Melanie dressed for her special day. .


Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris

Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris


The loading area has a backdrop unique to Paris. Instead of a wall behind the DoomBuggies you see a sweeping staircase.


Sweeping Staircase Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris


The song “Grim Grinning Ghosts” has been re-orchestrated and has a more formal and sometimes foreboding air about it.

Here's an interesting bit of trivia. The ballroom dancers in the California, Florida, and Japan Mansions are all positioned incorrectly. The gentlemen have their right hand extended and their left hand around the ladies' waists. This is backwards. In Paris, the Imagineers corrected this mistake. There is a reason for this oversight, but I'd have to give away Disney secrets to explain the whys and wherefores.

With minor differences, most of Phantom Manor is similar to the Haunted Mansion until you get to the attic. Here we see Melanie crying before a mirror. In the distance we can hear a maniacal laughter. As we continue onward, we come face-to-face with the Phantom.


Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris

Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris


As you descend from the attic you pass some macabre scenes of coffins and skeletons. In my opinion, this section of the Manor is scarier than anything in the American Mansions.


Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris


Most of what was the graveyard section in the Haunted Mansion has been transformed into a western “ghost” town in Phantom Manor. Here, the local residents greet you as you pass by.


Ghost Town in Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris

Ghost Town in Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris

Ghost Town in Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris

Ghost Town in Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris


The scene with the Hitchhiking Ghosts has been replaced with a floating skeleton pointing the way out.


Floating Skeleton in Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris


Next to Phantom Manor is a decaying graveyard with obvious signs of damage from the earthquake. You can walk through this area and examine many of the headstones and crypts. The epitaphs here are slightly more sophisticated than their sillier counterparts in Florida and California.


Phantom Manor Grave Yard Disneyland Paris

Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris

Phantom Manor Disneyland Paris


Phantom Manor is every bit the classic attraction as the Haunted Mansion. I can guarantee that you'll want to hop right back on and ride it again and again.


Next stop, Adventureland.

February 18, 2009

Disneyland Paris - Frontierland – Part 3 – Big Thunder Mountain and the Riverboats

Big Thunder Mountain


Disneyland Paris Big Thunder Mountain

Disneyland Paris Big Thunder Mountain


As with all Disney attractions, your journey on Big Thunder Mountain starts with the queue " and in this case, a very detailed queue. The line twists and turns around rusting mining equipment, amusing signs, and dilapidated buildings. Periodically, a mine train rolls by.


Disneyland Paris Big Thunder Mountain

Disneyland Paris Big Thunder Mountain

Disneyland Paris Big Thunder Mountain

Disneyland Paris Big Thunder Mountain


Eventually you reach the boarding area and your train arrives.


Disneyland Paris Big Thunder Mountain


Big Thunder Mountain is located on an island in the middle of the Rivers of the Far West. To reach it, your train descends into a deep tunnel that travels beneath the water. The track safety devices within the tunnel create a loud clacking sound " a VERY LOUD CLACKING SOUND. I cover my ears. Once you make it to the other side, hang onto your hats for the wildest ride in the wilderness.


Disneyland Paris Big Thunder Mountain


The sights and sounds on Big Thunder Mountain are similar to its American cousins. You see stalactites and stalagmites, old mining equipment, bats, and possum hanging from a branch. In the Paris version, the earthquake scene has been replaced with a dynamite explosion. Also, the track layout in Paris is completely different than its Florida or California counterparts, making this a new experience for those of us familiar with the Disney World and Disneyland renderings.

The “story” behind Big Thunder Mesa is also very similar to the American versions of this ride. Gold was discovered and overnight the mining town of Thunder Mesa sprang up. But the mountain was cursed and calamity eventually befell the miners and the trains.


Disneyland Paris Big Thunder Mountain

Disneyland Paris Big Thunder Mountain

Disneyland Paris Big Thunder Mountain

Disneyland Paris Big Thunder Mountain

Disneyland Paris Big Thunder Mountain


Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing


Disneyland Paris Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing


Disneyland Paris doesn't have just one riverboat, it has two, the Mark Twain, which is a copy of the ship at Disneyland, California, and the Molly Brown, which was named after the famous wife of J. J. Brown, a successful Leadville, Colorado miner. Both ships travel the Rivers of the Far West and circle Big Thunder Mountain and Wilderness Island in about 15 minutes. The dock for the riverboats is directly across the street from the Silver Spur Steakhouse.


Disneyland Paris Riverboats


Here are a few pictures of the Mark Twain.


Disneyland Paris Mark Twain Riverboat

Disneyland Paris Mark Twain Riverboat


Here are a few pictures of the Molly Brown.
Notice that it is a side-wheeler.


Disneyland Paris Molly Brown Riverboat

Disneyland Paris Molly Brown Riverboat

Disneyland Paris Molly Brown Riverboat


As are journey begins, one of the first sights we see is the back side of the Rustler Roundup Shootin' Gallery.

Disneyland Paris Riverboat - Rustler Roundup Shootin Gallery


Next we see some mining equipment near the loading area of Big Thunder Mountain.


Disneyland Paris Riverboat Big Thunder Mountain


The following picture is of the river-pirates' hideout and the loading dock for the River Rogue Keelboats.

Disneyland Paris Riverboat  River Rogue Keelboats


The next sight should look familiar to you fans of the Liberty Belle at the Magic Kingdom in Florida.


Disneyland Paris Riverboat


Of course, no river cruise would be complete without spotting some wildlife along the banks.


Disneyland Paris Riverboat


You might even see a steam train chugging through the wilderness.


Disneyland Paris Riverboat


Unusual rock formations can also be seen. Note, the riverboats go around, not under, this rock bridge.


Disneyland Paris Riverboat

Disneyland Paris Riverboat


Mud pots bubble and geysers erupt as you pass by. Look closely and you might see the remains of a dinosaur.


Disneyland Paris Riverboat


As you return to civilization, you pass by an old cemetery and Phantom Manor.


Disneyland Paris Riverboat


In my next blog I'll be discussing Phantom Manor.

February 15, 2009

Disneyland Paris - Frontierland – Part 2 – The Outskirts of Town

Frontierland can be divided into two sections, the town of Thunder Mesa, and the more rural, backwoods section. In my previous blog I discussed Thunder Mesa. Here I will talk about the outskirts of town.

Let's start with the Pocahontas Indian Village. This is a children's play area with a Native American theme. Kids can enjoy slides, swings, and other contraptions while their parents take a breather on one of the benches.

In the early years of EuroDisneyland, canoes plied the Rivers of the Far West and this was the loading area. When the canoes were retired, this section of Frontierland was transformed into a playground.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland Pocahontas Indian Village

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Pocahontas Indian Village

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Pocahontas Indian Village


Nearby you'll find the Pueblo Trading Post. This is primarily a children's shop selling western themed goods and Winnie the Pooh merchandise.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland Pueblo Trading Post

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Pueblo Trading Post


Remember the Keel Boats? Well, they're still sailing at Disneyland Paris, if only seasonally. The attraction is called the “River Rogue Keelboats” and they cruise the Rivers of the Far West in two boats, the Coyote or Raccoon. I'll be discussing the sights along the Rivers of the Far West in my next blog.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland River Rogue Keelboats

Disneyland Paris Frontierland River Rogue Keelboats

Disneyland Paris Frontierland River Rogue Keelboats

Disneyland Paris Frontierland River Rogue Keelboats


Cottonwood Creek Ranch can be found at the far end of Frontierland. Like all ranches and farms of the era, a big red barn was essential, and in this version we find the Cowboy Cookout Barbeque. This counter service restaurant serves barbecued chicken, ribs, and hamburgers. Live country music can be heard here and many of the performers are from America.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland Cowboy Cookout Barbeque

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Cowboy Cookout Barbeque

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Cowboy Cookout Barbeque

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Cowboy Cookout Barbeque


What ranch would be complete without a windmill?


Disneyland Paris Frontierland


In 2005, kids could enjoy a petting farm called Critter Corral. But I understand this area has been closed and a new attraction, Woody's Roundup Village has opened.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland

Disneyland Paris Frontierland


The Frontierland Train Depot can be found at the far end of Frontierland. This station is almost an exact copy of the original Frontierland Station at Disneyland California which was retired in 1966 to make room for the New Orleans Station.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland Train Depot

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Train Depot


Also located in the backcountry of Frontierland is the Chaparral Theater. When I was here in 2005, “The Tarzan Encounter” was playing (and I believe it still is). This is a 30-minute, high energy show chronicling the tale of Tarzan with songs and acrobatics.

I know what you're thinking, what does Tarzan have to do with the Old West? Beats me. It makes as much since as Tarzan and Nemo performing in Dinoland U.S.A. at the Animal Kingdom. When EuroDisneyland opened, “Pocahontas: Le Spectacle” was showing at the Chaparral Theater. This makes a lot more sense.

This theater also plays host to Mickey's Winter Wonderland during the holidays.

Note, seating is on hard wooden benches with no backs.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland Chaparral Theater


In my next blog I will be discussing Big Thunder Mountain, and the riverboats.

February 12, 2009

Disneyland Paris - Frontierland – Part 1 – Thunder Mesa

Frontierland " Part 1 " Thunder Mesa

Moving clockwise from the end of Main Street, Frontierland is the first land you come to. You enter the Wild West by walking through Fort Comstock. But before you do, be sure to check out the Native American encampment just outside its gates. A nearby babbling brook and a canopy of trees help you believe you're deep in the American wilderness.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland

Disneyland Paris Frontierland


Once you've passed under the Frontierland sign, you're in the middle of a large fort. In concept, this stronghold is similar to Fort Langhorn on Tom Sawyer Island at Disney World, but this Parisian version is far more elaborate.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland Fort Comstock

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Fort Comstock


Fort Comstock has an attraction, of sorts, within its walls. Called “Legends of the Wild West,” this walk through begins at one end of the fort and takes guests on a journey past a stockade, supply hut, office, barracks, rifle loft and more. A number of these rooms feature tableaus depicting characters from frontier America. Signs printed in both French and English describe the various scenes.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland Legends of the West

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Legends of the West

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Legends of the West


I'm not sure if this next gentleman is Davy Crockett, but whoever he is, he's not nearly as good with a gun and a mirror as he thinks he is.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland Legends of the West


When you exit Fort Comstock, you're in the mining town of Thunder Mesa at the height of the gold rush.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland Thunder Mesa

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Thunder Mesa


Faded paint, clapboard siding, boardwalks, and hitching posts are the norm in this bustling little town. Most of these buildings are filled with shops and restaurants.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland Thunder Mesa

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Thunder Mesa

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Thunder Mesa

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Thunder Mesa


Legend has it that Diamond Lil found a gold nugget the size of a loaf of bread on Big Thunder Mountain. With her windfall she built the Lucky Nugget Saloon. Combining western and Victorian architecture, this establishment is reminiscent of a bar you might have found in San Francisco's Barbary Coast in the 1880's.

Comedians, can-can girls, and Disney characters are all part of the show here. Reservations are suggested for this buffet meal.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland Thunder Mesa Golden Nugget Saloon

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Thunder Mesa Golden Nugget Saloon

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Thunder Mesa Golden Nugget Saloon

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Thunder Mesa Golden Nugget Saloon

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Thunder Mesa Golden Nugget Saloon


The Silver Spur Steakhouse is intended for the well-to-do cowboy. Modeled after a Western-style gentlemen's club, this table service restaurant exudes old-time elegance. A number of grilled meats are prepared in a show kitchen while you enjoy a beer or a glass of wine. Reservations are suggested.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland Silver Spur Steakhouse

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Silver Spur Steakhouse

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Silver Spur Steakhouse


Over 70 animated targets are on tap at the Rustler Roundup Shootin' Gallery. Rifles that fire infra-red shots bring these comic effects to life. Note, this attraction is not included in your admission price and a small fee is required to play.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland Rustler Roundup Shootin' Gallery

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Rustler Roundup Shootin' Gallery


To add realism to this mining town, a number of props and signs are scattered around the area.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland

Disneyland Paris Frontierland

Disneyland Paris Frontierland

Disneyland Paris Frontierland

Disneyland Paris Frontierland


As you venture toward the end of town, Thunder Mesa changes from clapboard to adobe. A strong Mexican influence is noticed everywhere.

The building below is the Fuente del Oro Restaurante. As you might expect, Mexican specialties are served at this counter service restaurant. Guests can either dine indoors or on the lovely patio with views of the Big Thunder Mountain loading area.


Disneyland Paris Frontierland Fuene del Oro Restaurante

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Fuene del Oro Restaurante

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Fuene del Oro Restaurante

Disneyland Paris Frontierland Fuene del Oro Restaurante


I mentioned in another blog that the transition between lands at Disneyland Paris is practically seamless. The picture below shows us moving away from the Mexican section of Frontierland and its adobe walls. Just around the corner you come to the African section of Adventureland and its clay brick construction. The change in environment is so gradual that you're not even aware you've changed “continents.”


Disneyland Paris Frontierland


In my next blog I'll be discussing the outskirts of Frontierland.


February 9, 2009

Disneyland Paris - The Hub and Sleeping Beauty Castle

One thing that's a little different about the Disneyland Paris' Hub is the lands that radiate from it are set further back than at other Magic Kingdoms. In other words, Frontierland, Adventureland, and Discoveryland really aren't all that visible from The Hub. This allows the area to maintain its Victorian theming without contrasting architectures intruding into the space.

This shot of The Hub was taken from the castle, looking back toward Main Street.


Disneyland Paris Hub


The Hub is the northern terminus for all Main Street traffic. The one-way trips start and end here.


Disneyland Paris Hub

Disneyland Paris Hub

Disneyland Paris Hub


Mickey has it easy at Disneyland Paris. Here we see him being chauffeured to a Meet-&-Greet. (Maybe he's tired after the long flight from Orlando.)


Disneyland Paris Hub


Just like its American counterparts, Disneyland Paris has an Information Board. Here you can find the wait times for attractions, see which rides are closed for rehab, and determine show and parade times.


Disneyland Paris Hub Information Board


For a bite to eat, try the Plaza Gardens restaurant. This elaborately decorated Victorian eatery serves meals buffeteria-style.

Those of you familiar with the Plaza Inn at Disneyland, Californian will get a creepy sense of déjà vu as the two locales are very similar.


Disneyland Paris Hub Plaza Gardens

Disneyland Paris Hub Plaza Gardens


The Hub is also a good place to buy balloons.


Disneyland Paris Hub


“Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant” or “Sleeping Beauty Castle”


Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle


When the Imagineers began their plans for Sleeping Beauty Castle, they were keenly aware that the surrounding countryside was full of “genuine” castles. They realized that Europeans could easily be blasé with their design unless they came up with something truly magical. And that they did. Paris' Sleeping Beauty Castle is arguably the most beautiful of any of the Disney structures. It's absolutely stunning and can transform even the most cynical adult back to childhood.


Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle


But Sleeping Beauty Castle is more than just a stand-alone structure. Elaborate walkways, gardens, waterfalls, and a wishing well flank its sides.


Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle


Deep beneath the castle in the dungeon guests can find an unusual sight -- “La Taniere du Dragon” or “The Den of the Dragon.” This is the home of Maleficent, now permanently transformed into a dragon and chained in captivity for all eternity. She sleeps much of the time, but occasionally wakes, belches smoke and growls at the curious onlookers.


Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle “La Taniere du Dragon” or “The Den of the Dragon.”

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle “La Taniere du Dragon” or “The Den of the Dragon.”

Shorty after Disneyland in California opened in 1955, guests started to ask, “What's inside the castle.” The answer, nothing.

In order to appease his audience, Walt ordered his Imagineers to come up with something. Since this space was very cramped, this was no small assignment. In the end, they designed the “Sleeping Beauty Walkthrough.” This was a simple “walk-thru” attraction where the story of the young princess unfolds before you in a series of simple tableaus. (BTW, this attraction just recently reopened after an extensive rehab.)

At Disneyland Paris, the story of Sleeping Beauty is also told within the castle. But since this castle is substantially larger than California's, the tableaus are far more elaborate and the experience far more intoxicating. Here are just a few of the scenes.


Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle


The stained-glass window (pictured below) gradually changes from a rose to doves and back again. Because of space constraints, I had to recreate it as an “instant” change.


Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle


You exit the Gallery of Sleeping Beauty on the second floor where you're free to discover more of the castle's beauty. Here's a picture of me videotaping and a concerned owl watching me.


Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle


When the Imagineers were designing the Magic Kingdom in Florida, they had a great idea. Why not put a stage in front of the castle. This would make the perfect backdrop for any performance. They liked the idea so much that they enhanced this design at Tokyo Disneyland. Here they made the stage bigger and added removable benches in an enlarged Hub. There was only one problem with this idea, whenever a show is in progress, the pathways to and through the castle must be closed down. Bummer.

At Disneyland Paris they corrected this little problem. By placing the stage off to the side, the castle is still perfectly situated as a backdrop, but it doesn't interfere with the pathways leading to Sleeping Beauty Castle. If you compared this location to the Magic Kingdom in Florida, the stage would be located in the Rose Garden.


Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle


In my next blog I'll be discussing Frontierland.

February 6, 2009

Disneyland Paris - Main Street Part 3

Main Street Part 3

In my last blog I discussed the Town Square section of Main Street. Today I'm going to talk about the rest of this Victorian thoroughfare. However, I'm not going to describe things in any particular order. I'm just going to pick some points of interest that appeal to me.

Let's start with the street itself. It's paved with brick, not asphalt or cement. This adds a lot of authentic charm to this roadway.


Disneyland Paris Main Street


Besides the horse drawn streetcars, you will also find other means of transportation to travel between Town Square and The Hub.


Disneyland Paris Main Street Limousine

Disneyland Paris Main Street

Disneyland Paris Main Street


Another unique feature about Disneyland Paris is its gas station, Main Street Motors. Notice the pump on the sidewalk.


Disneyland Paris Main Street Main Street Motors

Disneyland Paris Main Street Main Street Motors


Take a look at the Kitty Hawk Bicycle Shop and the sign in the door.


Disneyland Paris Main Street Kitty Hawk Bicycle Shop

Disneyland Paris Main Street Kitty Hawk Bicycle Shop


Flower Street (the street that crosses Main Street) is busy with activity. The Liberty and Discovery Arcades both have direct access onto Flower Street.


Disneyland Paris Main Street

Disneyland Paris Main Street


Directly inside Liberty Court (the mid-town entrance to the Liberty Arcade) you'll find a tribute to the Statue of Liberty. Behind the curtain is a tableau depicting the French giving America this magnificent gift.


Disneyland Paris Main Street

Disneyland Paris Main Street

Disneyland Paris Main Street


Also on the west side of Flower Street is the Dapper Dan's Hair Cuts shop. As you might expect, not only can you get a trim, but you can be serenaded by this quartet at the same time.


Disneyland Paris Main Street Dapper Dan's Hair Cuts

Disneyland Paris Main Street Dapper Dan's Hair Cuts


In the mood for a sandwich? Try the Market House Delicatessen. Seating is available both inside and along the east side of Flower Street.


Disneyland Paris Main Street Market House Delicatessen

Disneyland Paris Main Street Market House Delicatessen

Disneyland Paris Main Street Market House Delicatessen

Disneyland Paris Main Street Market House Delicatessen


If you want a more upscale meal, try Walt's. This is a fashionable restaurant located on the corner of Main and Flower Streets. The lobby is on the ground floor and the restaurant is on the second. Many of the tables have wonderful views of the streets below.


Disneyland Paris Main Street Walt's

Disneyland Paris Main Street Walt's

Disneyland Paris Main Street Walt's


I was looking forward to trying Walt's in 2005 as I missed it in 1993. But I have to admit, I was somewhat disappointed. To begin with, I was seated in a cramped room with four tables where there should have only been three. The picture below is of one of their larger dining rooms. I can't say that there was anything terribly wrong with my meal, but nothing was exceedingly right about it, either. Both the service and food were adequate, but nothing more. I like to believe that I dined there on an off night and in reality, it's better than my experience would indicate. I do plan on giving it another try on my next trip to Disneyland Paris.


Disneyland Paris Main Street Walt's

Disneyland Paris Main Street Walt's


The next several shots are of a few of the various buildings found on Main Street.


Disneyland Paris Main Street

Disneyland Paris Main Street

Disneyland Paris Main Street


Just like every other Disney Main Street, the names of special people can be found on the second story windows.


Disneyland Paris Main Street


Besides having his name on a window, Walt's father Elias also has a "Contractor's Signature" marker imbedded in the sidewalk. Elias worked briefly as a construction worker for the 1892 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The date 1901 was the year Walt was born.


Elias Disney


Here are a few interior photos from several of the shops. I have absolutely no idea what exterior building they are associated with.


Disneyland Paris Main Street

Disneyland Paris Main Street

Disneyland Paris Main Street

Disneyland Paris Main Street

Disneyland Paris Main Street


I said in an earlier blog that Disneyland Paris has a charm and intimacy that is missing from the Magic Kingdom in Florida. Much of this can be attributed to the detailed woodwork and gingerbread found on the Main Street buildings and their elaborate interiors. They are far more ornate than at any other park. But this super attention to detail comes at a price " literally a price.

It is very costly to maintain these buildings, something I'm not sure Disney bargained for when they designed this beautiful park. I saw a number of instances where wood was rotting and paint was peeling " nothing outrageous, but noticeable, none the less.

In my next blog I will discuss The Hub and Sleeping Beauty Castle.

February 3, 2009

Disneyland Paris Main Street - Part 2 - Town Square

Town Square is the first area you come to when entering Main Street U.S.A.. Here you'll find a number of “public” buildings like the Train Station, City Hall, and the Transportation Company. The following picture was taken from the second story of the Train Station.


Disneyland Paris Town Square


When the original Disneyland was being built in California, a bandstand/gazebo was constructed and placed in the center of Town Square. Soon after, Walt decided that it blocked the view of Sleeping Beauty Castle when looking down Main Street from the Train Station. Before the park ever opened to the public, the bandstand was relocated to another part of the park.

When the Imagineers were designing Disneyland Paris, they decided to give this idea another go-round and a bandstand was built in the middle of Town Square. They must have been satisfied with the results as another bandstand was built at Hong Kong Disneyland. I guess the latter-day Imagineers don't share Walt's concern about views being blocked. And I have to agree. I think the bandstands look great. The first picture is of Hong Kong and the second of Paris.


Hong Kong Disneyland Bandstand

Disneyland Paris Bandstand


City Hall sits in the same location at all five Magic Kingdom's. Here guests can make dining reservations, pick up guide maps, and have all their questions answered.


Disneyland Paris City Hall

Disneyland Paris City Hall


An interesting item can be found in the lobby of City Hall. The cast members of Tokyo Disneyland sent the cast members of Disneyland Paris a beautiful plaque of “congratulations” (written in three languages) when the Paris park opened.

Plaque from Tokyo Disneyland Cast Members


You won't find a Fire Station next to City Hall, but instead a shop, the Story Book Store.


Disneyland Paris Story Book Store


Next to the Story Book Store is a unique structure for a Disney Main Street, a boarding house. To my knowledge, it's the only “house” on any of the five Main Streets around the world. Note, this structure is only a façade and you cannot enter the building.


Disneyland Paris Boarding House


This next photo continues our circle around Town Square. In the center of the picture you can see a long shot of the boarding house. To the right of the boarding house is the Liberty Arcade (out of sight). I'll be discussing the Liberty Arcade in greater detail later in this blog.


Disneyland Paris Town Square


This next building might look familiar to you. It's a copy of Disney World's Emporium. But even though the exteriors are the same, the interiors are somewhat different. If you look closely at the ceiling in the interior shot, you can see a mechanical device used by old department stores to send messages and small items to various locales around the building.


Disneyland Paris Emporium

Disneyland Paris Emporium


Across the street and opposite the Emporium is the Kodak Film & Camera Shop.


Disneyland Paris Kodak Film and Camera Shop


Continuing our circle, we find a few more shops and the Discovery Arcade.


Disneyland Paris Town Square

Disneyland Paris Town Square


Main Street at Disneyland Paris has a unique feature, two arcades (long, enclosed walkways) that run behind the shops and restaurants.
The Liberty Arcade on the left and the Discovery Arcade on the right offer backdoor access to every merchant on the street. This is a wonderful attribute. On inclement days or when a parade is running, it's nice to have an alternate way of getting from one end of Main Street to the other.


Disneyland Paris Town Square Arcades

Disneyland Paris Town Square Arcades


Original plans called for a glass and metal roof to be built over Main Street to protect guests from the weather. This structure would be similar to the one over World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland. But this covering curtails other activities such as the vehicles, parades, and firework viewing. Eventually it was decided to build the arcades instead.

As we continue our circle around Town Square, we come to more shops.


Disneyland Paris Town Square


Next to the shops is the Main Street Transportation Company. The horse-drawn street cars enter and exit Main Street through this building.


Disneyland Paris Main Street Transportation Company

Disneyland Paris Main Street Transportation Company

Disneyland Paris Main Street Transportation Company

Although I don't have a picture showing this, if you look at the Transportation Company building “straight on” its silhouette bears a striking resemblance to Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, California.

The street cars are enclosed to provide better protection from the cold Parisian winters. Two benches, running along both sides of the car provide seating.


Disneyland Paris Street Cars


Another unique feature of this Town Square is the plaza area is divided into two sections and the street car passes between them.


Disneyland Paris Street Cars


That's it for Town Square. My next blog will cover the rest of Main Street.

January 31, 2009

Disneyland Paris Main Street Part 1

Before I start to discuss Main Street, I need to give you a little background about the Disneyland Paris Park.

When Walt built Disneyland in California, he did it on a shoestring. It was all he could do to scrape together enough money to buy the land and get the park open. Today, Disneyland is physically one of the smaller Magic Kingdoms; however its diminutive size gives it a wealth of charm.


Disneyland California Opening Day


When plans were being drawn up for the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, the Imagineers were excited about the abundance of land they had at their disposal. When the park opened in 1971, its larger size handled crowds significantly better than its California counterpart. But much of the charm that can be found at Disneyland was missing from the Florida project.


Walt Disney World Opening Day


When the Oriental Land Company came to Disney and said they wanted to build a park in Tokyo, they used the California and Florida parks as a shopping list. They selected what they considered to be the best attractions and designs from these parks and combined them into their new Magic Kingdom. When they were done, Tokyo Disneyland had a disjointed feel with mediocre transitions between lands. Don't get me wrong, it's a wonderful park, but it lacks continuity.


Tokyo Disneyland World Bazaar


When Disneyland Paris was being planned, Michael Eisner, with Frank Wells at his side, were willing to spend money. They were prepared to do things the way Walt would have with Disneyland if he'd had the means. Combine this attitude with senior Imagineer Tony Baxter's brilliant designs, and a magnificent park emerged " a park big enough to handle large crowds yet has intimacy, charm, and seamless transitions. For me, it all comes together at Disneyland Paris and it's my favorite of the five Magic Kingdoms and my second favorite park after Tokyo DisneySea.

Like California, Hong Kong, and Florida, you walk under the Train Station to reach Main Street U.S.A.


Plaza Disneyland Paris


Below is a view of the Train Station as seen from City Hall.


Train Station Disneyland Paris


It's difficult to know how best to describe the steam trains. Do you divide the description into sections depending on what land you're discussing? Or do you talk about the entire attraction, even though it crosses many lands? I think I'll choose the latter and start at Main Street and give you the complete tour.


Euro Disneyland Railroad Poster


Even though I vote Tokyo's steam train as my favorite, Disneyland Paris is a VERY close second " and for the same reason. You see more sights on these two lines than you do on the rails of California, Florida, or Hong Kong.

Shortly after leaving Main Street Station, you enter the Grand Canyon Diorama, a copy of the one found at Disneyland, California. Once again, you hear the music of Grofe as a full day of the Canyon unfolds before you. At Disneyland in California, the Grand Canyon backs up against Tomorrowland. But at Paris, it appropriately backs up against Frontierland.


Plaza Disneyland Paris

Grand Canyon Disneyland Paris

Train Disneyland Paris


Emerging from the Grand Canyon diorama, you travel next to mud pots and geysers with Big Thunder Mountain towering in the background. Then a section of the Rivers of America comes into view. Here you may see the Mark Twain or the Molly Brown sail by.


Disneyland Paris Train

Disneyland Paris Train

Disneyland Paris Train

Eventually you pull into the Frontierland Station.


Disneyland Paris Train Frontierland Station


The rolling stock at Disneyland Paris is unique in that the cars are better enclosed due to the variations in weather and they feature an interesting seating pattern. Instead of forward or side facing benches, these trains use a “U” shaped or “booth” configuration. Each car is divided into six sections and within each section you'll find a “U” shaped bench with one portion facing forward, another facing sideways, and one backwards. The idea was to give everyone a better view. Personally, I found this configuration a little cramped. When sitting in a “corner” seat, your legs and knees are pressed against those of your fellow passengers. You can see this seating configuration (and me) in the following pictures.


Disneyland Paris Train

Disneyland Paris Train

Up until just recently, the fences, barns, and animals of Critter Corral came into view as you left the Frontierland Station. Now a new attraction, Woody's Roundup Village, occupies this space. You soon leave Frontierland on your way to Adventureland.


Disneyland Paris Train Woody's Roundup Village


If you look quickly, you can see the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril attraction in the distance. In the foreground is a grassy meadow and a jeep. You soon enter a tunnel and a quick glimpse of the inside of the Pirates of the Caribbean can be had (similar to seeing Splash Mountain from the train at Disney World). Unfortunately, I was unable to catch a picture of “Pirates” while in the tunnel.


Disneyland Paris Train


When you emerge from the tunnel, you're at the Fantasyland Station.


Disneyland Paris Train Fantasyland Station

Disneyland Paris Train Fantasyland


As you skirt the edges of Fantasyland, you see Alice's Curious Labyrinth and the Old Mill before crossing a trestle. You then pass in front of “it's a small world” in the same manner that you do at Disneyland, California.


Disneyland Paris Train

Disneyland Paris Train

Disneyland Paris Train

DLP%20It%27s%20A%20Small%20World%2004.jpg


A few chugs later and you're at the Discoveryland (Tomorrowland) Station.


Disneyland Paris Train  Discoveryland Station

Disneyland Paris Train  Discoveryland Station

Disneyland Paris Train  Discoveryland Station


While traveling through Discoveryland you are afforded views of Star Tours and Space Mountain. After 7,150 feet of track, you're back at Main Street.


Disneyland Paris Train

Disneyland Paris Train


In my next blog I'll talk about the Town Square section of Main Street.

January 28, 2009

Disneyland Hotel & Disneyland Paris Park Entrance

You reach the Disneyland Hotel and Disneyland Park through gates near the train station. The picture below was taken of my friend Kelly (hands raised) in 1997, before security checks were in place. Today, everyone must undergo “bag check” which is located within these gates.


Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris


Once past security, you enter the Fantasia Gardens. This is a great place to sit, relax, and people watch.


Fantasia Gardens at Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris Fantasia Gardens


The Disneyland Hotel is a deluxe resort. It was co-designed by Walt Disney Imagineering and the architectural firm of Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo. Most would agree, it's reminiscent of the Grand Floridian at Disney World, however its pink exterior gives it a more fanciful look.


Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris


Since the hotel sits at the entrance of Disneyland Park, its design needed to be appropriate when viewed from Main Street. The following picture was taken from The Hub looking back toward the Train Station. As you can see, the hotel is clearly visible from inside the park.


Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris


The ground floor of the Disneyland Hotel contains lockers, ticket booths, walkways, and turnstiles. Guests pass beneath the hotel to get to Disneyland Park.


Ground Floor Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris - Public Areas

Ground Floor Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris - Public Areas

Ground Floor Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris - Public Areas

Disneyland Paris Entrance Gate


Once you've passed under the hotel, you're in a large courtyard. Ahead you'll find the Train Station and Main Street. Behind you is another beautiful view of the hotel.


Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Hotel


The interior of the Disneyland Hotel isn't quite as opulent as the Grand Floridian, but it still packs a gracious punch. The three-story lobby is similar, yet different to the Disneyland Hotel in Hong Kong.

The first picture is of Hong Kong, the next two are of Paris.


Disneyland Hotel at Hong Kong Disneyland

Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris


Take a look at the wallpaper found in the lobby. Cool!


Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris


One of the restaurants at the Disneyland Hotel is the California Grill " and it looks nothing like its cousin at the Contemporary Resort at Disney World. Instead of a post-modern design, this restaurant is full of Victorian charm and elegant grace.


California Grill in the Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris

California Grill in the Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris


As the name suggests, the menu is “California” inspired " with concessions made for the French palate. Since it's been three years since I ate here, I really don't remember what I ordered, but I do remember that I was very pleased. This picture of my dessert will give you an idea of the caliber of food that is served here.


California Grill in the Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris


This next picture is the view from my table.


California Grill in the Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris


The California Grill also has a show kitchen where you can watch the chefs prepare your meal. Plan on spending around an hour and a half enjoying several courses and a nice bottle of California wine.

It's interesting to note, the California Grill is a “character” restaurant. At Disney World, the “fine” dining establishments are free from our animated friends, but here Tweedle Dum & Dee and the White Rabbit make periodic visits to your table.

Another wonderful spot at the Disneyland Hotel is the Café Fantasia. The name “Café” is a misnomer. This is a cocktail lounge themed after the “Dance of the Hours” segment from the Fantasia movie. The interior of this watering hole is pleasant, but the private balcony table on the front of the hotel is absolutely fabulous -- and so is the view.
.

Cafe Fantasia Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Cafe Fantasia Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Cafe Fantasia Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris


The Disneyland Hotel is a deluxe resort with prices to match. Rooms look out at either Fantasia Gardens or toward Disneyland. On the Disneyland side of the hotel, the higher the floor, the better the view of Main Street. Rooms sleep 2-4 in either a king sized bed or two doubles.

If you have the money, I would recommend this hotel over all the rest. Its proximity to Disneyland Park, The Walt Disney Studios Park, and Disney Village gives this resort a definite edge.

January 25, 2009

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show (Disneyland Paris Resort)

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris


In 1883 William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody founded "Buffalo Bill's Wild West." This was a circus-like spectacle that toured the United States annually. Over the years, the show changed names and was constantly being updated with new and exciting acts. In 1889, Buffalo Bill took his show to Europe and it was a huge success, especially in France.

Today you can see a reincarnation of this spectacular show at a theater located at one end of Disney Village. Aptly named Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, two performances are presented nightly, one at 6:30pm and the other at 9:30pm. Each show is 1½ hours in length and includes dinner.


Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris

Before I go any further, I want to apologize for many of the following photographs. The point-and-shoot camera I had in 2005 just couldn't deal with the dim lighting and fast motion of the show. I did my best to enhance these pictures with the computer, but some of them are still lacking.

Tickets for Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show can be purchased in advanced or for the same day at the ticket booth located in the theater lobby. When your purchase is complete, you will be instructed to show up 30 minutes before the show. Seating is assigned when you return, but for the most part, it doesn't really matter where you sit.

When you arrive for the performance, you are “herded” into a large saloon and given a cowboy hat with a colored ribbon that indicates your seating area and team. While waiting to be led into the arena, you can enjoy a drink at the bar while listening to country music from a nearby band.


Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris


It would be easy to compare this event to the Medieval Times show presented in Kissimmee, Florida. You sit on tiered benches with a narrow table in front of you. There is just enough room for your waiter to squeeze by and serve each guest his dinner. While you are eating, a pageant takes place in the arena below. However, at Medieval Times I feel that there is more emphasis put on the competition between the knights than there is with the cowboys at the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. The latter is more into pageantry than contests.


Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris


The show begins with the Master of Ceremonies taking center stage. With great showmanship, he welcomes everyone to tonight's performance " in French. When he's done, he introduces Buffalo Bill who can be found on an elevated stage at the far end of the arena. Bill continues the welcoming speech, however he speaks English. For the remainder of the show, these two gentlemen keep everyone apprised of the goings on in their respective language.


Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris


Shortly thereafter, dinner is served by western clad waiters. The menu includes chili, bread, a mixed grill kebab, corn on the cob, and potato wedges. Warm apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream is on tap for dessert.


Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris


While dinner is being served, a chuck wagon enters the arena and takes center stage. Cowboys gather around and appear to enjoy their own meal.


Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris


As the evening progresses, a number of events occur. Each section of the arena has its own “color coded” cowboy. These buckaroos compete with each other in events like shootin' and ropin'. All the while, their section cheers them on with great enthusiasm. Here's my “yellow” fellow.


Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris


Great pageantry also takes place. Riders carrying flags and banners parade back and forth and cowboys and Native Americans perform amazing tricks.


Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris


During another section of the show, longhorn steer and buffalo are herded into the stadium in stampede fashion. A stage coach also makes an appearance.


Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris


Besides Buffalo Bill, you also get to meet Annie Oakley, Frank Butler, and Sitting Bull. As you might expect, a shootin' contest ensues between Annie and Frank.

The curtain call brings most of the performers back on stage for some impressive precision riding.


Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris


Disney does post the following warning: “IMPORTANT: as live animals are used during this show and the cavalcades raise dust, it is not suitable for people suffering from asthma or other respiratory disorders.”

When you enter the arena, the bright lights illuminate the dust floating in the air. I have asthma, but I was not bothered by this, but I had my rescue inhaler just in case.

For those of us who grew up in the U.S. and watched Bonanza and Gunsmoke on TV, this show might sound a little hokey. But it's a lot of fun and I would highly recommend it. I've seen it on both of my trips to the Disneyland Paris Resort and I will see it again when I return.

In my next blog I'll be discussing the Disneyland Hotel and the Disneyland Park entrance.

January 22, 2009

Disney Village (Disneyland Paris Resort)

Disney Village at Disneyland Paris


Disney Village (called Festival Disney until 1997) is a shopping, dining, and entertainment complex located near the entrances of Disneyland and the Walt Disney Studios Park. It is similar in concept to Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World. A combination of Disney and non-Disney venues come together to create a pleasant place to grab a bite to eat, see a movie, and shop till you drop.

Disney Village at Disneyland Paris

Disney Village at Disneyland Paris


Designed by architect Frank Gehry, this area's most notable feature are the large stainless steel towers that line the arcade. Beneath these odd towers is a mishmash of architectural styles as each shop and restaurant is allowed to theme their exterior however they wish. I suppose the towers were supposed to be a uniting factor, but they're not. It just looks like a hodgepodge of buildings and to be honest, I've never warmed up to this area.


Disney Village at Disneyland Paris

Disney Village at Disneyland Paris

But if you can get past the competing architectural elements, a lot of fun can be had here. Although open during the day, the Disney Village really comes to life at night as guests start to leave the theme parks and locals get off of work and want to enjoy an evening out. It's also during the evening hours that street performers appear.

Since there are several dozen shops and restaurants, I'm not going to try to explain each one. First, I haven't experience everything so I have no first hand knowledge. And second, if I tried to talk about each location, I'd bore you to death. So for the most part, I'm just going to show you some pictures of the various shops and restaurants.


Disney Village at Disneyland Paris

Disney Village at Disneyland Paris

Disney Village at Disneyland Paris

Disney Village at Disneyland Paris

Disney Village at Disneyland Paris

Disney Village at Disneyland Paris

Disney Village at Disneyland Paris

Disney Village at Disneyland Paris

Disney Village at Disneyland Paris

Disney Village at Disneyland Paris

Disney Village at Disneyland Paris

Disney Village at Disneyland Paris


Located between the Disney Village and Disneyland is the public train station. Here you can catch the RER, TGV, and Eurostar. In addition, the resort buses drop guests off in this area.


Disney Village at Disneyland Paris


In my next blog I'll be discussing Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.


January 19, 2009

PanoraMagique (Disneyland Paris Resort)

Opening in April 2005, PanoraMagique is truly a great experience. Located on a permanent platform on Lake Disney is a large, brightly painted, helium filled balloon. Suspended beneath this marvel is a metal “cage” capable of carrying 30 guests high above the resort. This six minute ride takes you 100 meters (328 feet) into the sky for a magnificent view of the Disneyland Paris Resort and beyond. The balloon is tethered to a high-speed winch that silently controls your assent and decent. Once aloft, a 360° view is yours to enjoy. On a clear day you can see 20 kilometers (12½ miles).

PanoraMagique is operated by Aerophile, not Disney, and it requires a separate ticket. When I was there in 2005 the cost was 12€ but I'm sure prices have risen since then. Operation is dependent on weather conditions. Wind is a definite deterrent.

I'm not to keen on heights, but I didn't hesitate for a minute to hop aboard and take some magnificent Disney photos. I would highly recommend budgeting some time during your trip to experience this unique adventure.

Ticket booth


PanoraMagique at Disneyland Paris


Balloon and Hotel New York


PanoraMagique at Disneyland Paris


Balloon with Sequoia Lodge in the background

PanoraMagique at Disneyland Paris

PanoraMagique at Disneyland Paris

PanoraMagique at Disneyland Paris


Disneyland Paris Park

PanoraMagique at Disneyland Paris


Walt Disney Studios Park


PanoraMagique at Disneyland Paris


Disneyland Hotel and Train Station


PanoraMagique at Disneyland Paris


Disney Village


PanoraMagique at Disneyland Paris


Hotel New York


PanoraMagique at Disneyland Paris


Sequoia Lodge


PanoraMagique at Disneyland Paris


Newport Bay Club

PanoraMagique at Disneyland Paris


It was announced last year that a PanoraMagique-type balloon would be coming to WDW's Downtown Disney as part of the Pleasure Island make-over. Since then, little information has been forthcoming. Only time will tell if the gloomy economy will delay or derail this new attraction.

In my next blog I'll be discussing the Disney Village.

January 16, 2009

Newport Bay Club (Disneyland Paris Resort)

Newport Bay Club Hotel at Disneyland Paris


Disney's Newport Bay Club was designed by Robert A.M. Stern, the same gentleman who designed the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts at Walt Disney World " and the similarities are abundant.

The resort harkens back to the end of the 19th century and the nautical atmosphere of New England. The exterior of the resort is made up of pale yellow clapboard, white trim, and a green roof. Balconies, columns, and dormer rooms accent these outer walls.


Newport Bay Club Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Newport Bay Club Hotel at Disneyland Paris


In September 2005, I stayed at Disney's Newport Bay Club. This was my first choice in 1993, but the hotel was closed at that time in order to save money when EuroDisney was hemorrhaging cash.

When you enter the hotel lobby, you come face to face with a large globe of the old world " just like you do at Disney's Yacht Club in Florida. But at the Newport Bay Club they've added a nice detail. On this map you can find a castle at each of the Disney properties around the world.


Newport Bay Club Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Newport Bay Club Hotel at Disneyland Paris


The nautical motif is extremely strong in the hotel's interior. Paneled white walls, lattice work, and hardwood floors make up most of the solid surfaces. Shades of blue are used as accents on the window coverings, rugs, and furntiture upholstery. Maritime paraphernalia is used as decorative art.


Newport Bay Club Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Newport Bay Club Hotel at Disneyland Paris


The Newport Bay Club is the largest of the Disneyland Paris resorts with 1,098 guest rooms. The accommodations continue the lobby's color scheme and nautical motif. Like several of the other resorts, most rooms sleep two to four guests on either one king or two double beds.


Newport Bay Club Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Newport Bay Club Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Newport Bay Club Hotel at Disneyland Paris


On both of my visits to Disneyland Paris, I have been disappointed with the central air conditioning in the hotel guest rooms. At the Sequoia Lodge, I complained because water continually dripped from an overhead vent which created a puddle on the carpet. When I was moved to another room, I found the coolest temperature available was far from adequate. At the Newport Bay Club, I finally gave up on the air conditioning and opened the window because the warm summer nights were cooler than the air coming out of the vents.

The Newport Bay Club has two restaurants. The Yacht Club restaurant serves an al a carte breakfast. For dinner, New England style seafood is the bill of fare. The Cape Cod restaurant serves a continental breakfast and Mediterranean dishes for supper. Since I'm not a big breakfast eater and I had a “free” option for this meal, I started every morning at the Cape Cod restaurant with fruit and a croissant. Indoor and outdoor seating is available so I usually chose to dine al fresco and enjoy the beautiful view of Lake Disney.


Newport Bay Club Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Newport Bay Club Hotel at Disneyland Paris


Disney buses are available for free transportation from the hotel to the theme parks. If you decide to hoof it, it's about a 15 minute walk. A portion of this journey is along a lovely path that passes by Lake Disney. I always chose to walk as it was more convenient than waiting for the bus and the sites along the way were far more interesting.


Newport Bay Club Hotel Walkway at Disneyland Paris


One evening while returning to my room, I came across a cute little train that was circling Lake Disney. It made stops at the Disney Village, Hotel New York, Sequoia Lodge, and the Newport Bay Club. At first I thought it was free, but upon closer inspection, I found that it cost 2€. My feet were tired so I sprang for the ride.


Train at Newport Bay Club Hotel at Disneyland Paris


I've now discussed five of the six Disney hotels. However, I'm going to put off the Disneyland Hotel until later as it is closely associated with the entrance to Disneyland Paris and they need to be discussed together.

My next blog will be about PanoraMagique.

January 13, 2009

Sequoia Lodge and Hotel New York (Disneyland Paris Resort)

Sequoia Lodge at Disneyland Paris


My first trip to Euro Disneyland (now Disneyland Paris) was in June 1993 and I stayed at the Sequoia Lodge. This resort is one of the three moderately priced hotels and sits on the shores of Lake Disney. Digital photography was still on the horizon so I had to be conscious of how many pictures I took since film and developing cost money.


Sequoia Lodge at Disneyland Paris


The Sequoia Lodge was designed by French architect Antoine Grumbach and harkens back to a time when rustic inns were being built in the American National Parks.

After reading that description, thoughts of the Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World might spring to mind, but if you expect the same experience, you'll be disappointed. Although the basic theme is the same for both hotels, it was executed far better in Florida. The Sequoia Lodge lacks the grandeur found at the Wilderness Lodge. To begin with, the exterior of the Sequoia has very clean lines " something I don't associate with the National Parks. And the interior lacks a grand lobby. Yes, you'll find hewn logs and rock fireplaces within the Sequoia, but everything has a slightly modern feel about it.

Don't get me wrong, the Sequoia Lodge is very nice and is worth your consideration. But you need to be forewarned, it's not the Wilderness Lodge so set your expectations accordingly.


Sequoia Lodge at Disneyland Paris


If I had to describe the interior of the Sequoia I'd say it's a combination of Native American handiwork and the Arts & Crafts movement. Nature is represented but it's mixed with early 20th century designs.


Sequoia Lodge at Disneyland Paris

Sequoia Lodge at Disneyland Paris


One of the two restaurants at the Sequoia Lodge is the Hunter's Grill. This eatery was inspired by the Brazilian churrascaria. Here, waiters bring long skewers of beef, sausage, turkey, and pork to your table and carve off slices onto your plate. It's similar to O'Hana at the Polynesian, only with a rustic flare. During my visit, the restaurant had set up tables in the resort's courtyard so guests could eat al fresco. I don't know if they still do this, but it was a nice touch.


Hunter's Grill in Sequoia Lodge at Disneyland Paris


The 1,011 rooms of the Sequoia Lodge are distributed between the main building, which sits on the shores of Lake Disney, and five “lodge” buildings nestled among hundreds of pine trees. A sixth lodge building houses an indoor swimming pool " a nice touch in the winter when it can get quite cold.


Sequoia Lodge at Disneyland Paris

Sequoia Lodge at Disneyland Paris


The same Native American/Arts & Crafts design can be found in the guest rooms. Once again, clean lines dominate the architecture and the dark stained furniture. Each room has either one king or two double beds and sleeps two to four. Next to the writing table you'll find a standard chair and a rocking chair. A large window allows enough light into the room so the dark wood tones don't dominate. As I mentioned earlier, I was using real film in those days so taking a picture of my room never occurred to me.


Hotel New York at Disneyland Paris


The Hotel New York is the most expensive of the three moderately priced resorts. It was designed by architect Michael Graves, the same gentleman who designed the Swan and Dolphin at Disney World. It's sits on the shores of Lake Disney and it's about a 10 to 15 minute walk from this resort to the theme parks.

As you might have guessed, this resort is all about the Big Apple. The exterior is a stylized skyline of Manhattan and the interior features familiar landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Fans of Art Deco will be in paradise as this is the predominate design element used throughout the resort.


Hotel New York at Disneyland Paris

Hotel New York at Disneyland Paris


Just like the real Rockefeller Center, the fountain and plaza area of the Hotel New York is transformed into a skating rink when the weather turns cold. Since I was there in September, I only have a picture of the fountain.


Hotel New York at Disneyland Paris


The interior of the hotel is sophisticated but you'll also find whimsy. This helps the resort, and the guest, not take things too seriously.


Hotel New York at Disneyland Paris

Hotel New York at Disneyland Paris


The hotel has two eateries, the Manhattan Restaurant and the Parkside Diner. The Manhattan Restaurant offers an upscale atmosphere and menu, the kind you'd find in any of the better New York hotels. I have not eaten here so I don't have any pictures.

The Park Side Diner is decidedly more casual. Chrome and Formica tables, neon lights, and fanciful wall décor set the mood here. Burgers, sandwiches, and salads are on tap at this entertaining local.


Park Side Diner Hotel New York at Disneyland Paris

Park Side Diner Hotel New York at Disneyland Paris


The New York City Bar is the place to wind down after a busy day in the parks. Chic and sophisticated, this dimly lit watering hole will transport you back to a bygone era.


New York City Bar Hotel New York at Disneyland Paris


Although I have not stayed at the Hotel New York, the pictures I've seen suggest that the guest rooms are warmer and more inviting than the somewhat austere Sequoia Lodge. Most rooms feature two double beds and sleep four, but some only have one king.

The Hotel New York also offers two swimming pools, one indoors and one out.

In my next blog I will discuss the Newport Bay Club.

January 10, 2009

Hotels Cheyenne and Santa Fe (Disneyland Paris Resort)

There are six Disney owned and operated hotels at Disneyland Paris. Here are their names and price categories:

Hotel Cheyenne " Budget
Hotel Santa Fe " Budget
Sequoia Lodge " Moderate
Hotel New York " Moderate
Newport Bay Club " Moderate
Disneyland Hotel " Deluxe

The French have long had a love affair with the American West. Cowboys and cattle drives and six-shooters and stage coaches have caught their interest. To capitalize on this appeal, Disney built two hotels with a western theme. The first one we'll discuss is the Hotel Cheyenne.


Hotel Cheyenne


The Hotel Cheyenne was designed by architect Robert A.M. Stern and is a budget resort. Each of its 1,000 rooms has a set of bunk beds, intended for children only, and a double bed for adults. The décor is decidedly western with a cowboy boot lamp, patchwork quilt spreads, and a lasso framed mirror.

The exterior of the resort is arranged to look like an old west town. Two streets are lined with 14 two-story buildings. Some of the structures you'll encounter along these streets are a general store, a jail, boarding houses, a saloon, and a bank. Many of the rooms face out onto these old-west streets while others have a view of the “Rio Grande River” or gardens.

For vittles, there's the Chuck Wagon buffet. As you might expect, this restaurant offers western chow and barbeque. Next door you can whet your whistle at the Red Garter Saloon complete with live country music.


Hotel Cheyenne

Hotel Cheyenne

Hotel Cheyenne

Hotel Cheyenne


Hotel Santa Fe

The Hotel Santa Fe is also a budget resort and is designed to look like pueblos that might be found in the American Southwest. Unlike the Hotel Cheyenne, whose timeframe is the mid to late 19th century, the Hotel Santa Fe is set in the 1950's.

In this desert like atmosphere, cacti are numerous and a keen eye might even spot a flying saucer that has crashed landed in the sand.


Hotel Santa Fe


The check-in lobby is easy to spot. This area is designed to look like an old drive-in movie theater with Clint Eastwood looking down from the screen.


Hotel Santa Fe


The rooms are decorated with a Navajo motif and each features two double beds. The bedspreads look like Native-American woven blankets and simple pine furniture completes the mood.


Hotel Santa Fe

Hotel Santa Fe


At mealtime, check out the La Cantina buffet. Tex-Mex is on the menu and a salad bar is ingeniously built into the back of an old truck parked at a gas station. Cocktails are served nearby at the Rio Grande bar.

Air conditioning is not as common in Europe as it is in the U.S. and neither of these hotels features this wonderful invention. But all is not lost, they do have ceiling fans. For most of the year, the fans are adequate, but be forewarned, summers can get a little warm and humid.

You can walk to the theme parks from either of these resorts, but they are a “fur piece” away. The hike will take you approximately 20 minutes. A better option is to board one of the Disney transport buses for a ride to a central drop-off area. Please note, it's still another 5-7 minute walk from here to the theme park gates.


Davy Crockett Ranch


Davy Crockett Ranch, a campground, is located about 15 minutes away from the theme parks by car. Since no “Disney” transportation is provided to this location, I've never been there and can offer you little information or pictures. I do know that besides the campsites, “cabins” similar to those found at Fort Wilderness in Disney World, are available.

In my next blog I will discuss the Sequoia Lodge and the Hotel New York.

January 7, 2009

Disneyland Paris Opening Blog

Last year I wrote about the Hong Kong and Tokyo Disney Resorts.

As the series continued, I received a number of positive emails from readers telling me how much they enjoyed reading about the Asian parks. So I've decided to write another series of blogs, this time about the Disneyland Paris Resort. To begin with, let me give you some background about Disney's second foreign venture.

Euro Disneyland (now Disneyland Paris) opened on April 12, 1992. It is located about 20 miles east of Paris and occupies 4,800 acres.

Today it features two theme parks (the second opening on March 16, 2002), six hotels, a shopping district, a campground, and a golf course. Additional non-Disney facilities also occupy a portion of this land. This makes it the second largest of the Disney resorts, after Walt Disney World.

Paris Map Animation.gif

In the early years, the Disney Company lost an enormous amount of money with this venture. To begin with, the resort opened during a European recession, a time when people don't spend money on vacations.

During the first couple of years the theme park, Euro Disneyland, wasn't meeting its projected attendance. However, enough people visited to help the park become one of Europe's top tourist attractions. But, the real drain of cash came from the hotels. There simply wasn't a need for six resorts with only one theme park nearby. Also, with Paris being just 35 minutes away by rail, why stay at Disney when you could stay in The City of Lights.

In October, 1994, the name Euro Disneyland was changed to Disneyland Paris and on May 31, 1995, Space Mountain opened. These events helped attendance grow substantially in both the theme park and in the hotels.

In addition, the ban on alcohol in the Disneyland Park was lifted. It was realized that Europeans enjoy wine with their meals and they were more vocal with this request than their American and Japanese counterparts. This makes Disneyland Paris the only Magic Kingdom in the world to serve liquor. By the end of 1995, the Paris venture showed its first profit. Although difficult times have continued to come and go over the years, Disney has steadfastly stood by this project.

Euro Disneyland Park

The name change was facilitated for several reasons. Here is a quote from Michael Eisner:

“As Americans, the word ‘Euro' is believed to mean glamorous or exciting. For Europeans it turned out to be a term they associated with business, currency, and commerce. Renaming the park ‘Disneyland Paris' was a way of identifying it with one of the most romantic and exciting cities in the world.”

Another reason for the name change was in deference to the French. Even though this resort caters to all of Europe, the majority of guests come from France " the host country. There had been a lot of hostility with the French people when Disney announced plans to build here. It was hoped that dropping “Euro” for “Paris” would help pacify some of the critics.

When Disney and the Oriental Land Company built the Tokyo Disney Resort, it was decided that English would be the primary language and Japanese would be secondary. At the Disneyland Paris Resort, it's the other way around. All signage and announcements are in French first and English second.

For the most part, all cast members at the Paris Resort are required to speak two languages, French, and one other. However, it's been my experience that most of the on-stage cast members speak at least some English and I've never had a problem communicating my needs.

My first trip to Euro Disneyland was in June, 1993. I decided to wait at least a year after the park's opening before vacationing here. I wanted to make sure that Disney had worked out all of the “bugs” before visiting. I've also learned that theme parks often open additional shops, restaurants, and attractions in the months immediately following their opening. Giving the park a full year of operation before visiting would help maximize my experience.

My vacation started in England and from there I traveled by rail to Paris. Then I caught the RER (Regional Express Railway) to Euro Disneyland.

The RER is a commuter rail system that serves Paris and its suburbs. Line “A4” travels from downtown Paris to a station smack dab in the middle of the Disney Resort (Marne La Vallée station " the last stop on the line) and it only takes about 35 minutes to get there. Keep in mind; this is a “commuter” train. It really isn't designed for tourists to schlep a lot of luggage. I only had one suitcase and a carry-on, but I still received a number of questioning stares from the other passengers.


RER


If you arrive by plane (as I did in September 2005) and want to skip the city of Paris and travel directly to Disney, there are shuttle buses. The VEA Airport Shuttle will pick you up at various terminals at either Orly or the Roissy/Charles de Gaulle airport. The shuttle runs seven days a week and pick-up times vary. The current fare is 17€ for adults and 13€ for children 3 to 11. You can order your tickets online or purchase them directly from your driver. MasterCard and Visa are accepted. Note, this is a private, non-Disney company. For more information, check out this site: http://www.vea.fr/uk/


Getting there


People often ask me for advice when planning a trip to Walt Disney World. When they do, I always tell them to stay “on property” if at all possible. In other words, stay at a Disney owned and operated resort. Besides being totally immersed in the magic, Disney resorts offer perks that non-Disney hotels cannot.

But when people visit France, Paris is probably high on their list of places to experience. So there's the temptation to stay in The City of Lights and just make day trips out to Disneyland " and that's a perfectly fine decision. As I mentioned earlier, it's just a 35 minute trip by train.

But if you were asking me for my advice, I'd tell you to split your visit to Paris into two segments. Spend a portion of your time in Paris, then change hotels and spend several days at the Disney resort. That way, you can enjoy the extra perks Disney offers and not waste over an hour a day commuting. In my opinion, you should spend two full days at Disneyland and one day at the Walt Disney Studios. That would equate to at least two nights, probably three, at a Disney hotel.

In my next blog, I will describe the two budget resorts, the Hotel Cheyenne and the Hotel Santa Fe.

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About Disneyland Paris

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