France 06/15 – Walt Disney Studios Park
As well as being somewhere we really wanted to get a proper taste of, this was a trip of vengeance. Embarassingly I had been before, back in my school days and had sat out on the only rollercoaster open at the time through fear. Most of the rest of the resort was closed for several days due to poor weather and planning (well it was January) and even the ‘educational’ portions of the school trip had to be called off so it was an utter shambles all round. I didn’t like the evening meals, we stayed in the cheapest of the hotels, the coach journey went on for at least 12 hours in either direction and I’m struggling to remember anything positive about the entire thing.
So let’s do it properly this time.
To fix the coach issue, we flew into Paris and took a shuttle bus from there. Other than Charles de Gaulle airport, which even for a novice was a grim place to be, this was a massive improvement.
It was an entertaining bus journey if only for the characters we had around us. Many strange families from weird and wonderful background were obviously extremely excited to find themselves on their way to the park and were displaying this by punching the seats in front of them, making complicated hand signals and exclaiming DISNEYLAND at every opportunity.
To fix the hotel issue, we had a package deal at the New York hotel, with a whole 2 extra stars to it’s name. Not sure where those extra stars went because this wasn’t much better. There were bare live electrical wires protuding from the light fixtures, I managed to break both the hairdryer and the TV (a relic from the 90s) and it generally had a very run down feel about the place.
To fix the weather, it was June. This worked too well and it was too hot – mid 30°Cs and exhausting over the long days.
In we go then.
Walt Disney Studios Park
As this is a two gate resort, having the park hopper tickets is a nice touch, being free to wander between the two at a leisurely pace with no restrictions. The studios is the smaller of the two parks, but it had already expanded quite significantly since the previous visit.
We had been given the advice that due to capacity reasons, this got the largest queues in the studios so headed straight towards it in the morning. Experiences with Dragon’s Fury back home had led me to believe that Maurer Spinning coasters had a lot of potential and I was excited to see what Disney had done with it. Though the theming, particularly in the station, enhanced the ride greatly, it was noticeably lacking in the thrill department.
Time to throw old fears aside and tackle this one head on. I had come a long way in 8 years and had absolutely no apprehensions about a few poxy loops in the dark.
The greater apprehension was produced by having to keep a bag about your person while in the train, sat in the floor of the vehicle and wrapped around a leg.
The on board speakers for the ride were crackling and stuttering as it launched into the first inversion. All I remember from this point onwards was ‘there goes the bag’ and spending the remainder of the layout hoping it was alright.
It’s not a very good attraction these days.
This is though.
Tower of Terror is a remarkable experience from start to finish. It kicks off with the atmosphere in the themed indoor lobby and the creepy acting skills of the staff that guide you around. The preshow room that sets the scene in Twilight Zone fashion is hugely entertaining and the area beyond that houses the elevators is breathtaking to behold.
Every time we came to the batch point for these, the same comedy occurred in which the member of staff would ask for a specific number of guests, the group at the front of the queue would say they were a completely different number of guests and then be waved through regardless.
“I’m looking for a 2.”
“We’re a 6.”
“Come on through!”
The most important part is the ride of course and it’s simply magnificent. With nothing but a simple seatbelt holding you in, bags loose again on the floor, the sheer exhilaration of the elevator movement as it launches from top to bottom and everywhere in between is completely addictive. The lurch in the drops was often strong enough to bring the unguarded bags up to eye level, so you can imagine the kind of impact that has on the riders.
The studio tram tour was one of the few things I had actually done before. It’s a classic attraction, travelling around movie sets and culminating in a scene of impressive special effects.
One of my earliest encounters with the deep philosophical question – is this a cred? It’s powered at the bottom of the dip during each passing of the station, but beyond a certain point at each tail of the U it begins to coast under it’s own momentum. I’ve managed to stretch to a yes, but it’s not very good.
I was much more interested to try the trackless dark ride based on one of my favourite animated films, Ratatouille, but sadly I was a little underwhelmed by this attraction. The movement of the vehicles was clever and refreshing, but it relied quite heavily on screens for the action sequences and things just didn’t seem to flow very well. I didn’t really feel like part of it and because the storyline is already nicely concluded at this point, the new narrative seemed to lack any of the emotion of the movie (or sense) and I didn’t fall for it.
To fix the food issue outside the park, we had lunch at the Earl of Sandwich and it was amazing. After 355 years he really has perfected the art of making them.
Our half board meal tickets ended up taking us to Annette’s diner for our evening eats and this was just pathetic in comparison. I don’t think I’ve ever been more insulted in a restaurant than the moment the ‘main course’ Caeser salad was placed in front of me.
The conclusion was that there is still a very limited selection of attractions in the studios and Tower of Terror was the clear standount – a reason to visit all on its own and the only real reason to stick around for a while. I hope that they manage to integrate even more rides into this area in future to balance it better against the main park, which is where we shall head for the next part.