Europe 08/21 – Parc Ange Michel, L’Île aux Géants + Futuroscope
You know what time it is. It’s Ange Michel time.
Day 4 – Parc Ange Michel
By sacrificing another, less interesting park (and that’s saying something) we finally had the time to lay this demon to rest. It was only a mere 6 hour detour, but time needed to be killed anyway for the benefit of what was to come later in the day.
After parking in a field we ended up at #1 Tourbillon, the Gosetto spinner first. They’re a rare breed, only 7 in the world and are worryingly similar to those SBF spinners – as if we didn’t have enough of those already. The ride was only notable for being so tame that butterflies would try and land on it, mid cycle.
At the top of the hill was the next chapter in the Soquet saga, #2 Tacot en Folie. Sadly it’s probably the weakest one yet and doesn’t do much of anything at all. A rare lapse in character. ‘I think this one just goes round, bro.’
Feeling a little deflated after all the extra effort we jumped on a small drop/bounce tower to try and justify the journey a little more. It was insane – violent, terrifying ejection at the top of each upwards burst, it knew exactly what it was doing. Apparently it used to have fire effects, would have loved to have seen that.
Right down the bottom of the park is #3 Tornado, a spinning wild mouse. One that I won’t get sick of the sight of because I’m particularly fond of that car design. Can’t go wrong with brightly coloured tornados with faces.
So there we have it, park complete. Now let us never speak of it again.
L’Île aux Géants
Next up was an obscure little setup at the side of a main road, just a few minutes away from Futuroscope, obviously capitalising on some passing trade. Conveniently the adult ticket price is cheaper than the child ticket price, but let’s not let that reflect on the quality of the attractions.
A handy sign is located just past the entrance which shows all the half hour time slots in which each ride operates. The two coasters are located next to each other and run alternately and with 8 minutes to spare between changeover we had timed it just right.
The officially endorsed #4 Avengers Rollercoaster (or is it yet another Grand Huit?) was first, another Zyklon Galaxi, painted in a colour synonymous with the franchise. I believe we got the Spiderman car.
Conveniently there were two plastic chairs parked up directly in front of #5 Brocomela, so in a display of childrens’ coaster confidence, we parked ourselves right on those and waited for it to open.
Not sure I’ve ever done two pink coasters back to back before.
Elated from that success it was time to pop down the road to something a little more significant. I’ve known the name Futuroscope for at least half of my life. It’s one of the most visited places in Europe and I believe it was even a potential school trip destination back in the day but it ain’t no Disney – where are the (closed) rollercoasters?
Of course recently they’ve gone and solved that problem for us fussy people by building one and though I didn’t follow it too closely, it sounded pretty special. Because it was already a well established destination a full day ticket is a little on the pricey side, but if you choose a day with late opening, there are ridiculously cheap options to come in after 5pm, which is what we opted for.
Major faff was happening on the way in, even though more guests seemed to be leaving the park than entering at this point. There was a separate checking area for scanning vaccine codes and providing guests with white wristbands to prove status, but with just one group in front of us it took an extraordinary amount of time to purchase tickets and get in.
But we were in, and headed straight to the back of the park for the new for 2020 coaster. First impressions, the park does fit its own name rather nicely. There’s a lot of weird, I guess futuristic, stuff, around and then little touches like the queue times being stated to the exact minute only add to that.
#6 Objectif Mars was on something like 38, which seemed reasonable, and so the queueline experience began. It looks like it can hold about a million people in the outside cattlepen area of concrete and signs, but we progressed fairly quickly to the indoor section which starts with these posters and holograms. I was getting a bit of a Merlin vibe at this point, not sure if that’s a good thing.
Next are the anti-gravity rooms, trippy.
Followed by a green screen room where you can see yourself standing in a Martian base.
Eventually you climb some stairs past a screen with ‘space flight times’ and come out in the top floor of the station, before heading down and being batched onto the ride. The trains look rather funky with their only-forwards-facing spinning cars, the intention of which is primarily to give everyone the best views of all the show elements of the ride.
It all begins in rather joyous fashion, heading out of the station and twirling, twirling towards freedom. The point of the ride is that you’re testing all the protocols of a flight to Mars as opposed to actually going there, so first up is the environmental stuff. You get a room full of fire. Fire is good. A room full of tesla coils. Sweet.
A surprise fun moment has the track suddenly bank to 45 degrees and the train parks itself with all the cars pointing to the left, riders facing upwards. Some screens simulate a launch sequence, but then the immersion breaks a bit as you trundle outside in to concrete and white walls to stop on an actual launch track.
From here on out it’s largely underwhelming as a rollercoaster, sadly. A mild launch into a hill and 2 corners round the plaza, not much spinning going on. Then comes a second rolling launch that feels largely unjustified given so little has just happened, leading to another hill and 2 corners. All style and no substance.
Lastly it gets good again, entering a shed for the gravity test, which is a powerful drop track moment of which I’m always a fan of. What I’m not so keen on is when rides end on them, it feels like a bit of a come down if there’s nothing left of the experience afterwards, but I guess with a layout that insignificant it was a logical step.
A mixed bag then, I appreciate the flashy innovation side of it, just not the coaster itself.
Construction, get excited.
But this place is mainly about the dark rides, so let’s try some of those. Arthur L’Aventure, a 4D simulator lives just round the corner. Yes, that very same Arthur from Europa Park. Why does he get so many rides out of a film that doesn’t feel at all popular?
Wasn’t a fan of the queue in here, we were at the very front of a pack for the downstairs batching point before getting into a lift. The pack followed in behind us and then of course ended up in front of us in the upstairs queue, resulting in just us missing out on the next 10-15 minute slot, left to stand in a room featuring obnoxious ‘making of’ documentaries about said film. “It rained on set once, hahaha, good times…”
The next waiting area featured an amusing little instructional animation of a large stick man slithering all the way to the end of a long row of cinema seating that kept us entertained for the next 10-15 minutes.
Thankfully the ride itself was totally worth it. An overly violent simulator vehicle with hair ticklers and all sorts that made for a very chaotic and fast paced experience that was unintentionally hilarious. Better than powered coaster Arthur for sure.
Decided to hop on the observation tower before it got dark, so here’s some more striking architecture and an overview of the coaster.
The remaining three attractions of particular interest were all located at the other end of the park and after assessing the queue times we opted for the one with 0 minutes. An encouraging indication of quality?
Well it should have been, because Vienne Dynamique is secretly amazing, was by far the best thing in the park for me, and one of the standout moments of the whole trip.
But all of that is very conditional. It is to be enjoyed in complete ignorance, sparingly, in the right frame of mind, with the right company and with a particular sense of humour.
There’s an unremarkable ‘preshow’ in which you all sit in a huge theatre that shows adverts for the park on a screen in the middle of some gushing water, with no context. We were half thinking ‘is this the ride?’ at this point and wondering whether I’d done my research wrong. Doors eventually open to the left of the cinema and everyone files out, while being shouted at to now only fill the front 7 rows for some reason.
Apparently Intamin of all people made these weird two-person simulator seats that feel unnerving to strap yourself into. From what I’ve read I’m expecting some boring film about rivers and to gently list from side to side in a 1990s equivalent of a flying theatre.
The actual film is like no other film you’d ever expect to see at a theme park. Just the fact that it’s live action and not animated was a bit of a shock to the system. Again this is entirely subjective and, like Arthur, was 100% benefiting from being unintentionally hilarious. Side splittingly, can’t breathingly, tears streamingly funny, to me. It was far too much to handle and I can’t really explain it, but I’ll try. I’ll also spoiler it because I think it’s going to go on a while and maybe, just maybe, you’ll need the surprise yourself.
SpoilerWe begin with a French man lying uncomfortably, dead to the world, in the sleeper car of a train. A slow pan and zoom shot, no context. It’s like an independent film from the appropriate decade for the ride system, have they pushed the right button? He wakes up groggily, stumbles out of bed and then panics, eventually staggering out into the corridor to ask a man what time is it, where are they, what’s the next stop? Etc. I don’t pick up enough of the French to know what exactly it is that he’s late for but he’s shouting at this man for information, who’s a bit of a caricature himself, standing there in a doorway with a moustache, slowly eating peanuts out of a packet, bemused. Our hero heads to the end of the carriage and to the train door, not a single movement from our seats yet by the way, and opens it. He sticks his head out, loses balance for a second and it cuts to a low outdoor shot of him flailing as the train hurtles along, wind and trees rushing past. The simulator suddenly kicks in for the briefest of moments, we feel this with him. The comedic timing is unreal. What is this ride? It cuts back inside, where without warning he pulls the emergency brake for the train and then hurls himself out of the door, tucking and rolling down a grass slope and into some trees. A slow burn moment, he picks himself up. Is his life ruined? Why so serious? What was he late for? He stumbles around again in the forest, with nothing but the night clothes on his back, screams aloud in rage and anguish and punches a nearby tree in despair. A pause. The tree begins to magically transform. Eventually a small, old, gnarled tree character is formed, who then instantly looks at the camera and sneezes into it. Water in the face. Our man stumbles back in shock through the leaves and twigs, falling over backwards in a heap in the process. My sides are starting to hurt. The tree comes up to him and jabbers on about stuff for a while, with an incredible voice, then presents him with a nasty looking mushroom. The man is given the power to fly and, without hesitation, the ride suddenly turns into a flying theatre, soaring over French towns and landscapes. Again, what is this? A cut. The tree character is now driving a golf cart and naming random sports with no context. Our man suddenly lands on the roof of the cart, tumbling to the floor. No more powers? Poof. He’s in a formula 1 car. He screams aloud ‘NOOOOO!’ in terror and realisation, but too late, a scene change and we’re off. A simulated POV lap of a racing circuit, cars careering off around us, he’s doing quite well. He wins the lap! He then heads straight for a wall of tyres with no sign of stopping. Oh no, oh no, how are the seats going to respond to this? Poof. We’re still in the formula 1 car, but now we’re screaming up cobblestones in old French villages, with everyone having to get out of the way in terror, cars honking, bicycles swerving, this is dangerousss-straight into another wall. I’m so distracted by the story and the visuals at this point that I’ve forgotten what the seats are even doing. Poof. More villages, more chaos, eventually he finds a way to slow down. We’re parked at an angle on the cobblestones of a narrow street. A man in a stripy jumper who couldn’t look more out of place is rollerskating towards us. He sees us. He tries to react. He very slowly, clumsily, hilariously, comes to a stop and falls over in front of us. Poof. A town square, we drive up to an old woman on a bench who gives us a telling off. Cut to our man sitting in his racing car in embarrassment. Poof. It’s gone, he’s sitting on the cobblestones. An aerial shot of him getting up and sprinting into the church across the road. Ohhhhhh. He was late for his wedding! Wedding begins. All is well. Hang on a minute. No. A veil reveal. The bride is the tree. Looks at the camera. Sneezes into it. End.
The greatest ride of a generation, what can I say? It’s that or a complete waste of time depending on what you find funny in life. All I know is I haven’t laughed that hard, for that long, in a very long time.
Well the day could end there, but there’s something about rabbits just opposite. La Machine à Voyager dans le Temps, a dark ride themed to Ubisoft’s Raving Rabbids with an interactive queueline. It has Lost Gravity’s vibrating floor, a trick secret entrance with sound effects. Deformed railings, humourous artwork, the lot. Bit of a pain of a cattlepen though.
Indoors there’s a ton more attention to detail with altered paintings, artifacts, a real universe builder. The rabbids have made a time machine out of a washing machine and we’re going to observe them on their adventure.
The dark ride vehicles are side on benches, intricately decorated so that guests are in fact sitting on toilet seats. They travel sideways to each room in turn, in a giant circle, with each physical set being accompanied by some on screen action. Each scene throughout the ages contains a combination of the seating slowly rising and then suddenly dropping when something happens, or vibrating vigorously, whichever suits.
The humour is a little on the crude side for my tastes, what with these and Minions and all, there’s too much of this characterless hordes of lookalikes causing random childish chaos out there. I’m all about the subtleties of sneezing trees and people falling over, but I have to admit that it’s an impressive and well done attraction.
Last up was the actual flying theatre, L’Extraordinaire Voyage, and it was one hell of an emotional rollercoaster. After not being without its issues, the park was strongly beginning to warm to me again given the quality of certain attractions. The sheltered outdoor queue for this ride had various Jules Verne trinkets and stories scattered about for intrigue.
You then get batched into this gorgeous looking atrium, with all the walls decorated in different styles that represent a wealth of difference Jules Verne novels, along with a flight departure board that lists all the classics we know from well known attractions.
So, you know, I actually got rather excited for this one. After the recent Sky Lion revelation that fantasy flying theatres are a cut above the sightseeing ones, here I was thinking that this ride would be the former, flying through all these different worlds, a cut above the rest, as heavily implied by the queueline.
The first preshow begins, with some obnoxious pilot giving us a rundown. “Today we’re going to be doing… around the world in 80 days.”
Oh. It’s one of those then.
He waffles on for another 10 minutes while I lose complete interest in the setup and we’re batched into another room with screens on the walls. Here we get a visually simulated ‘shuttle journey’ to our actual craft. You know, like one of the many boring/unpleasant parts of being in an airport.
Then we’re batched into a corridor for another safety briefing on small screens where I’m losing the will to live. This attraction has lost ALL momentum from that first room, and for what?
We finally board the vehicles, standard fare, seatbelt through the hoop in the middle. A 5 minute ordeal of someone over the PA shouting random letters and numbers in an unthemed cinema room of who hasn’t got their seatbelt on yet, while I’m just in hysterics at this point at how poorly paced this ‘themed experience’ is.
Film begins. Yawn. Film ends. What a waste of potential. Poor Jules Verne.
Luckily there was still time for one more go on Objectif Mars before both ride closures and the start of the second showing of the night time special.
The queue had died down quite a bit by this point and we were soon on. While sitting in the train, lap bar down, one of the ride hosts appeared alongside us and made the simple statement ‘that’s not a mask’ to my face, with no further instruction. Well this is awkward, here I am, strapped in, what would you like me to do about it? Nothing. Dispatch.
Looks like I’ll be wearing blues for the rest of France then.
Again I’m not at all bothered by the concept, just that it occurs at 10pm one night, in a park where you’ve gone through so many other checkpoints to be where you are now i.e. the one at the main entrance when you’re having your vaccination status approved and displayed. Surely that would be the point at which a member of staff could politely ask ‘have you got X type of mask instead of Y type of mask with you, for your visit today?’, rather than randomly being accosted by a singular ride host halfway through your umpteenth attraction who, on looks alone, seems to think your piece of material is less effective than another piece of material, regardless of how well it’s being worn, particularly when half the other guests (in the same train) don’t even have them over their noses.
Anyway, I’m letting all that nonsense interrupt a good trip report, just like it interrupts a good day out. It was the same ride, just dark outside. S’alright.
Having spent the entirety of the visit either queuing for, or being on rides, we had missed the opportunity to grab some food on park. Now having half an hour to spare until the night time show started, sadly most of the options had been closed and depleted, so we ended up with the staple cheese and ham baguette and opted to stand at the barriers just above the stadium seating area for the show, rather than joining the masses.
I liked it. I didn’t understand it, but I liked it. There’s an actor with some sciencey DJ set who gets sucked into a portal to meet a wizard and a big evil furry creature. Their disputes are settled through the medium of song (the bad guy gets a rather epic rap track) and are displayed through fountains, water projections, fire and fireworks. All that jazz.
I don’t know what to think of Futuroscope. It wasn’t at all what I expected in both good and bad ways. There’s a fair amount of quality in there, but the ‘better’ attractions are probably the worse ones and vice versa. It definitely feels like a place you need to experience in good company and spirits (well, moreso than just any old theme park). I get the sense that a solo visit would have been a complete drag.
A drag just like this report, which has gone on far too long now.