France 05/23 – Disneyland Paris

A revisit to Disney has been on the cards forever by now, as I had still never completed the creds. It’s been 8 years since I had last visited, which is ridiculous given what’s been done in the interim. Given the distinct lack of other major things to do since our last minute change of plans, this seemed like a suitable opportunity. It also marked the last in the worldwide set for the wife, which was another bonus.

It probably seems like everyone’s worst nightmare to book a visit to Disneyland a mere two days in advance, on a public holiday weekend. As we’ve learnt though, it’s only as hard as you make it. One of the ‘perks’ of the Paris property is that the way their hotels are priced vs. park tickets, we pretty much got a free nights stay out of it, along with the extra park hours that come with being a guest. I do wish a lot of other places around the world used this strategy, it’s always surprising to me how many ‘on-site hotels’ don’t even get you into their respective parks.

They’ve spruced up the Santa Fe accomodation since we last saw it, and it was perfectly serviceable as the lowest of the low options. Somewhere clean to lay your head for 7 hours, with a few Cars on the walls, all you really need. The staff were friendly and early-morning check-in was smooth and efficient, picking up our magic passes, being able to park right outside the room, even dump the luggage inside and take the shuttle bus to the park, all before the 08:30 magic hour for hotel guests began.

Days 3 & 4 – Disneyland Paris


And here it is. It’s been a while.


This is the sort of Disney crowding I can get behind.


First on the to-do list was Space Mountain, or #1 Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain: Rebel Mission as it is now more catchily known. This cred has eluded me since January 2007, not that I would have been brave enough to try it back then. It was closed to, eventually make it worse(?), last time and when it reopened, other actually decent things closed and it was just never that much of a priority. Why?

Because it’s just some old Vekoma looper in fancy dress (and not the only one of those on resort). And the dress isn’t even that fancy any more. It seemed a shame that it ploughs into the launched lift at some pace, only to stop on it instead of keeping that exciting momentum going. Once out of the tube, the new Star Wars overlay is… poor. The new vests restraints were appreciated. It was a thing, that happened in the dark. Went upside down a couple times, including the world’s only ‘tongue’ inversion (tick) that I couldn’t tell you what it is, turned left a lot.

I believe it used to be cool, with the old theme and music, but sadly can’t confirm. +1.

With new experiences already out of the way for this park, I’ve hit that revisit wall again. It’s going to get a bit rambly.

Buzz Lightyear. They have one of those. In fact is this the only ride that’s in every single resort in the world? S’alright.


Star Tours always intrigues me because of the seemingly endless possibilities of sequences. We gave It a couple of goes and had both a pod race on Tatooine and the legendary flight across salty old Crait that I have, for some reason, been obsessing about for many years now. Oh, and that water planet from that film I don’t like. It really has it all. Quite violent in the corner seats too, I hit my head on the rear panel at one point, which made a great noise.


Leaving Discovery Land behind it was time to rekindle with some old favourites. This was, traditionally, my favourite Big Thunder Mountain. It had some work done in the interim, but I’m pleased to report that it remains the best.


It tracks the most vigorously and therefore is the most runaway. The tunnels under the lake are insane and genius. The wildest ride in the wilderness you could say.


I think you can tell by the photos that this was a two-day visit. They’ve done a little something to Phantom Manor too. Notably to me, the pre-show is less obvious about its graphic nature and they changed the mirror scene at the end to feature a creepy ‘will you marry me [creepy laugh]’ from Emily Alton. Please exit the vehicle.

I’ve always thought this one finishes a little strangely, but is otherwise rather incredible. As with its neighbour, it haunts the most vigorously and is therefore the best haunted mansion.


It’s been so long that I’ve forgotten how different this version of Pirates of the Caribbean is, in terms of layout at least. The lift hill sequence is far more intimidating and epic looking and, in general, I’m in love with this ride too, even if Jack Sparrow now has to feature everywhere.


That’s the top 3 on park out of the way, all downhill from here. I didn’t take any other pictures besides the legendary dragon under the best castle, so that sums that up.

Casey Jr. is sweet, Indiana Jones was skipped. Peter Pan is disproportionately short for the queues it gets, therefore Pinocchio and Snow White are better. Small World had just come out of refurb and was looking pretty fresh. Philharmagic is fab. I think that’s about it. Next.

Walt Disney Studios Park


There was one new thing for me over at the other park, famed for once having a lack of things to do. I was there then, it was bad.


Marvel stuff. As one of the more forgiving fans of the MCU these days it seems, this area was a bit something and nothing to me. I guess it’s hard for a theme park, how can you sum up 50 films with a centralised, recognisable location, though it would have been cool to go for something a bit more niche than… this.

It’s a testament to the strength of something like Star Wars land I suppose. Something about that galaxy far, far away just feels so unique and lived in. This looks generic and uninteresting, with very little visual cue to tell you what it actually is.


I deplored Avengers Assemble: Flight Force. I don’t like Rock’n’Rollercoaster at the best of times, but this rode like absolute trash. Left turn, the ride, again, but far worse. I don’t know what was going on inside, just that it wasn’t impressive. The presence of Iron Man bugged me and then something about aliens, and rocks, and Captain Marvel being unnecessarily sassy.


Oh look, Spider-Man. He has a ride too, you know.


This thing is actually new, and not a rehash. The queue was pretty lame for new Disney. Pre-show room was great, loved how much was going on in there, loads of little details. Feels like most of the heart of the attraction went into this.

I can’t think of one redeeming feature about the ride itself. It was bad. Kinda expected better from nu-Ninjago tech but from my experience it created exactly the same issue. I can’t tell what the hell I’m doing. Flailing arms around didn’t seem to produce any precision or meaning. The action on screen is a blurry mess of nonsense that you can’t follow, so it wouldn’t matter if you were accurate anyway. If you’re going for the chaotic approach, I think it’s visually much better suited to something more fantasy and cartoony, which this wasn’t. Dingy warehouses and metal spiders.

They big up that you can do clever, advanced motions, but none of us could make that work, so what’s the point? I didn’t realise it would be just screen, flail, screen, flail, screen, flail end and even that was tiring, while also being disproportionately short of a ride experience for the popularity, again. And it’s not like you’d want to wait that long again to try and get better at it.

We left the area and never looked back.


From the worst Disney dark ride, to the best. God damn scary door. I was getting slightly worked up there while writing and now I’ve got the chills. I already absolutely adored Tower of Terror. They’ve made it even better.

Atmosphere of the queue and lobby is legendary as always and the French seem to have the best staff for this type of experience. One thing I noticed is that getting the pre-show in French is suboptimal, not having THE narrator voice just doesn’t quite hit as right. We ended up with English just the once though, somehow. Perfect.


it took the very first moment of the very first go to realise something was different. It dropped violently downwards immediately, which killed me. Didn’t even know that was possible.
Since that, we looked it up to learn that there are three possible sequences currently. The Malevolent Machine, The Shaft Creatures and The 5th Dimension. They all feature Emily Alton again and just make it that little more creepy and special than it was before. New projections of her floating about in hallways, increased potency of jump scares in both visual and audio effects, each one ending with her skipping off while absent-mindedly humming the twilight zone tune. Little things, big difference.

Oh, and the hardware itself is still second to none. That wonderful drop tower butterfly sensation that I simply don’t get on coasters any more, hits again and again. It’s so playful, yet so vicious. The new sequences seem to toy around with it even more, teasing at the doors not opening sometimes, bouncing around unexpectedly. Extra, bonus motions like shaking, wobbling or juddering as if you’re being attacked.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. This is why I do Disney parks.


Crush’s Coaster isn’t, but we sucked up the queue once as a reminder. Such poor capacity for such a major park, why. Ride itself was slightly better than I remember. Didn’t really recall it having actual scenes, and then it expressed a modicum of vigour in the actual layout, where some of these Maurers can otherwise be surprisingly lacking. Such a varied coaster type.


I remember not being impressed with the Ratatouille ride at all, and that was with very little experience. Considering it’s amongst my absolute favourite Pixar films, I wondered why. Fact is, it’s just not conducive to a ride experience. I enjoy these movies for their emotional beats, not the skidding around a kitchen floor. It’s overly screen heavy, from someone who is usually more forgiving about those things.
It doesn’t use the trackless tech to any real effect, from someone who is very unforgiving about that.
It doesn’t make sense as a story – you start in the kitchen with the short, angry guy and end up in Remy’s own kitchen. Curly hair and his love interest are working in both of them, simultaneously. Nothing happens in between these two locations to change things narratively. Why?


Talking of why, Cars. They’ve made the tram tour about it. It’s fine on the surface, some onboard video screens about driving route 66 and seeing the sights, and then seeing some sights. What doesn’t really work is the catastrophe scene with the fire and the water and the oil tanker falling off a cliff. Without context from a film I’ve never seen, the oil tanker character is enjoying what is essentially a sequence of him dying. And then you laugh and wave and say your goodbyes.

Damn, I wanted to end on a positive note, but having run out of attractions, all we have left is the night time spectacular. They started out with a lite version, using drones and stuff. It was ok.

Then the 30th anniversary, soon to end, whatever it was, simply didn’t pack the punch of the 2015 equivalent. Partially personal preference, the film representation and song choice was just a bit mediocre, with a ridiculous amount of overlap with Philharmagic. The overarching theme was Peter Pan’s shadow for some reason and there’s only so many times you want to hear Be Our Guest, Lion King and the Genie in your day. Hunchback was a curveball, but hey, France I guess. No newer stuff beyond the highlight that was Tangled and, just like Tokyo I imagined most guests left thinking ‘where was Encanto’. I don’t believe there was any appluase, which usually says it all.
It also really missed having a dragon catch on fire.

Tower of Terror though. God damn.

Thus ends our long weekend in France. +9 for the count, including a new top ten in Toutatis and a Chance Toboggan. Didn’t expect either of those things. I’ll take it.

France 05/23 – Parc d’Olhain, Cita-Parc, Loos Parc + Ch’ti Parc
USA 06/23 – ZDT’s Amusement Park

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