Disneyland Paris 2012 Trip Report: Part 5

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This day would be our last full day at Disneyland Paris. If you haven’t read about the previous days, before reading this, you should check out the previous installments, which contain hundreds of photos. The last installment ended up taking the site down several times throughout the day when it was posted, so this report will contain fewer photos (which also means the entire report will not be done this week since there will need to be additional installments). My apologies if you had trouble accessing the last installment. Now, on with the report!

Some famous scientist (probably Al Gore) is credited with once having said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” Hoping to break my streak of overcast mornings with a glorious sunrise, I was once again up early and out, waiting for the fog to break. Of course, it didn’t. Sarah, being much more sane, elected to stay in bed and have me come back and get her when I was done with my exercise in futility.

For us, I have found this is one of the great benefits of staying at a “within walking distance” hotel at any of Disney resort complexes. Sarah is very patient with me, and goes on little sleep when we’re on vacation, but she generally can’t do the 4 hours of sleep a night that I can run on. At night this is no issue–I usually just wander around the hotel where we’re staying and take photos, while she goes back to the hotel and goes to bed. In the morning, it’s more of an issue. If I’m within walking distance of a park, I’ll generally start my day in that park when I’m up and ready and either go back to the hotel to get Sarah when she’s ready, or have her meet me in the park. If we stay at a hotel that isn’t within walking distance, I generally just wait for her. I’m a bit like a dog whining at the door anxiously trying to get outside to chase cars when I have to wait. Sarah really ought to win a Noble Peace Price or a Major Award for putting up with me.

Anyway, I started out the day with breakfast at Inventions by myself (they again accepted my Sequoia breakfast ticket without additional payment), and then headed to the park to wander around. As you can see, there wasn’t even the most remote chance of seeing the sun that morning.

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It was cold and foggy, and the park was practically empty for Extra Magic Hours. This was the one time I had the sense to take photos of the park in the fog. I’m normally pretty averse to a white “overcast” sky, but I think it works here, especially with the saturated pink castle (with is pink for the exact reason that a pink castle pops against a white sky). I only wish I would have gone up to the Train Station for a panorama of all of Main Street in the fog. With how light crowds were, I’m betting I could have gotten an empty park shot if I timed things right.

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Beyond that, I basically just wandered around for a bit and enjoyed the ambiance. As I’ve mentioned, Disneyland Paris truly is an ambiance park that is best enjoyed at a slow pace. Wandering around, absorbing the design and texture of the park is an experience in itself.

As I wandered near Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant, I spotted this Paddy Wagon. This was about the coolest Main Street vehicle ever, and reminded me of the Prohibition/Jazz-Era plan for Main Street at Disneyland Paris that was abandoned. Disneyland Paris’ Main Street is by far my favorite Main Street, but I think an even further departure from the original Disneyland concept of Main Street would be really interested. Can you imagine a Speakeasy on Main Street? How cool would that be?!

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Since we wanted to be at the Walt Disney Studios Park for rope drop to avoid a wait at Crush’s Coaster, I didn’t spend much time in the park before going back to get Sarah. We then headed off to the destination about which you’ve all been waiting to hear…

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Upon seeing Disney’s California Adventure in 2001, Disney Legend John Hench famously remarked that he liked it better as a parking lot, or so the story goes. If John Hench felt that way about Disney’s California Adventure, I can only imagine what he thought about The Walt Disney Studios Park. I don’t know what was there before this park, but it most certainly was better.

I say this not because a landfill, for example, would be more enjoyable than a theme park (although you can find some excellent treasure in landfills), but because the park is sort of a disgrace to the Disney name and brand. With the exception of a few attractions (that could fit next door), Disneyland Resort Paris would be better off if the Studios did not exist. It weakens the overall experience of the resort. It’s not all terrible, but overall, it does make 2001 Disney California Adventure look like a masterpiece. Before visiting the Studios, I thought the terrible reviews I had heard were probably a bit exaggerated, and in reality the park wasn’t great, but just didn’t live up to the lofty expectations of Disneyland Paris. Unfortunately, it was an even worse park than its reputation. Bluntly, it is by far the worst Disney theme park we have visited.

First, let’s start with the good. Well…the exit is pretty easy to find.

Actually, there are a few positives, attractions that are typically well regarded include CineMagique, AniMagique, Tower of Terror, and Crush’s Coaster. Their version of Rock ‘N’ Rollercoaster is arguably superior to the one in Walt Disney World, but it’s not as if the bar is especially high there. It’s still a largely unthemed coaster in the dark. The Earful Tower is also in a more prominent location, which is good. as is the Sorcerer Mickey Fountain at the front of the park. I’ll offer my thoughts on each of these attractions below as we go through our time in the Studios.

As for the bad and the ugly, that’s just about everything else. On even the most fundamental levels, the park fails. Its entrance area beyond the fountain makes Disney California Adventure’s Sunshine Plaza look good, as you enter through a soundstage with some cheaply designed props. The park is a concrete jungle with (to my knowledge), no water, and no sense of organization. There might as well be no lands, because everything is minimally themed, so attractions more or less just exist wherever. After visiting the Studios, I remarked to Sarah that Toad Hall in Disneyland Paris offered more in the way of theme by itself.

Hopefully that sets the stage for the report on the Studios. This is truly a case of “pictures don’t do it justice,” except here, that’s not meant as any sort of praise.

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We spent almost an hour in the park the previous night, so we basically knew where everything was. This really wasn’t a difficult accomplishment. The footprint of the park is small. Our first stop was Crush’s Coaster, about which we had heard some great things. We had actually heard a couple of people describe it as the best attraction at the entire resort.

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Even arriving at rope drop on an off-season weekday, we waited in line about 30-40 minutes for Crush’s Coaster. The outdoor portion of the queue is incredibly bland, although the inside is much better.

Other people must have radically different ideas of what makes a great attraction, but in my opinion, this was far from great. It was essentially a tame coaster through the dark (with a few “scenes” if you want to call them that). As far as the scenes go, I would rate it below the Nemo dark ride at Epcot and far, far below the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland. By itself, the coaster is fun and the swirling effect combined with the smoothness of the track does give the feel that you’re on a current.

Still, the attraction is nothing special in terms of Disney attractions. It’s very light on actual substance, and relies heavily on the track itself. It’s much like a (very) tamed down version of Rock ‘N’ Rollercoaster in this regard. Both are basically just rollercoasters thrown in unthemed “big box” soundstages with minimal theming outside and in. Crush’s Coaster does slightly trump Rock ‘N’ Rollercoaster in terms of substance, but not enough to justify its incredible popularity.

For me, storytelling and immersive experiences are what set Disney apart from other theme and amusement parks. In this regard, Crush’s Coaster is huge letdown. Even as a coaster, it isn’t in any way intense (although I suppose it’s a good kiddie coaster). If I want “raw” coasters, there are any number of parks that do a far better job than Disney. Disney is not a park for coaster junkies–this is not a shortcoming on Disney’s part, as it’s entirely by design. It’s thus always a bit surprising to see long lines for things like Rock ‘N’ Rollercoaster (or in this case, Crush’s Coaster), because I can’t think of any reason other than the “thrills” that people would repeatedly wait so long for these attractions. If thrills are that important, why not visit one of the parks that does them well, instead of Disney?

Not to discourage anyone from doing Crush’s Coaster, but if time is limited and you are thinking of getting a Parkhopper or spending a day at the Studios for this one attraction, I would caution you to rethink that.

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Sarah was hungry, so we walked back into the hideous Studio 1 entrance area to find somewhere to eat. I assume at some point Disney is going to need to do serious “placemaking” if this park is ever to become viable (and the gradual additions suggest that’s the case), and I think it’s absolutely necessary that this enclosed Studio 1 area be replaced with a proper entrance street with dimensionality and actual quality. It’s only necessary to look at how much Buena Vista Street transformed the landscape of Disney California Adventure to see what this could do for the park.

I would go as far as to say that whatever replaces Studio 1 needs to continue to the area behind Partners. I don’t know if this is even feasible due to the proximity of the Tower of Terror and Animation building, but something needs to be done, because right now, this is just visual madness. You can get an idea of this in the photo below. You have Partners with the Hollywood Tower Hotel, some false fronts that are hideous, and the Sorcerer Mickey hat that marks the Animation building. It’s probably not even possible to make this area visually cohesive, but replacing those ugly false front buildings with something that looks a bit higher quality and transitions the areas would be a good idea. Right now, after you exit Studio 1 and enter the rest of the park, you’re literally greeted with this.

On the plus side, at least it sets expectations right where they should be…

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While Sarah ate, I headed over to Rock ‘N’ Rollercoaster to do that. She can’t stomach this attraction, so it seemed like the best thing to do while she was eating.

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Rock ‘N’ Rollercoaster was actually quite a bit different at this Studios than at the US Studios. Storywise, the idea is that you “ride the music” in this design that Aerosmith has conceived as an extension of their music. Due to Disney’s family friendly nature, I’m assuming the portion of the recording where Steven Tyler added, “…just like we experienced our music in the 1970s, except without the LSD!” The concept was sort of bizarre, but whatever.

As far as the track goes, it seemed like there was less substance in the Paris version, however, the lighting was substantially better. There were searchlights all over the place, which was actually pretty neat. Ultimately, I’ll call it a draw between the two versions. The US premise is better, but the searchlights in the Paris version make up for most other shortcomings. Still, far from my favorite attraction.

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When I got back, Sarah was just finishing her food, so I headed out front for another shot of the Sorcerer Mickey fountain. All knocks on the park aside, this was one seriously pretty fountain.

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AniMagique was starting soon, so we headed over to that soundstage to see it. As we sat and waited, I decided to consult the Times Guide and plan out the rest of our day so we didn’t spend too much time in the park. Given that we really only wanted to see a couple other shows, this was important so we didn’t have long, empty time gaps between the shows.

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AniMagique was awesome. The plot is similar to PhilharMagic. Donald steals something (in this case, a key) from Mickey, and journeys into Disney animated classics (in this case, through a vault). The theme song was really catchy and the show itself was uniquely done in blacklight and was very engaging.

For both of us, AniMagique was the highlight of the Studios. It was incredibly well done from start to finish, and the use of blacklight was a great way to add an other-worldly quality. It really fit the Fantasia portions well. We both give very high marks to this attraction.

Our next stops were CineMagique and Stitch Live, but we had some time before those started, so we thought we’d do Tower of Terror, which didn’t have much of a wait.

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From what I could tell, Tower of Terror was identical to the version at Disney California Adventure.

It was then time for CineMagique, which was the attraction we were most anticipating. Not only had many people told us that it was great, but that it was better than AniMagique. If that was true, we were in for a real treat!

We walked up to the building, only to have a Cast Member tell us that it was closed for the day for refurbishment. I have no clue why it was closed, but I saw no mention on any Times Guide of this, so I can only assume it was an unannounced closure. Attractions unexpectedly go down in the US due to technical difficulties, but from what I could tell, this seemed like an actual 1-day refurbishment. (We also noticed a lot of restaurants “randomly” closed some days while we were there.)

The park wasn’t doing much for us and we weren’t about to kill time there waiting for the next showing of Stitch Live, so we just decided to leave. We could have tried going back the next morning for CineMagique, but we didn’t. We’ll give the park another try once the Ratatouille dark ride opens and some additional placemaking is done, but as it stands, I doubt that I’d commit the time and money to going back to that park as it currently exists. AniMagique was great and CineMagique sounds great, but visiting a park for two attractions? Not worth it to us.

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On the plus side, the sky had cleared up and the sun was peaking out from behind the clouds right as we left. This was only our second look at a blue skies on the trip, so I ran around like a madman getting photos.

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The sky was only nice like this for about 30 minutes before the clouds started to blanket the sky. Since I had photographed the Castle against a blue sky during the first “blue sky experience,” I probably should have focused on another part of the park, but that Castle is just too much to resist!

After it was again fully overcast, we decided to have some fun. Obviously, this entailed donning Stitch paws and a Sorcerer hat for some photo fun.

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From there, we decided it was time for some treats. After subjecting ourselves to the Walt Disney Studios Park, we felt we had earned it.

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In fact, we felt we had pulled through so much that we deserved both crepes from Gibson Girl and a tart to split from Cable Car Bake Shop. All of this was excellent. Disneyland Paris does desserts well.

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We sat in a booth at the Cable Car Bake Shop and enjoyed our surroundings. I’ve mentioned this before, but in case you skip over my jibber jabber, if you ever visit Disneyland Paris, make sure to stop at Cable Car Bake Shop. The theme and design are excellent. If I were a local, I would come here and just sit around on the weekend.

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We’ll pick up from here with the next installment. As always, thanks for reading! If you’re enjoying our Disneyland Paris trip report, we would be most appreciative if you’d share it with your friends or on your favorite social media network. We really appreciate your help in making these reports popular, as we absolutely love sharing our photos and experiences with everyone!

Your Thoughts…

Think we were too harsh on the Walt Disney Studios Park, or was our assessment fair? Share your thoughts on this, any questions you might have, or just say “hello” in the comments! We read and appreciate all of your comments!


24 Responses to “Disneyland Paris 2012 Trip Report: Part 5”
  1. Sariah April 10, 2014
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