Thanks for joining us for the final installment of the Disneyland Paris 2012 trip report! Before we get started, if you’re just joining us and have a few hours to kill, you might want to read the previous installments. If you don’t care about the text and just want to see the photo highlights from the trip, I’ve fully updated my Disneyland Paris photo gallery. It has several shots that didn’t find their way into this trip report, so definitely check it out regardless of whether you’ve read the report.
Despite sharing dozens of photos from Disney Dreams!, I haven’t yet shared my opinion of the show. It rocked. As far as nighttime castle shows go, it is my new second-favorite, coming in second to only the “Remember… Dreams Come True” fireworks at Disneyland. It’s tough to top “Remember…” because it’s actually tied to attractions rather than films (and I’m a Disney theme park fan first and foremost) and because of the creative way some of the bursts are tied to the soundtrack. Objectively, Disney Dreams is probably “better.”
I made the mistake of watching a video of Disney Dreams the night it premiered, as it was supposed to be a show with a limited run, and I assumed we wouldn’t get to Disneyland Paris anytime soon. So I sort of knew what to expect going into the show–although it has elements of World of Color, fireworks, and the Cinderella Castle shows previously at Walt Disney World, so I doubt it would have really “wowed” me if I were seeing it with fresh eyes. Plus, I pretty much forgot the plot between seeing the video and seeing it in person.
The plot is fairly forgettable. Even as I write this now, I am having to look it up on Wikipedia (a veritable source of information for all trip reports!) to make sure I’m not missing anything. Basically, Peter Pan’s shadow gets away from him and finds its way into montage clips from various other Disney animated films. The plot is a bit flimsy, but I personally appreciated that the effort was made to tie the show together with this thread, even though it is on the weak side. One of my biggest disappointments about World of Color is that it’s just montages without anything to connect them. Once Peter Pan gets his shadow back, the Second Star to the Right (the star at the top of Disneyland Paris’ Castle) has its magic back, and starts shooting out lasers at guests. Or just projecting them towards the ground.
Another thing I really appreciated was the appearances by the less-common (for these montage shows and attractions) films like Hunchback of Notre Dame and Ratatouille. These two were likely included for obvious reasons, but it was still a nice change of pace from what you’d expect to see.
The music numbers were all top notch and the projections were stunning. The way Sleeping Beauty Castle was used as a canvas worked really well, and the various scenes really played up the dimensions of that canvas well. The other elements such as the fireworks, fountains, and lasers all worked together wonderfully to bring the show to life, really making it an engaging multi-faceted visual experience instead of just fireworks. While I love grand fireworks above Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World, fireworks alone don’t do a whole lot for me. Fireworks with a great soundtrack are a totally different story, but for me it’s usually more about the soundtrack than it is the bursts. In this regard, I view shows like Disney Dreams as the natural evolution of the Disney nighttime spectacular.
Something tells me I might be sort of alone in this sentiment. The new Walt Disney World castle projection show, Celebrate the Magic, seems to have received a relatively tepid response and not much buzz from fans, yet it’s basically “Disney Dreams-lite.” If you don’t like that show, chances are that you won’t like Disney Dreams. Even though Disney Dreams is a significant improvement on Celebrate the Magic, it is similar from the perspective of technology and storytelling means utilized. Personally, I love Celebrate the Magic. I’d actually consider it superior to the New Fantasyland attractions that opened in 2012!
To me, comparatively speaking, fireworks are just very one dimensional. There are now these great means of having a nighttime spectacular that can be just as grandiose as fireworks, but that are unique to Disney and have better emotional means of telling the story. Now, I still love fireworks that shake the ground just as much as the next guy, I just think that anyone with enough money can put on an excellent fireworks show (I saw a far superior show in Kentucky called “Thunder Over Louisville,” and I’m pretty sure Kentucky doesn’t even have electricity or the internal combustion engine–hence the fixation on horseracing–yet), but it takes real creative vision to execute a show like Disney Dreams that juggles so many balls at the same time.
In other words, two thumbs up for Disney Dreams!
Moving on…and there wasn’t really much more to that night! I really don’t know why I didn’t include the rest of this night with the last trip report. Oh well.
The next morning, I decided not to wake up so early on the off chance there was a sunrise. By “decided,” I mean that my body gave out on me and I didn’t wake up before the sunrise. When I did wake up, I opened the window (almost out of habit by this point as it seemed a sunrise was unlikely), and saw a GLORIOUS sunrise taking shape out the window. I hadn’t showered or in any way gotten ready, but I grabbed my camera bag and ran from our room to Disneyland to try to capture some good photos. Wearing my sweatpants and with chaotic hair, I probably looked a bit like Nick Nolte after a night on the town. It’s also probably a good thing that I sleep in sweatpants instead of in the nude…or there might be a shot of me similar to Nolte’s!
Luckily, I pride myself in my ability to run around theme parks (as you’ll read in our Tokyo report!), so I was able to make the journey in no time–stopping only a couple of times for photos as “proof” just in case the sunrise disappeared.
After doing all of that running, I arrived at the Disneyland Paris only to find that, in fact, the sunrise had disappeared behind the clouds. I would have been difficult to capture anyway, but I was still incredibly bummed that I had missed out on some prime photo time. I vowed right then to never again sleep while on vacation!
Since I’m fairly sure I smelled worse than Nick Nolte, I decided to head back and shower. I quickly got ready and headed out to a completely overcast sky. I had about a 30 minute head start on Sarah, so I decided to spend the time wandering Main Street, grabbing some photos of the details. Here are some of those:
Phantom Manor time following that. For those keeping score at home, I believe this was like the 35th time we did this attraction on the trip. So, yeah, you could probably do Disneyland Paris in fewer days than we did if you didn’t “need” to see Phantom Manor 35 times. But really, can anyone quantify how many times they need to see Phantom Manor? It’s best to just play it on the safe side and do it 35 times per trip.
Then, back to see the Dragon. Seeing him was probably the attraction we did second most on the trip. Basically any trip past the Castle necessitated a visit into his lair to make sure he was still chained down. Europe, you’re welcome for acting as your dragon patrol!
Our next stop was going to be ‘it’s a small world,’ but on the way there, we saw that Pizzeria Bella Notte was open for lunch. It hadn’t been opened at least one other day of our trip, so I wanted to stop inside for some photos. Just like so many of the counter service restaurants at Disneyland Paris, the inside was gorgeous. The menu didn’t look half bad, so we decided to eat there. At only 14 Euro for a complete meal, it wasn’t a huge risk if we didn’t like the place.
We were pleasantly surprised by the meal! Not only were the portions large, but the food was actually good! It was like Pizza Planet, except with better Pizza. Given our Pizza Planet Review, I know this may not seem like glowing praise, but trust me, we were excited to have another good meal. Although it would be our last meal at Disneyland Paris, it gave us hope. On future visits, we’ll probably do less Earl of Sandwich and more in-park counter service dining. Earl is still the #1 restaurant of the Disneyland Paris leg of the trip, but I’d rather do a unique C+ restaurant than an B/B- restaurant that we have in the US.
The best thing about the meal was definitely the Tiramisu, which was shockingly good for a counter service restaurant…but still disappointing when compared to the rest of France. Ironic, because we found that snacks and desserts (including French desserts) at Tokyo Disney Resort were AMAZING, but desserts in the rest of Japan were not. Maybe Disneyland Paris should bring in a chef from Tokyo Disney Resort to help improve its French desserts (that…or one from 20 minutes down the road).
As a baseline, I’d say the dessert was about as good as something from Sunshine Seasons. Since this is our favorite Walt Disney World counter service restaurant, I’d consider that fairly high praise. Overall, when you throw ambiance and everything into the mix, I’d give Pizzeria Bella Notte a solid 8/10.
After this, it was back to ‘it’s a small world’ before doing some wandering for our final hour or so in the park.
I really like the photo above. It’s different from my norm, but I think it’s fairly creative. Part of the reason why I like it may be because I spent a lot of time manually focusing to get the shot right–all as people inside the window gave me odd looks, likely assuming I was taking photos of them eating–so I may feel “obligated” to like it given the trouble!
If we wandered long enough, we’d pretty much always find ourselves boarding Phanton Manor! This marked approximately our 78th time doing the ride…
This next series of photos is sort of out of order, but I’m including them here now for lack of a better location. Since I posted my Sony RX-100 review, which promised sample Disney theme park photos at some point in the future, I’ve received numerous questions regarding how I like using it in the park. Since that review is now almost a year old, and the camera has been on numerous trips, I figured it might be time to address that.
The photos between the next two chunks of text were all taken with the RX-100. I chose these photos because they all demonstrate the capabilities of the RX-100 in the situation that is normally the most difficult for a point and shoot: dark rides/the dark. They were also all shot by Sarah in Aperture-Priority mode at f/1.8. (Sarah isn’t keen on manual settings, so the significance of this is that these are the type of results that can be expected without much in the way of adjusting settings.)
Overall, I really like the RX-100. I rarely am the one who uses it (except for food photos) but I am constantly impressed by the photos Sarah captures with it using semi-automatic settings. A lot of people say that gear doesn’t make a difference, and that it’s all about knowledge, but I don’t agree with this. I do agree with the underlying mentality that gear doesn’t make a good photo (whenever writes “nice photo, you must have a great camera” in response to my photos, I have to fight back the urge to respond, “nice writing, you must have a great keyboard!”), but there are some situations where good photos are impossible to capture without the right gear.
Dark rides and the dark in general are one such situation. Without a fast lens and good high ISO capabilities, good dark ride photos are impossible, no matter how talented the photography. To a lesser extent, night photos are the same way. Without a tripod and/or solid ISO performance, night photos will just look bad.
When it comes to both of these things, I have never used a point and shoot camera that performs as well as the Sony RX-100, and for that reason, I highly recommend it to anyone who doesn’t want to carry around a DSLR. It provides near-DSLR quality and will allow you to capture photos you simply can’t with a lesser point and shoot. It’s no substitute for knowledge of photography or a creative eye, but as far as point and shoot tech goes, it’s second to none.
With that said, it costs $650 and I can’t recall the last time I saw a sale on it (although Amazon now does have a bundle for $648 that includes some decent accessories for “free”). I assume Sony has a pricing policy (a la Apple) regarding the camera, and $650 for a point and shoot is EXPENSIVE.
To put that number in perspective, it’s more expensive than an entry level DSLR and a couple of basic lenses, which together would all enable you to capture better photos than you can with the RX-100. Of course, the DSLR can’t fit in your pocket, which is really what you’re paying for with the RX-100. So, while I still highly recommend the Sony RX-100 after using it and seeing its results for almost a year, that recommendation only goes for people who really want a camera that can fit in their pocket.
Then, the greatest moment of our trip occurred: I bought the cowboy hat with Goofy riding it. Those who follow our fun might know that I’m a novelty hat enthusiast. I often wear ridiculous Disney hats to the parks, and although I wouldn’t go as so far as to say I have a reputation for it (it might sound cool at first, but “the creep who wears the crazy hats” probably isn’t the best nickname), it’s something I’ve been known to do.
I really liked this hat because I had seen tons of adult guests wearing it (which alone made me crack up–definitely didn’t fit the French stereotype), but had never seen it outside the parks. I figured I would save it for a future trip, and unleash it on the world then. Unfortunately, my bag to Japan didn’t have enough room, but I’ll eventually find an appropriate time to wear it. Perhaps a vow renewal outside the American Adventure in Epcot? Sounds pretty perfect to me!
Our final attraction of the trip would be Le Passage Enchanté d’Aladdin, as we had noticed on the way out that we somehow hadn’t done it. I’m glad we spotted it at the last minute, because it as a great little diversion. A lot like the Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-through at Disneyland (well, except this was Aladdin).
We headed to the Emporium from there, and bought some gifts for family.
And then…SARAH GOT ARRESTED! Much like a mediocre blockbuster movie (well, except in the important ways…such as insane profitability), we are throwing in a last minute twist at the end to open the door for a sequel! Will Tom travel back to Paris with hilarious hi-jinks along the way? Will Sarah meet a band of lovable misfits in jail and work with them to escape…with hilarious hi-jinks along the way? Will Yossarian the Cat and Walter E. Dogsney star in the ultimate buddy/talking animal flick as they infiltrate the force and try to save their mom…with hilarious hi-jinks along the way? Guess you’ll have to wait for the sequel to find out! 😉
I guess the question worth answering at the end of this is whether it’s worth your time to visit Disneyland Paris if you’re a Walt Disney World or Disneyland visitor living in the United States?
Without knowing anyone’s personal circumstances, I’m going to answer “yes, in most cases.” We most frequently get questions of this nature from people who visit Walt Disney World once per year and ask if it’s worth skipping a Walt Disney World trip and taking the time to visit another place. From the perspective of time (and not money), there’s not doubt that it is. It’s not the parks that really seal the deal on that answer, but the rest of what’s out there in Europe. France is a beautiful country, and I’d hazard a guess that most people visiting Disneyland Paris will at least spend some time in Paris (and possibly other parts of France). You could spend an entire year in France and not run out of amazing things to see and do, but I think if this is likely to be your one visit to Europe in your life, taking the time to visit Disneyland Paris, Paris, and another country in Europe would be a good idea.
If it’s a matter of money, the question is more difficult for me to answer. The parks alone probably aren’t worth saving for a few years (skipping other vacations along the way) to do, but again, a trip to Europe is worth doing once in life. With that said, if you’re eyeing Disneyland Paris/Europe for a once in a lifetime international trip, I’d suggest looking to Tokyo Disney Resort/Japan instead. That’s especially true if your primary concern is the parks, as the ones in Tokyo are the best in the world (although I’d also give the nod to Japan over Europe, in general, but that’s a personal preference). If you plan on doing both Tokyo Disney Resort and Disneyland Resort Paris, do Paris first. After Tokyo, it’s difficult to see the other parks the same way.
The question that a few of you have asked is how I’d rank the parks. We have yet to visit Hong Kong Disneyland, so with that in mind, my rankings are:
- Tokyo DisneySea
- Tokyo Disneyland
- Disneyland Paris
- Disney California Adventure
- Magic Kingdom
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- Typhoon Lagoon (water park)
- Blizzard Beach (water park)
- Walt Disney Studios Park
The tough ones here are really 5-9. It’s sort of difficult to put Disney California Adventure above my favorite parks as a child (Magic Kingdom and Epcot), but I’m giving DCA the slight edge for an upward trajectory, whereas the Magic Kingdom and Epcot were both better–in my opinion–in the mid-1990s. Animal Kingdom is a park I’ve come to appreciate more and more, and with a little maintenance and a couple of attractions, it could be the #1 Walt Disney World park.
With regard to the parks that matter for this report, I’m confident in my ranking of Disneyland Paris and The Walt Disney Studios Park. The former scores a lot of points for its ornate and beautiful details, and is to me a place you can get lost exploring. As I’ve stated throughout this report, if you’re the type who just bounces from attraction to attraction, I doubt you’ll get the same enjoyment out of Disneyland Paris. It loses some of these points for substandard maintenance (although I’m told it has improved substantially in the last couple of years) and awful dining. If it received the TLC that Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland receive, it would be #3 on this list–maybe even #2.
By contrast, the Walt Disney Studios Park is so bad that I’ve placed it after the Walt Disney World water parks, as I truly believe that as a theme park, it does a worse job than both of these (vastly underrated) parks. It has an okay collection of attractions, and that slate will further improve when the trackless Ratatouille Kitchen Calamity opens, but a theme park is more than a collection of attractions to me. As a theme park, this place is so fundamentally flawed that I’m not sure any amount of placemaking can make it work. Although in fairness, I was shocked to see the transformation from Sunshine Plaza to Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure. So maybe the potential for a beautiful Hollywood Boulevard leading from the park entrance to Partners is possible.
I realize with these rankings, parks only tell part of the story, and on a resort-wide level, Disneyland Resort Paris would be last on my rankings. It does well by having a nice layout and several resort-hotels to explore, but it just fails to trump the monorails of Tokyo Disney Resort and Walt Disney World (and the latter’s numerous resorts and other experiences), and the overall package of Disneyland. It’s also difficult to give the hotels much weight at Disneyland Paris because besides exploring them, there isn’t a lot of draw to them in terms of dining or entertainment. It’s still a very good resort experience. When coupled with a trip to other places in Europe, it’s a pretty amazing place to visit. It’s also important to realize these are the subjective thoughts of two guests. While I do my best to stay as unbiased as possible, and I think Disneyland Paris is an excellent place to visit, if you’ve read the comments throughout this report, you’ve probably seen a number of Europeans who far prefer Walt Disney World. I wonder how much of that is based on actual quality, and how much is just a visit to Florida being a better fit for a 2-week holiday…
I think I’ve included a fairly significant amount of trip planning information throughout this report and in our Disneyland Paris Trip Planning Guide, so I won’t further fixate on this. If there are additional questions you have, please feel free to post them below in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer them!
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Alright, that wraps up our Disneyland Paris Trip Report. Thanks for reading and See Ya Real Soon!
What did you think of the final installment and our overall rankings and suggestions regarding Disneyland Paris? 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!