Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary Trip Report – Part 2

Let’s move on to the stage shows, which are Mickey Presents ‘Happy Anniversary Disneyland Paris!’ and Starlit Princess Waltz. Neither of these were anything special–they certainly were not lavish productions–but I found both of them endearing in their own ways.

My guess is that these are going to be under-appreciated by guests because they are not grand productions. However, just like theme parks need those D & C-Ticket attractions to round out their offerings, entertainment needs smaller productions like these.

You have to look at smaller stage shows like this in the appropriate context. While they are not as grandiose as the parade or Disney Illuminations, there’s also virtually no commitment to seeing them. You can grab a spot right as both shows start and still have a good view–they’re quick and easy experiences…

Mickey Presents ‘Happy Anniversary Disneyland Paris!’ marches to the beat of its own drum. That’s really the best way to put it, and that’s not a knock.

The premise here is simple: that Mickey and friends are going around the park, paying tribute to each of its lands in musical numbers. It’s a solid idea, and perfectly geared towards an anniversary celebration.

As an added bonus, it has some totally bizarre moments. For some reason, during most songs, one character comes around to pass out ‘on-theme’ hats to the rest of the group. You know, to get in the spirit of the celebration and all. It’s marginally awkward, but it’s fun and funny.

The highlight of this all is when human performers do a high energy number in honor of Discoveryland wearing Little Green Men hats. This wouldn’t have been my first choice of ways to represent Discoveryland, but it’s a hoot.

My enjoyment of Mickey Presents ‘Happy Birthday Disneyland Paris!’ is probably a lot like my enjoyment of A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas. I realize it’s not objectively good, but it makes me laugh and it’s fun.

This show has a similar sense of irony to it, and I think in 20 years, hipster kids will be watching holographic videos of it wishing they could’ve seen it.

Starlit Princess Waltz is a similarly low-key show, but it’s still the total opposite of the Mickey one. This show is meant to feel regal and proper, with a sense of elegance.

There’s also humor in the form of confusion, which feels right in context.

It mostly succeeds at that. I’m definitely not the target demographic here, but I enjoyed Starlit Princess Waltz for what it was.

The costuming is strong, the waltzing (and probably other types of dancing, I really have no clue) seemed well-choreographed, and the music worked well.

The storyline was a bit hokey, but it was only a device used to get the princesses dancing, mingling with one another, and have their princes appear.

I did find one song a bit regressive, particularly the line, “every girl’s dream is to wake up and be somebody special.”

Other lines in the song spoke to beauty not just being skin deep (albeit not in those exact words), so perhaps I’m reading too much into this.

All things considered, I think both of these stage shows are nice entertainment offerings to flesh out the Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary entertainment lineup.

Given that I’ve never visited Disneyland Paris when that stage is in use, it’s especially nice to see at least two stage shows playing daily for the next year.

The final piece of 25th Anniversary entertainment is what should be the pièce de résistance. Disney Illuminations had the tough task of following up Disney Dreams, which was the groundbreaking castle projection show that set the stage for successors at every other castle park.

The debut of Disney Dreams was a big deal, not just because it pioneered a new breed of nighttime spectacular, but because it did so incredibly well, and proved a bona fide hit for Disneyland Paris at a time when it really needed it.

Dream Dreams is still the gold standard. Unfortunately, the new show does not live up to that standard, or even the standard of other nighttime spectaculars since.

Actually, Illuminations has more in common with Ignite the Dream at Shanghai Disneyland than it does Disney Dreams. It is really, and I mean really, similar to Ignite the Dreams.

Others have called it a clone, but I wouldn’t quite go that far. There’s a lot of overlap, but there are enough differences for clone to be inapt. Still, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen both.

Oddly enough, I enjoyed Ignite the Dream a fair amount. My initial reaction to Disney Illuminations was not nearly as positive–mostly during the second half of the show.

I think that comes down to three things: 1) the second half of Illuminations is a jarring, showcase of the hot-at-the-moment IPs, and the addition of live action Beauty and the Beast here is the straw that breaks the camel’s back; 2) the beautiful Grand Opening tag at Shanghai Disneyland really elevated the whole show; and, 3) I’m developing fatigue for this type of show.

It’s not fair to penalize Illuminations for #3. The vast majority (I’m talking 99.5% or more) are not going to visit both Shanghai Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. While I’d love to see less overlap among the parks for selfish reasons, expecting no clones is absurd. Shared costs for entertainment and attractions makes perfect sense.

The biggest problem I have is the second half of the show, which features Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars, Frozen, and live action Beauty and the Beast. Four franchises with nothing in common aside from them all making serious bank for Disney, and four movies that are adjacent to one another with zero transition or narrative thread to explain away this placement.

In its second half, Disney Illuminations is awkward and disjointed, and makes it very apparent to the audience that this is a montage show, and a poorly-edited one at that.

In fairness, without a framing device, I’m not sure how each of these scenes could transition into one another given their dissimilarities.

The thing is, this is my reaction as a Disney fan who expects a certain production quality of their nighttime spectaculars, and I’m guessing it’s totally at odds with the general public, which often views the parks as places to see their favorite movies.

The general public loves these films, and by extension, their placement in the show. Most people probably aren’t drawing a mental distinction between the film and its presence in the show. Liking one means liking the other. Or something like that.

The problem I see is that this type of synergy is a one-way street. Disney Illuminations helps fandom for the films percolate among viewers, but what about for the park itself? The utilization of these films in Disney Illuminations creates no secondary meaning or an emotional bond for the show or park itself.

This is to say, I guess, that the show (and others like it) is totally forgettable. A few days later, beyond some fire and laser effects, I’d be hard-pressed to provide its memorable moments. I could recall song lyrics–but based on seeing the source material films, not the show itself.

For me, this stands in sharp contrast to a show like Wishes! I’ve never been much of a fan of Wishes!, but recently, I’ve come to appreciate just how effective it is at tugging at your heartstrings. This is because it has substance unto itself, and there’s an emotional and nostalgic bond with aspects of it that are unique to the show itself.

Walt Disney World fans are going to miss it because it’s their last chance to see Wishes!, a unique fireworks show, not because they’ll never see a particular song from a particular movie again. (They will.)

By contrast, I have a hard time imagining that many people will shed a tear when Disney Illuminations is retired. It’s not bringing anything unique to the table; it’s interchangeable with any montage nighttime spectacular.

Eventually, I think this strategy will catch up to Disney. This is a company fueled by nostalgia, and nostalgia for the films alone is not sufficient. They need long-term park fans (as much of a hassle as we might be) for growth and brand evangelism. The best way to keep making those long-term park fans is producing entertainment and attractions to which they develop bonds. No one is developing nostalgia for the parks when watching a series of 4D (or whatever) trailers for movies.

That wraps up this installment of our Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary trip recap. In the final installment, we’ll share a bunch of photos and thoughts from the actual anniversary (April 12) itself, which was basically one crazy character extravaganza!

If you’re thinking about visiting during the 25th Anniversary (or beyond!), check out our Disneyland Paris Vacation Planning Guide. Want to see more photos or read about Disneyland Paris in agonizing detail? Check out our “Impressions de Bricker” Disneyland Paris Report, which covers our visit during the inaugural Disneyland Paris Half Marathon, or our Disneyland Paris 20th Anniversary Trip Report, which covers our first visit to Disneyland Paris!

Your Thoughts

Are you planning on visiting Disneyland Paris during the 25th Anniversary festivities? Any thoughts on the special entertainment, park decorations, or refurbishments Disneyland Paris has done for the 25th Anniversary? If you’ve seen them, do you think I’m being too hard on Disney Stars on Parade or Disney Illuminations? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below!

22 Responses to “Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary Trip Report – Part 2”
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