If you wish upon a star, you might be able to escape the Disneyland Resort in Paris with your cool cynicism still intact. But don’t count on it!! Despite the constant merchandising push and syrupy Disney songs looping endlessly over the loudspeakers, it’s hard to resist the magic of Mickey’s empire.
I had the chance to attend the Grand Opening of Disney Studios and the Ten-Year Anniversary of Disneyland Paris, making a weekend out of it with my Parisian side-kick Claire. We arrived at the Newport Bay Resort Hotel after lugging our bags around the RER station looking for the shuttle. The hotel, one of many Disney hotels at the resort, had a sort of nautical Nantucket feel that made me a bit homesick for the East Coast! The rooms are nice, almost like someone’s house, and we watched the bunnies on the grass from our balcony. After stuffing the Mickey soaps and shampoos in our bags, we realized we couldn’t get the balcony door closed. Early March in Paris is no time to leave a door open, so we called the front desk and resigned ourselves to waiting around. But this is Disney, so someone arrived almost instantly and showed us how to close it properly!
We spent the rest of the afternoon at Disneyland, where we’ve both been before many times. Pirates of the Carribbean was the hands-down winner for favorite ride. We went on the backwards Indiana Jones rollercoaster, and feared we might be getting too old for that sort of ride. Disneyland Paris opened April 10, 1992, and despite the embarassing start, it’s now the most visited attraction in Europe. We went to the Tea Party Birthday Celebration, with Roy Disney leading the crowd in the Happy birthday sing-along.
There were a few ducks on the grass next to us that looked as if they were having heart attacks, until they remembered they could fly away. After a quick fly around on Dumbo (I think we were the only ones without children) we checked out the latest Disney merchandise, from the Monsters, Inc. film. Claire liked the blue Sully hat, and I considered getting my husband a Mike tee-shirt. If you’ve come to Paris to escape the anti-smoking gangs in CA, you’ll be happy to know that Claire and I spotted several people happily puffing away throughout the park.
The next day we got to see the new Disney Studios, and instantly fell in love with the Aerosmith Rockin’ Rollercoaster. Zero to 100mph in 3 seconds with multiple loops! We went on it three times. We’ve got a photo of the skin on our faces pulled back in a slightly gruesome way. Other attractions were more sedate. The Armageddon Special Effects studio was pretty cool, with the funny Russian guy from the movie animating it. We took the Studio Tram Tour in the rain, but managed to stay dry. Jeremy Irons narrates from a screen in English. All of the rides and attractions have multiple-language narration, which could drive you a bit buggy if you understand both French and English!
The Tram Tour was most interesting in one spot where it looks like your about to get doused by a wave of water. Oh, and they sure like pyrotechnics at Disney Studios! We saw the Stunt Show Spectacular, run by the French stunt master Rémy Julienne, with a special guest arriving in typical Bond fashion, Roger Moore (he currently lives in Monaco, so his French is perfect). There’s a lot of explanation between the various scenes of live motorcycle and car stunts, and a surprise at the end (not telling!)
There are a few other attractions where you’ll learn about animation and see the Disney Channel’s “Zapping!” studio live. I liked the Cinémagique show, which features Martin Short and scenes from all the classic film favorites. Studio 1 is a reproduction of a stylized Hollywood lot, with live ‘actors’ doing scenes throughout the day. Restaurants are of the fast-food and cafeteria variety, so if you’re looking for table service or fancier restaurant, head over to the Disney Village (or Disneyland if you have a pass for both parks). Claire and I ate at the Rainforest Café, whose theme is getting a bit dusty, but the food is fantastic.
Stars at the Première Party included Tina Arena, Roger Moore, Sir John Mills, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Rosanna Arquette, Denise Richards, Charlie Sheen, Italian singer Andrea Bocelli, Sir Cliff Richard, Sir Tim Rice, Ines Sastre, and David Hasselhoff. No Claire and I didn’t get to meet any of them, but we got to walk down the same Red Carpet twice (after the first time we snuck out the side door and went back to the hotel to change, then walked down again!)
So why should YOU go to Disney Studios? As Michael Eisner and Roy Disney pointed out, the Resort and it’s parks aren’t American, “They’re Disney”. And Disney has its roots firmly in European culture. Most of the Disney stories come from European fairy tales, such as Pinnochio (Italy), Little Mermaid (Denmark), Beauty & the Beast (France), Marry Poppins (England)…and Disney Studios pays homage to the creators of cinema, the Lumière Brothers. Sure, the decor looks a bit too much like shopping malls in Scottsdale (its the 1920’s Art Deco theme), but the staff are mostly French (and other European nationalities), and very much keeping in the spirit of Disney. I wouldn’t necessarily come to Disney Studios by itself, but as a day or half-day combined with Disneyland and the Disney Village (highly recommend the Hurricane Club to those who dance until dawn without stopping!)
This article is one of the 78 original “Secrets of Paris” articles published between September 1999 and July 2004. After disappearing into the internet graveyard for almost 15 years, I’ve republished them in autumn 2019 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Secrets of Paris: “1999-2019: Twenty Years of the Secrets of Paris” Broken and dead links have been updated or deactivated, but otherwise the article remains unchanged.