July 7, 2010

Disney Park Countdown- #8: The Walt Disney Studios Paris

This second Parisian Disney Park is in a class all by itself- and that is not a compliment!

The lack of world class, unique attractions, absence of good dining (in France!?!) and abysmal layout make this theme park the poorest excuse for one in the history of the Walt Disney Company. Clearly, the powers that be had to satisfy an agreement with the French government, so they did it as inexpensively as possible.The view from the entry gates looks somewhat intriguing, even promising. The looming Studio One building welcomes guests into a nighttime Hollywood. However it is themed as a set instead of trying to deliver a great recreation, thus leaving exposed steel, catwalks, and studio set pieces to create the magic. Like the Backlot at California Adventure at opening, it misses the mark and left me somewhat disappointed by what I would find there and elsewhere as I explored the Walt Disney Studios Paris.

Stepping outside the covered and enclosed entry area, it only gets worse. Our visit in 2007 meant the elaborate facades and small shops created around the soon-to-open Tower of Terror were still behind walls. In its place: a vast amount of ugly concrete with little attempt at landscaping, offering no warmth and an amazing lack of charm.

Things were slightly better as we approached Crush's Coaster. At least the big building housing the attraction was lightly themed, and the ride itself was a lot of fun. Even better, it showcased the first Audio-Animatronics in the park: the same set of birds found at Disneyland's renewed submarine voyage.

The mini Carsland, complete with spinner and small scale versions of the landmarks from Radiator Springs, brought some life, color, and fun into the drab surroundings, yet at the same time only emphasized the lack of it elsewhere.

To the lovers of the park, the unique attractions CineMagique and Animagique are must sees, but for us, we do not spend big bucks to sit in theaters and watch film (Soarin' Over California being the main exception). We tried to see the former but constantly missed the show times. The latter, apparently a blending of character and black light shows, was of no interest.

The Studio Tram Tour was on par with what is now in Florida, in other words, forgettable. Rock N Rollercoaster was happily equal in experience, but the standout attraction was the special effects show built around the Disney movie Armageddon. Here, finally, guests were immersed into the world of film making. It was a thrilling show, leaving us with a feeling on par with the old Magic Kingdom frightfest Alien Encounter.

Stopping for lunch meant heading back to Studio One for a strangely bland and overcooked burger. We shopped for a few souvenirs, buying only a small photo book, and quickly headed back to the gorgeous Disneyland Paris to finish the day.

The addition of Toy Story Play Land is a strange choice for a park trying to change its reputation and earn its place among Disney fans. Screaming "carnival", it will temporarily give families another reason to visit. Yet it won't bring us back. That may take the opening of the much rumored Ratatouille attraction, as it is one of my favorite Pixar movies. Then again, maybe not.

Next up at Position #7, a choice that may surprise you...
(Photos copyright Mark Taft.)

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