I am a self-professed Disney addict. My family has been going to Walt Disney World since it opened in 1971. I have been to Disneyland in California. I’m a member of the Disney Vacation Club, a Gold annual passholder for Walt Disney World and I’ve taken 10 Disney cruises.
Recently, a group of friends invited me to Paris. My immediate response was, “Not unless we go to Disneyland Paris.” They agreed, and off we went to add the 25th anniversary of Disneyland Paris to my Disney resume.
There are two parks in the French world of Disney, Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Park. True Disneyphiles will spot differences between the American parks and the French parks. Here’s a primer.
The attractions used a combination of French and English. The pirates in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride chattered away in French, but the familiar Yo Ho song was in English. Dolls in It’s a Small World sang in all languages. However, they saved the last 15 seconds or so for the English version, so it’s a small world, after all, and you have an earworm. We debated renting translators, boxes that remind me of the Walkmans of my youth, but we really didn’t need them.
An animatronic, fire-breathing dragon was chained in the dungeon beneath Sleeping Beauty Castle. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride was extended with two drops instead of just the one in Orlando. A walk through Captain Nemo’s submarine was complete with a giant squid attack. An exploration of pirate caves on Adventure Island was similar to Tom Sawyer’s Island in the Magic Kingdom. Big Thunder Mountain, with a French-speaking miner, is smoother, much faster and darker than the one I’ve ridden at least 100 times in Florida.
And Disney Stars on Parade, which is very similar to the Festival of Fantasy Parade, has a functioning Maleficent dragon. In Florida, a Maleficent dragon caught fire during a parade in the spring and has never returned.
Food at Disneyland Paris was much more affordable. Meals, many Indian and Mexican-inspired, were priced around $13, including a drink and a dessert. At Walt Disney World, expect to tack on $9 for the extras.
The lands were not separated as much as we’re used to in Florida. Disney World has brick work in Liberty Square near the Haunted Mansion and castlelike cobblestones in Fantasy Land. Disneyland Paris was completely paved with weathered, sandy cement sidewalks. I couldn’t tell where Frontierland ended and Adventureland began.
WALT DISNEY STUDIOS PARK
The park is similar in design to Orlando’s Hollywood Studios. It’s so small, we easily covered it in five hours. (The Magic Kingdom could take three days.) We even visited some attractions twice.
One of our repeats was Ratatouille, coming to Epcot in 2020. Passengers board mouse-shaped cars complete with tails and ears, which scurry about like a Roomba. The experience reminded me of Toy Story Mania in Hollywood Studios. Wearing 3-D glasses, riders watch a movie projected onto screens and walls as the mouse cars move about the theater. Scenes change as they dodge columns and hide in makeshift sewers. Because the cars are independently powered, passengers in each car view different movie scenes, allowing a different experience every time.
We rode Crush’s Coaster twice. In the words of Crush, the surfing sea turtle from Finding Nemo, “It’s totally awesome, dude!” Four passengers board a turtle shell sitting back to back. To simulate Crush’s trip along the East Australian current, the cars turn, and sometimes completely spin around on a corkscrew shaped metal roller coaster track. We dared not close our eyes because it lasts a little more than a minute.
We thought we were lucky to be visiting Walt Disney Studios Park during the second annual Rendez-Vous Gourmand. Similar to Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival, nine kiosks offered small plates and wine selections from France, Italy, Spain and Belgium. That was where the similarity ended.
Rendez-Vous Gourmand needs to take some quality control tips from Epcot. We should have known something was wrong when we didn’t see live cooking. The same person who takes your order pops a precooked dish into a microwave. Three beautiful lollipop lamb chops were instantly turned into well-done rubber. Falafel got as hard as golf balls and crumbled. Paella was meatless, sticky, yellow rice. In an effort to go green, the festival only used wooden forks and knives. Cutting a microwaved lamb chop with a wooden knife was never going to happen. We tried six things, and the only dish that worked was crepes freshly garnished with ham, cheese, vegetables or fruit filling before being warmed in a toaster oven. This is France, for goodness sake.
Comparing the price of Disneyland Paris to Walt Disney World is no contest. It’s actually quite a bargain. Disneyland Paris was running a special, and we purchased one-day adult tickets for the price of a child’s ticket. That means we got into both parks for $54 per day — half the price of Walt Disney World. Representatives at the Hop-on Hop-off Bus ticket office in Paris said they offer Disneyland Paris tickets for that price regularly.
I’ll be back to Disneyland Paris if I’m ever offered the opportunity. Why, you might ask, would I go again when we have the creme de la creme of Disney parks in our own backyard? Simple. It’s Disney. It fed my Disney addiction, and made me want more. S’il vous plait.
Contact Kelly A. Stefani at [email protected] or (727) 893-8194.