Over the past 24 hours (read: I meant to post yesterday morning) I’ve attempted, on multiple occasions, to organize my thoughts on the Disneyland Paris experience, but I have yet to come up with a cohesive narrative or even a firm conclusion on the trip. It was somewhat weird, somewhat fun, somewhat kitschy, somewhat sucky, somewhat expensive, somewhat enlightening, and thoroughly cold and wet. I suppose the short version is that the Purrito and I had a fun day together, and while we’re noncommittal about returning to this park in particular, we’d still be willing to look at going to the Florida park in the future.
I suppose, on reflection, that’s an indication of success.
Ratatouille was the primary target for the trip, so upon arrival at the park some 20 minutes before it officially opened (the practical consequence of which was that while the rides themselves weren’t running, the lines were forming), we made a beeline to the Ratatouille area in Walt Disney Studios and began our time in line. As noted previously, we chose to go during off-season, so while we wouldn’t stand in any sort of meaningful line for the rest of the day, Ratatouille most certainly felt like a karma bank of sorts, as our net waiting time wound up being just over an hour. The ride was entertaining (and, in the end, worth the wait), though the 3D-glasses-plus-moving-car thing gave both of us a hint of motion sickness, which wore off while we walked through the ride’s huge associated gift shop.
While looking at the map as we stood in line, I caught a glimpse of the name of a (now-17-year-old, not that I saw it in the theatre as a sophomore in high school or anything of that nature) movie and thought “no, that can’t be right.” I asked the Purrito if she minded a walk to the far side of the Studio park, where, much to my disbelief, there was indeed an attraction based on Armageddon.
Yes, that Armageddon. The one that came out in the summer of 1998. With no line, I asked the Purrito if she wanted to see what it was. Being met with a “This is all on you,” we stood in front of the doors until we had been joined by a sufficient number of people, and were rewarded with a 15-minute long advertisement for a 17-year-old movie, complete with a bored French 20-something half-assing the already-painful audience participation bit (the conceit, in the event that you’re odd enough to give a shit, is that you’re an actor about to go onto a “high-tech” special effects set).
As far as I’m concerned, having Michael Clarke Duncan dubbed by a clearly-white French guy is enough to recommend the attraction. Oh, and the kid that cried after the event was over (there’s steam, flames, water droplets, and a moving ceiling as things go “awry” on-set) was entertaining as well.
After a jaunt through the massive park gift shop, we exited Walt Disney Studios park, never to return. This, I think, is the root of the weirdness surrounding this particular park; it’s almost like stepping into a time warp. While Ratatouille is new (it opened in July 2014), it had apparently been in the planning stage since 2008. While, per Wikipedia, Crush’s Coaster, Tower of Terror, and the Aerosmith ride came out in this millennium (2007, 2008, and 2003, respectively), having rides based on these properties feels stale, and this is coming from somebody who’s not a theme park aficionado.
Once in Disneyland proper, we meandered around; we walked through the castle, visited the animatronic dragon under said castle, walked through Alice’s very tired-looking labyrinth, rode Pirates of the Caribbean (entertaining and made even more so by the knowledge that they made three movies based on that damn thing), rode the park train (the conductor seemed to be having a good time), rode a very lame haunted house ride (woo.), ate a terrible lunch, rode It’s a Small World (I have no idea why we liked this one so much, but the two of us giggled the entire ride), rode the carousel, hit one more gift shop (three, actually), decided that we were thoroughly frozen (the weather for the day: mid 40s [Fahrenheit, obviously], 20mph winds, and rain), and went the hell back to the hotel room.
Penultimate observation: the food throughout the entire ordeal was terrible. The chicken sandwiches via room service were borderline-acceptable the first night, but the chicken sandwich in the park was terrible; the chicken was dry, strangely spiced, and accompanied by watered-down Fanta (side note: how does an amusement park in France not have Orangina?) The buffet back at the hotel that night (a mistake in and of itself; this is the first buffet I can remember eating at post-living-in-the-dorm; I think I’ll continue to avoid them) was similarly awful. This is the company that made the movie with the lyrics “After all miss, this is France, and a dinner here is never second best….” (I have a younger sister; ask me about any of the lyrics from Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, or Aladdin. Or better yet, don’t.) and we’re in France.
Final observation: the controlled, sterile Disney experience is most certainly not the norm here. From the hotel’s (it’s an official, but off-the-park hotel) cracked bathroom tiles and cold showers to the fading, peeling paint in Alice’s maze, and from the mold on nearly every building to the rust on the park train (and the replacement windows on said train that aren’t even the right color), this place is in desperate need of some maintenance (even some of the rides need it; half of the final room of It’s a Small World was obviously malfunctioning). As for cast members (which, as a non-Disneyphile, I had thought were an integral part of the experience), we managed to spend over eight hours across the two parks while only seeing a Jasmine (who seemed to be heading to her lunch break); no Mickey, which I had been led to believe one can’t go through a Disney park without seeing.
This reads like an extended bitchfest, I realize, but we did have fun; we marveled at the peeling paint, commiserated about the terrible food, laughed at the happy goats in It’s a Small World, made “oo” noises during the terrible haunted house ride, bought random Disney paraphernalia from the gift shops, and made faces at the marauding British hordes.
That, in my estimation, is what it’s all about.