My mother is unlikely to be the only one groaning at the thought of me choosing Disneyland Paris Studios as a way to spend an eight hour layover in a city as exciting as Paris. Be that as it may, there was a new coaster there that I wanted to ride, and I felt that it'd be prudent not to travel too far away from a guaranteed connection back to the airport. My reasoning for this was simple; it seems highly improbable that anyone would let me forget it if a detour during a layover led to a missed flight.
The french tren grande vitesse system (literally "big fast train") is broadly equivalent to Japan's fantastic Shinkansen, albeit without the cute musical jingles and with considerably less leg room. Given that the average French male is considerably taller than the average Japanese this seems more than a little odd, but no doubt there are sound commercial reasons. The serenity of the short ten minute journey was shattered by that worst of species, the loud and annoying English tourist. This is of course an occupational hazard on an airport train, especially one leading to the land of the mouse, but it was nevertheless in sharp contrast to the quiet and unobtrusive Japanese.
My first port of call on arrival in the area was to find somewhere to leave my backpack. Unfortunately, the luggage facility in the TGV station had a blanket ban on electrical equipment, irritating but perhaps understandable in the modern climate. It seemed the best plan to just haul the bag around the park with me, but park security would not allow a laptop on the premises. Temporarily stymied, my path took me to guest services, where a short look at the seventy person queue ruled that option out. In the end, the solution was what I should have done initially, namely pleading foreign tourist to the nice man in the locker facility. Amazingly, it worked.
Disneyland Paris Studios
16th September 2007
Even without the charade over my backpack my visit to Disneyland Paris Studios was always going to be short. Slightly less than five hours between train arrival and departure had become four hours by the time I'd purchased my park hopper ticket. To my horror, the park was absolutely jam packed. There is a certain inevitability about an amusement park being busy on a Sunday afternoon, especially in gloriously sunny weather, but somehow I'd thought this wouldn't happen here, given the well known Parisian animosity towards the mouse. My brain accentuated the positive as my feet meandered the park; with huge capacity attractions there wouldn't be too much of a wait, would there?
As it turned out, there would. The shiny new Crush's Coaster (#1067) had a large temporary queue extension being manned by beleaguered looking cast members. One glance was enough; deux heures, monsieur. Resisting the urge to invoke a five letter french word that is surely inappropriate in the happiest place on earth, I entered the queue line hoping that the end result would be worth it. The line was littered with no smoking signs throughout, but sadly telling the French not to smoke is as effective as telling the Irish not to swear. The gentleman in front of me was told by two separate cast members to extinguish his cigarette. This didn't stop him lighting a third when he was sure he was out of sight.
At any rate, the ride opened with a dark ride section of the highest calibre, showing a projected animation effect that left me wondering how did they do that? Fifteen more seconds of animatronics made me think that this might actually be more than a XC2000 in a box after all. Unfortunately, as we ascended the lift hill we left the beautiful underwater scenes far behind, and began our spinning journey in blackness punctuated by moving stars, much like a certain mountain might have in a certain park next door. The contrast could not be more marked, and while the coaster itself was excellent the sudden disappearance of the theming killed the overall ride.
16th September 2007
Ninety minutes isn't close to being enough for Disneyland Paris, even on a quiet day. However, it is just about possible when one only wants to try one ride; the recently rethemed Space Mountain Mission 2. Despite its failings I rather liked the original version of the ride, particularly for its catchy soundtrack. The decision to change it surprised me (why fix something that's clearly not broken) but I was going to reserve judgment until I'd ridden the new version. As luck would have it, the sound system was out of commission today, so I'm still none the wiser. Any changes in theming didn't immediately jump out at me either; there was the odd meteor here and there and one tunnel full of lights, but beyond that the interior was much as I remembered it; blackness and stars.
The only major difference to the ride that jumped out at me, other than the mission two stickers everywhere, was the start. In the original incarnation, trains dropped out of the station and coasted half way up the launch tunnel before engaging the catapult. The imagineers decided it would be better if the launch was longer, which is certainly true. However, this has been achieved by means of a hard brake right at the bottom of the drop, which, to be frank, hurts. Having said that, nothing has been done about the headbanging throughout the rest of the ride, so I suppose one more bone shattering impact doesn't make that much difference in the grand scheme of things. If it had been me, though, I'd have let the train roll backwards onto the launch mechanism, which would make for less wear and tear on the brakes.
With twenty minutes to kill, I decided to power walk around the park and get on anything with a wait of less than ten minutes. Amazingly this did not include It's a Small World, which had a queue comprising what appeared to be the population of a moderate sized country. Everything else was similarly rammed, and I was beginning to think I'd be calling it a day when I discovered there was no wait whatsoever for the Haunted Mansion. Of all the ghost trains I've been on this one remains a sentimental favourite, largely due to the ballroom scene; the constant appearance and disappearance of dancing spooks is a remarkable visual effect that amazes the young and old alike.