Disneyland Paris Turns 25: The Dawn of a New Era?

Photo: Kris Van De SandePhoto: Kris Van De Sande

We’re just six months away from the 25th anniversary of Disneyland Paris. In the ever-tumultuous story of Disney’s European destination, this might mean a little more than a typical birthday celebration, but also, maybe, a turning point.

Last week, Disneyland Paris press service announced the programme of the festivities:

  • Celebration will start on 26th March 2017
  • A new daytime pradade called “Disney Stars on Parade
  • The much anticipated ride update “Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
  • A new revamp for a classic ride: “Star Wars: Hyperspace Mountain
  • A new show : Mickey Presents “Happy Anniversary Disneyland Paris
  • Another new show on the castle stage: “The Starlit Princess Waltz
  • A complete show update on the guest favorite Disney Dreams Nighttime Spectacular: “Disney Illuminations

Photos: Disneyland Paris

For a detailed look at all these additions and the unprecedented way Disneyland Paris announced the programme, I encourage you to have a look at DLPToday’s comprehensive series that breaks everything down.

By my side, I’m especially curious about the new parade that’s been designed by the super talented parade imagineer Jody Daily (without his long time design partner Kevin Kidney thought), and the new nighttime spectacular that will replace Disney Dreams. While the original castle show has been a solid addition from day one, it will be a nice opportunity to finally get more polished visuals – some parts always felt half-baked, like the Hunchback of Notre Dame segment. Disney Dreams original Peter Pan based storyline was the most cohesive and moving storyline of all Disney nighttime spectaculars. We’ll loose it, but hopefully Disneyland Paris new show will be as visually stunning as the Tokyo’s newest nighttime castle show.

While it is a pretty decent lineup for an anniversary celebration, it’s also a bit sad it’s mainly about shows and revamps of existing material. Actual attractions are what gets me excited in theme parks, and these won’t be part of Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary year. Bummer.

Speaking of actual new attractions, I’m a bit worried about the years after the 25th celebration. Considering the usual long time it takes to Disney for building new rides, and the bizarre, total absence of rumors about it, it’s like we’re up for a new batch of years without anything actually new at DLP – unless I’m wrong and Disneyland Paris has become more successful at keeping secrets.

Adventure Isle looking great after six month refurb. Photo: Kris Van De Sande

Adventure Isle looking great after six month refurb. Photo: Kris Van De Sande

Actual new attractions are more than welcome thought. They’re urgently needed in Disneyland Paris. It is how theme parks make people return. It’s how people visit theme parks: “when there’s something new”. The Disneyland Park hasn’t added any actual new attraction in a effing decade! (Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast, 2006) DLP’s main park may be incredibly beautiful, but it’s always the same as the last time you visited it. It’s been like this for more than a decade and it’s getting boring. Literally.

Across the street, Walt Disney Studios has assembled a very nice roaster of new attractions in the past ten years: Tower of Terror, Crush’s Coaster, Toy Story Playland, Ratatouille, Mickey and the Magician… These additions are a good thing: this park needed new attractions like no other Disney park ever did. What hasn’t changed however is the park’s overall lack of cohesion, and more importantly: beauty. Except for the new Ratatouille and Toy Story areas, Walt Disney Studios is still a sad empty space that looks like a supermarket parking lot in most areas.

dlp-castle-moat

The cleaning of the castle moat is great example of DLP tackling a twenty years old issue. Photo: Kris Van De Sande

A Disney California Adventure style makeover would make a lot of sense for Walt Disney Studios, complete with a super headliner single IP based land and ride à la Cars Land. The upcoming Star Wars land that’s currently being built in the US parks would be perfect to make it clear who’s the boss again and reigns supreme in the European theme park game. That would be a bold statement.

But at this moment: no new ride and no WDS makeover rumor under the radar…

To be honest, the one thing that’s getting me most excited for Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary is the completion of the Experience Enhancement Program. For the past couple of years, Disneyland Paris has finally taken its ridiculous lack of upkeep seriously and started refurbishing every attraction, every boutique, facade, pathway ground, water piece, even entire hotels like never before. While absolutely necessary (remember how bad/sad the Paris resort looked a couple of years ago?), these refurbishments made the Disneyland Park look like a construction site, with lots of closed rides and areas. But it’s for the better. The rides and areas that have re-opened look like they just opened. The main park is gaining again the stunning look it was born with. It’s an amazing accomplishment. Now, we can only hope Disneyland Paris is also working on a new usual maintenance program that won’t let the park crumble again like it did for its twenty first years of existence.

While the interesting corporate blog of DLP reported that usual upkeep process has changed to become more frequent and reactive, I prefer waiting for facts.

Green walls invaded Disneyland Paris these past years. Photo: Kris Van De Sande

Green walls invaded Disneyland Paris these past years. Photo: Kris Van De Sande

I also spotted some progress on the merchandise stalls. It’s not perfect yet but there seems to be less items that look like cheap Disney merchandise you can buy at your local supermarket – many of them however seem to come from the Disney Store selection and the US Disney parks.

While Disneyland Paris claims that it’s modernizing all restaurant kitchens, I haven’t noticed any difference yet. I’m ok with theme park food being overpriced, but then it has to be good. So far, it’s still not on par with other major European theme parks like Europa Park. Which is not only tastier but also cheaper.

While it’s still a bit too soon to claim the 25th anniversary year of Disneyland Paris the dawn of a new era, things are definitely changing. The tremendous efforts made these past years to stop DLP being an embarrassment for the Disney brand in Europe are showing. More than the actual celebration programme, this will be my gift for this anniversary year.

Are you excited about Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary’s new shows? Did you expect more? How are you feeling about the massive upkeep program? Tell me and let’s discuss in the comment section below!

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