I’m sure most of you who read this know I’m a bit of a Disneyland Paris nerd: you certainly couldn’t miss the fact that Teddy’s first birthday was spent there. If I had the money, I would be there every year. So indulge me while I go a bit fangirly over this news that broke today.
It’s been years and years since Disneyland Paris got a decent expansion. Considering 2017 marked its 25th Anniversary, it’s well overdue something new. Refurbs most certainly don’t count – come on, after 25 years, Star Tours was well overdue one, and the other rides that have been spruced up recently were in dire need. There hasn’t been a totally new ride in Disneyland Paris since 2014: sure, that doesn’t exactly seem like aeons ago, but with massive expansions in every other Disney park across the globe, it’s an age.
Since the Walt Disney Company finally fully acquired all the rights to Disneyland Paris last year, we’ve all been waiting for a big announcement. The news about a new reskin of the Hotel New York, frankly, didn’t cut the mustard.
And today, Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger and French President Emmanuel Macron have jointly announced the incentive that France needs to boost its falling tourist numbers: a huge expansion at Disneyland Paris! Namely, a huge expansion to the much maligned Walt Disney Studios park.
The Walt Disney Studios park has always been, let’s admit it, thoroughly underwhelming compared to the main Disneyland park. The first time I went, it had only been open a year or so, and, well, it was small. It took less than a day to get everything done. Far less than a day. The ‘Hollywood’ theme was poorly realised, and a lot of the time, it just felt like you were wandering from empty space to empty space.
In the near-16 years since the park opened, things have improved a lot, with new attractions and areas coming in every few years. In fact, it contains some of the best rides in the complex as a whole: the Finding Nemo-based Crush’s Coaster is one of the best rollercoasters I’ve ever been on, the Ratatouille ride is an immersive work of genius, and the Cars Race Rally is a fabulously fun variant on a teacup ride. Individual areas are beautifully realised – the Toy Story Playland, the homage to Paris around the Ratatouille ride, and in particular the breathtaking Hollywood Tower Hotel, aka the Tower of Terror.
But it was still difficult to fill an entire day, especially if you planned carefully and managed to get on Crush’s Coaster before the queue got beyond two hours.
Now, however, things are going to change for the Walt Disney Studios park, and I’m willing to bet it will finally get visitors clamouring to fill their days there.
Not one, but three new areas are being opened up. There will be a Marvel area, encorporating the existing Aerosmith-based rollercoaster (which will be rethemed to Iron Man). Then a Star Wars area. Then a whole area devoted to Arendelle, the setting for Frozen. The new attractions and areas are slated to start opening in 2021, with at least a €2billion investment.
Excuse me while I jump up and down a bit.
OK, I’ll admit, none of those are my favourite fandoms. But I’m excited, anyway.
Actual concrete details are thin on the ground right now, we just have concept art to pick apart, but here’s what I can gather so far about what’s happening over the next few years.
Firstly, Marvel. Not something I’m generally bothered with – I won’t go out of my way for anything superhero-based, really. But that corner of the park, the ‘Backlot’, was always the worst place for ’empty space’, wandering around expecting something to happen that never came. Giving that area a cohesive theme will hopefully get back some of that good old Disney immersion. And seeing as in other Disney parks, the Tower of Terror has been reskinned to fit a Guardians of the Galaxy theme, I’m incredibly relieved to see the Hollywood Tower Hotel looking its proper, creepy, Art Deco self on the concept art. However, some things will be going: the all-out terrible Armageddon ‘experience’ for one, the current stunt show and some forgettable shops and food outlets. It looks like the tired old Studio Tram Tour is also being retired, though it’s not 100% clear from the concept art. Hopefully it is, because really, nobody cared about Dinotopia and Reign of Fire back in 2002, let alone now.
Next, the Star Wars area. Two ‘Star Wars lands’ are already under construction in Disney parks in Florida and California: known as ‘Galaxy’s Edge’, set on a new-to-the-lore planet called Batuu. It looks like Paris will be getting this same set-up. What I’m interested in is: what does this mean for the existing Star Wars rides over in the main Disneyland park? A lot of money was just spent on revamping Star Tours and adding a Star Wars overlay to Space Mountain. Will Galaxy’s Edge get its own coaster, so Space Mountain can go back to its classic, Jules Verne theme that is so sorely missed? I remember in the queue for ‘Hyperspace’ Mountain, at Halloween last year, saying that all the Star Wars decor looked very temporary. It will be interesting to see if I was right.
Lastly, the Frozen area, a clear homage to Arendelle. Just from the concept art map, this is the bit I’m most excited about. Just look at that mountain, and the castle! I’m hoping they’re going to be just as impressive in real life, and it’s not just overblown concept art. It seems pretty similar to the ideas for the Frozen land coming to Hong Kong Disneyland: there are rumours that their Frozen land will contain a cutting-edge, trackless E-ticket ride, something Disneyland Paris could definitely do with. It was up there with the advances in theme park technology for Ratatouille, and it needs to keep up.
Thanks to people far more adept at picking details out of the concept art than I am, there are also rumours of an expansion to the Toy Story Playland. This is coming from the image of a new ride that looks precisely lifted from the map of Florida’s own upcoming Toy Story Playland area – the Alien Swirling Saucers. From what I can gather it would be another teacup-style ride, which can only be a good thing (I bloody love them).
(this particular concept art is from the Florida attraction but if it is indeed coming to Paris too, we can assume it’ll be the same)
All in all, this expansion can only be good for Disneyland Paris. Yes, it does appear that almost everything is being lifted directly from other Disney parks: but I wouldn’t say this is a bad thing. Disneyland Paris has long had less of a gloss than its American and Asian counterparts, which has always been part of its charm – but it would be sad to reach the point where it just looked tired. With this expansion, Disneyland Paris should be able to really hold its head up on the global theme park stage.
Fingers crossed all these concepts come to reality: time will tell if they live up to all our expectations.