It’s been 25 years since the gates of the number one tourist attraction in Europe opened its doors. Under the message ‘it’s time to sparkle’, the Disneyland Paris park will be celebrating its 25th anniversary until at least April next year. If you are not familiar with the Disney parks, I’ll have you know they take anniversaries very seriously. It usually means big changes and brand new entertainment. And with Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary they certainly took that to heart.
If you’ve never been to Disneyland Paris before, then this is the time to go. The park hasn’t looked this good probably since opening day. Unfortunately not all changes have been for the better. I now realize this is probably going to be more of a review than a guide, but either way, let me take you through all of the 25th anniversary changes and additions: the good, the bad and the ugly!
Star Wars HyperSpace Mountain
Former Space Mountain: Mission 2 (and former former Space Mountain: de la Terre à la Lune), has undergone its second overhaul since its opening in 1995 to now become HyperSpace Mountain. This has long been one of the most popular rollercoasters in the park and it still is.
The good news is the rollercoaster remains the exact same with the exception of the theme AND the carriages. Even though I’ve always enjoyed riding Space Mountain I did find it a bit painful. But no more. The carriages have been modified to provide extra padding and I personally find the whole experience a lot more comfortable.
Unfortunately that’s where my compliments end. HyperSpace Mountain is at the centre of Discoveryland. This land is inspired by Jules Verne’s novels, and it’s all about the classic journey of discovery. If all you care about is the rollercoaster you will have absolutely no problem with the new ride. If on the other hand, you appreciate the Disney parks for their storytelling, immersive experience and details, then you will consider the changes they’ve made to the attraction quite the abomination. They’ve conserved the ‘discovery’ theme in the outside and in the queuing area, plastered some Star Wars writing over it with some Star Wars music and job done. So while it remains a pretty cool attraction, it’s way below Disney park standards. Definitely one of Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary bad changes.
Star Tours: the Adventure continues
After the HyperSpace Mountain abomination, Star Tours thankfully brings the other side of the coin. This is, in my humble non-Star-Wars fan opinion, the best thing about all the Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary changes. Even though this is supposedly an upgrade, it definitely feels like a brand new attraction. This 3D simulator will submerge you in the Star Wars world. There are as many as 96 different ride segments combinations, meaning you can get a completely different experience every time you ride. The graphics are amazing, the simulations are amazing, the queueing area is amazing. And that’s coming from a non-Star Wars fan! The simulations and the stories are done so well that it really doesn’t matter. I have nothing but praise for Star Tours.
In fact, the whole area around is really well done. You come out of the attraction into a very big Star Wars shop, full of merchandise most of which you won’t find anywhere else in the park. Just beside it there’s another Star Wars area where you can meet Darth Vader if you so wish.
Mickey presents: Happy Anniversary Disneyland Paris
Mickey presents Happy Anniversary Disneyland Paris is a brand new show especially designed for the 25th anniversary celebrations. It’s on a couple of times a day (check the program at the time of your visit) for 15 minutes at the Royal Castle Stage. At first, I thought it was simply a nice show with a lot of Disney characters and very catchy music. However, it was after I came home from our trip and was watching videos of it, that it suddenly downed on me: it’s not a random mix and match of characters, but a musical walk-through each one of the five lands that make up Disneyland Paris! It was a complete revelation… It’s the kind of show that you watch once, and you think ‘oh, that’s nice!’. You watch it twice, and you are hooked, with songs stuck in your head for the rest of the day. You can watch the full video here.
Also, I’d like to give a big thumbs up to the all the dancers and their furry Disney friends who give it their all in each one of the performances, even in 40C heat. I barely survived the heat sitting down, never mind having to be jumping around…
The Starlit Princess Waltz
This is another show that has been especially designed for the Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary celebrations. In a similar spirit to the Christmas show Royal Christmas Wishes, the Disney princesses gracefully dance lead by Aurora and their respective princes. It’s on a couple of times a day in the afternoon. It’s a nice show and I’m sure any princess lovers out there love it, but I’m not one of them. I’d happily watch Mickey presents Happy Anniversary more than once, but with the Princess Waltz, much like with Royal Christmas Wishes, once is plenty.
Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary merchandise
Of course no anniversary celebrations would be complete without some anniversary merchandise. I must admit that they’ve produced some pretty cool stuff. The overall theme seems to be ‘discovery’, with disney characters dressed up as explorers (kind of ironic given the abominations going on in Discoveryland at the moment). I am turning 25 in January and I have plans to buy a bunch of the 25th anniversary merchandise and walk around for a whole weekend pretending they are throwing me a kick-ass birthday party. No kidding.
The absolute best item to have come out of the Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary merchandise, is the Disneyland Paris A to Z book. This coffee table book is a collector’s item covering the behind the scenes in the park. Full of interesting details and memorabilia it is a must-have for the Disneyland Paris hardcore fans, or anybody wanting to learn more about the park.
25th Anniversary parade: Disney Stars on Parade
Another big change that has come with Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary celebrations is the retirement of the beautiful 10-year old Disney Magic on Parade and the inauguration of a new parade: Disney Stars on Parade. If you are visiting Disneyland Paris for the first time, I’m happy to report that the parade is amazing, and probably like nothing you have ever seen before.
If however, you’ve seen Disney parades before, then you’ll likely find this as a downgrade. While Disney Magic on Parade was a beautiful tale of many different Disney stories coming alive from the pages of a book, there’s no story to the new parade. Or if there is one, I don’t get it. I can live with that, and don’t think it’s that big a deal given the overall quality of the parade. However, the best part about it, are the new upgraded floats, including the popular fire-breathing dragon. We watched the parade twice on a very busy bank holiday weekend and on the first day, the dragon float was missing. On the second day, both the dragon AND the Peter Pan float were missing. Given that there are only like 7 floats in the parade, that’s nearly 30% of a not-even-one-month-old parade not functioning. Not cool Disney, not cool at all!
Disneyland Paris have also slightly upped their Disney character game for the 25th anniversary celebrations. They have brought out all of the main Disney park characters, including Mickey and Minnie, Donald and Daisy, Chip and Dale and Goofy and Pluto. You can meet them in their new sparkling 25th anniversary clothes around Central Plaza and Main Street every day from approximately 11.00 to 16.00 (check the times on the program on the day of your visit).
This is another controversial change. For its 20th anniversary, Disneyland Paris started the wonderful masterpiece that was Disney Dreams (may it rest in peace). Every single night the park would put on a beautiful spectacle of projections on the castle, water fountains and incredible fireworks. There is a unanimous consensus among all those that have watched that it is one of the best night show spectaculars to have ever been produced.
Disney Illuminations (or Disney Abominations as Airam calls it), remains my favorite part of Disneyland Paris, and I still wouldn’t leave the park without watching it. If you are visiting Disneyland Paris for the first time then this definitely remains a must-watch. The problem is, while they’ve been focused on improving the quality of the projections, they seem to have forgotten about storytelling completely. It’s sadly and blatantly obvious an attempt at promoting Disney latest blockbusters.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so all I will say is that it starts off real good. Then there’s a sudden ‘mmm not sure I like it but OK’, soon to be followed by a ‘WTF is going on?‘. And no, playing Let it go after everything doesn’t make it better either. The only ‘upgrade’ from Disney Dreams that I find in Disney Illuminations is the grand finale. It really is spectacular.
Pirates of the Caribbean
I’ve added Pirates of the Caribbean to the list even though it is technically not part of Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary celebrations just yet. This classic attraction is currently being refurbished and is undergoing some changes. It is set to re-open its doors in July. Although it’s not just the ride that is undergoing changes, but also the associated restaurant – Blue Lagoon. It’s just been announced that it will now be called Captain Jack’s – Le Restaurant des Pirates. Given that this is one of Disneyland Paris’s most iconic attractions and having seen what they’ve done with HyperSpace Mountain I’m terrified to see what kind of changes they are bringing to this area. I shall report back in September.
Frontierland is up there with Star Tours as one of the best things that have come with the Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary celebrations. This land has been practically sealed off over the last couple of years, but it’s back looking brand new. The Big Thunder Mountain attraction is back in action after undergoing major refurbishments and some upgrades. It is better than ever, and has quickly become one of the most popular rides in the park. The Molly Brown riverboat is also back and currently sailing across the rivers of the far west. I think Frontierland is one of the best themed lands in Disneyland Paris, if not the best. It’s a real pleasure to see it looking as splendorous as it is looking right now.
Brand new refurbished park
It’s not just Frontierland that is looking better than ever. The whole park has undergone the biggest refurbishment since its opening day. I remember walking along Main Street the last couple of times I’ve visited over the last few years, and there was always something covered in scaffolding. That, or a very desperate need for maintenance in some of the buildings. That’s a sight of the past now. Disneyland Paris may be 25 years old, but it currently could pass for a one year old park. They’ve also changed the lighting around Main Street. They have gotten rid off the traditional lightbulbs and have replaced them with more lasting and environmentally-friendly LED lights. Thumbs up to Disneyland Paris for continuing to strive to be as sustainable as possible.
All in all, I have no doubt that Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary is the best timing there has been in a while to be visiting the park. I don’t think that all the changes are for the better, but the overall look and extra entertainment certainly make a strong case for it. Onwards and upwards Disneyland Paris!