The Disneyland Resort Paris is widely regarded as one of Disney’s most beautiful creations, combining elements of the company’s US parks with a dash of European flair. On the surface, however, both of its theme parks are highly derivative, reusing tried-and-tested elements from Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Luckily, if you stare a little longer at Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios, you’ll find a host of unique attractions that can’t be found anywhere else. Here are ten that shouldn’t be missed.
Walt Disney Studios received something of a critical mauling when it debuted in 2002, criticized for its small size and lack of original attractions. One unique gem did make the line-up, though. Starring Disney Parks stalwart Martin Short, CinéMagique is a theatre show that uses a mixture of live action and cleverly edited footage from classic movies to tell the history of cinema. Stitching together a coherent plot that encompasses films from Angels with Dirty Faces to Star Wars is some feat, particularly as an engaging romance is layered on top. Nearly a decade on, CinéMagique is still one the best attractions of its type in the world.
2. Crush’s Coaster
One of several badly-needed additions to Walt Disney Studios in 2007, Crush’s Coaster rapidly became a favorite with the park’s guests. In typical Disney fashion, it takes a fairly standard theme park attraction (in this case, a Maurer Söhne spinning roller coaster) and sprinkles it with fairy dust. The circular vehicles are themed as turtle shells, and guests join Finding Nemo’s Crush on a ride along the East Australian Current.
3. Space Mountain: Mission 2
Fans of Space Mountain at Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom may be surprised to find that the Disneyland Paris version is radically different. The tame “wild mouse” design is gone, and instead the trains are launched at high speed around a twisting, turning, multi-inversion circuit. Sadly, some of the excellent original theming (based on Jules Verne’s De la Terre à la Lune) was stripped out as part of a “Mission 2” overhaul in 2005, and the coaster can now be painfully rough at times.
4. Armageddon – Les Effets Speciaux
Walt Disney Studios’ Les Effets Speciaux might actually seem more at home at a Universal Studios park. As the (translated) name suggests, it is designed to demonstrate how some of the mega-budget special effects in 1998’s Armageddon were put together. The final set-piece in a recreation of Space Station Mir is suitably spectacular, although it is questionable how long Disney will be able to sustain an attraction based on an increasingly dated blockbuster.
5. Les Mystères du Nautilus
Being a walkthrough attraction, Les Mystères du Nautilus is unlikely to make too many Disney fans’ “favorite attractions” lists. Nevertheless, the recreation of the Captain Nemo’s submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is an excellent fit with Disneyland Paris’ retro-futuristic Discoveryland. Partially submerged as it is, some guests might walk straight past it without even realising that it’s possible to explore the interior. A perfect example of the attention to detail at Disneyland Paris (the submarine would be purely ornamental at almost any other park), it’s like stepping into Jules Verne’s universe
6. RC Racer
Opened in 2010, RC Racer is the most intense attraction in the Toy Story Playland expansion at Walt Disney Studios. Themed around the Hot Wheels track that remote-controlled car RC rides in the Toy Story movies, its “half-pipe” coaster design offers a similar experience to the “swinging boat” rides that operate at amusement parks all over the world. It won’t be unique for long: an identical clone will open at Hong Kong Disneyland in late 2011.
Offering a similarly offbeat take on cinema part to CinéMagique, Animagique focuses on classic Disney animated movies. The plot has echoes of Mickey’s Philharmagic at the Magic Kingdom, with Donald Duck disrupting Mickey Mouse’s best-laid plans. In this case, he disobeys Mickey’s instructions not to enter the Cinematheque, and is pulled into the film vault. Scenes from Dumbo, The Jungle Book, The Little Mermaid and The Lion King are recreated using a combination of ultraviolet light, fluorescent paint and impressive puppetry.
8. La Tanière du Dragon
As with the Nautilus, La Tanière du Dragon is a walkthrough exhibit at Disneyland Paris that is easy to miss. Hidden away underneath Sleeping Beauty Castle, it is a fantastic use of space. The cavern houses one of Disney’s very best audio-animatronic creations: an enormous dragon that has been chained to the ground. Somehow managing to look menacing and sympathetic at the same time, the dragon is one of the park’s most intriguing residents.
9. Alice’s Curious Labyrinth
The last of three walkthrough attractions in the list, Alice’s Curious Labyrinth is an elaborate hedge maze located in Fantasyland at Disneyland Paris. Featuring a number of neat touches such as playful jumping fountains, its most visually striking element is an enormous floral recreation of the Cheshire Cat’s face. It’s worth finding your way to the centre, where you can gain an excellent view of the surrounding area from the top of the Queen of Hearts’ Castle.
10. Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril
Bearing no relation to the stunning dark ride Indiana Jones Adventure at California’s Disneyland, Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril is instead a custom-designed mine train-style roller coaster manufactured by Intamin. While it was the first Disney coaster to feature an inversion, it also proved to be a painfully cramped ride for many adults. In attempt to revive its fortunes, Disneyland Paris turned the ride’s cars backwards for several years, a bizarre decision that only increased the discomfort. Mercifully restored to its original forward-facing configuration, the coaster does at least feature excellent theming throughout.
Nick Sim is a lifelong Disney fan based in Suffolk, England. When he’s not daydreaming about a new dark ride for Disneyland Paris, he’s writing news and reviews for Theme Park Tourist.
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