Disneyland Paris: A community park?

The Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland Paris

Many people compare Disneyland Paris to Walt Disney World. For a UK public, that is quite natural, Walt Disney World is heavily advertised over here. But are comparisons to Orlando fair? Well, yes and no. Yes because it is a Disney resort and should be aiming for the highest quality. No because Paris is much closer a model of Anaheim than Florida.

Anaheim vs Florida

These are two radically different resorts. Orlando is very much a destination. What do I mean by that? If you’re going to Walt Disney World, you are traveling to visit Disney World and very little else. Anaheim is a park that grew in and around a small town. Whilst Walt was aware that it was close to towns (building away from a population would have been financial suicide), he was perhaps unaware at the time the effects of this major attraction. What has occurred since then is wide-spread building around the park area. Disneyland became fenced in. The design for Walt Disney World is more open. The resort area would be sparse, Disney would have total control. Therefore, and returning to the original point, Disneyland is a park for local residents and Disney World is a vacation destination.

The Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland Paris
The best castle debate is not the only debate that Disneyland Paris fans engage with.

What does this mean for Paris?

For many of you reading this, you take your holiday in Disneyland Paris. You see it as nothing more as a holiday destination. But the park is surrounded by residential settlements and one of Europe’s biggest cities. 49% of guests to Disneyland Paris are from France, and many of them will drive by car. For many, Disneyland Paris is a stop for up to five nights. Perhaps before, during or after their visit they will visit other French (or European) destinations. All this must be taken into account when comparing what Disneyland Paris offers compared to other Disney destinations. Let us now zoom in on this when considering a few points.

Fastpass+

Much like in Anaheim, Disneyland Paris does not offer Fastpass+. For those unaware of what this system is, allow me to explain. Fastpass+ is an enhanced version of Fastpass that is in operation at Walt Disney World Resort. After having booked your holiday, you may make Fastpass selections up to sixty days before your arrival in the resort. This means that when you arrive, you have planned a good quantity of your days already. You then simply turn up at the attraction at the specified time and enjoy. If you are buying a day ticket, these selections can be made up to thirty days beforehand. This model is perfect for Walt Disney World. It is a place that very often you plan to visit for a year or so in advance. Disneyland Paris can very easily for the 11 million franciliens [Residents of the Île-de-France] be visited on a whim. It must also be considered that for a few million others, having a day trip to Disneyland Paris is a simple task. Fastpass+ puts these guests at a disadvantage.

Fastpass entrance at Star Tours in Disneyland Paris
The paper-based Fastpass is the version that will always suit Disneyland Paris more.

Depth of experience

Disney Parks are supposed to take you from your daily life and immerse you in something different – a fantasy. Disneyland Park at Disneyland Paris does this. It cannot be argued that this does occur in Paris. Walt Disney World expands upon this and immerses you outside the parks as well as in. Disney Springs is a destination in its own right . Disney Village does need improvement work, that much is certain. But it will never be the level of Disney Springs. Why is that? Because not 5 minutes down the road there is a large shopping and entertainment complex in Val d’Europe. 30 minutes further afield, one of the greatest cities in the world exists to delight and entertain all audiences. What chance does Disney Village have to ever compete against those? What Disney Village should be doing is investing in high-quality entertainment options as that is exactly where Disney excels.

Café Mickey in Disney Village at Disneyland Paris
Disney Village or Disney Springs? Both are very different shopping and entertaining complexes.

Walt Disney World vs Disneyland Paris

In reading the above, you would be forgiven in thinking that my position is that Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris cannot be compared at all. Of course this isn’t true. The two are still Disney experiences. Walt Disney World is far superior in terms of food depth, something that a park in France should be far ahead in. Depth of in-park experience being another. Operationally, the two are very different. The point that is being made here is more that one should consider the full depth of the issue being discussed when pitting one Disney resort against another.