How will our perception of Disneyland Paris change in 2017

A lot will be happening at Disneyland Paris in 2017. That much we already know; the indisputable event of 2017 will be the 25th anniversary of the resort, but other exciting developments will also be taking place such as Season of the Force and an expanded Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend.

But rather than asking the straight forward question of what is coming up which you can read in countless places and on social media, the better question is what will change in our minds. Disneyland Paris fans have become increasingly optimistic over the direction of the resort, but niggling doubts and negativity remains. And in the wider Disney parks community Disneyland Paris is still seen in some circles as the ugly duckling. But will that change over 2017?

Disneyland Paris is gaining in reputation

The answer to the above question is, undoubtedly. Each year and with each piece of news that Disneyland Paris releases the reputation of Disney’s European outpost increases. This is true not only with local fans but with the international segment as well. Returning to the 20th anniversary and fan appreciation of Disneyland Paris was at an all time low.

Since then Disneyland Paris has opened Ratatouille, launched a large scale refurbishment plan and swapped out annual celebrations and opted to run shorter seasonal celebrations which ensured guests experienced something very different on each visit.

This has worked, Disneyland Paris fans are consistently praising the work of those leading the parks and the quality of the refurbishments and new additions.

The big event!

This year all eyes will be on Disneyland Paris which will shortly be celebrating its 25th anniversary. The celebration is almost unprecedented, two new attractions, a new nightly evening spectacular, a brand new parade and a few new shows and happenings. On top of all of this there will be, presumably, some form of decoration in the park to create a festive atmosphere.

Disneyland Paris 25th anniversary decoration design
Decoration mock ups for the 25th anniversary

It is very difficult to imagine that Disneyland Paris emerges from this monumental event without its reputation in both the press and online communities increasing.

Season of the Force

The other big push at the moment is Season of the Force. Disneyland Paris has always suffered in the winter months after the Christmas season. Whilst many take advantage of the cheaper rates, many are put off by the colder weather meaning that the parks can be very quiet indeed.

To combat this, Disneyland Paris has launchedĀ the Season of the Force. This Star Wars themed celebration will attract many guests from a previously untapped demographic. We already know that this celebration shall be returning in the 2018 winter period, and next year will also boast Star Tours and the upcoming meet and greet in Discoveryland – Season of the Force may well be the first big celebration to span both parks!

Season of the Force team photo
Season of the Force team photo in Walt Disney Studios at Disneyland Paris

Beautiful refurbishments

The “Project Sparkle” refurbishment plan is scheduled to end this summer when Pirates of the Caribbean reopens. This schedule has been tough for fans with some key attractions closed for months at a time; the rewards of this, however, are marvellous.

Fan favourites are returning with increased colour and magic and the park genuinely is looking “as-new”. Painting a ride may seem trivial to some, but to fans it is greatly appreciated and is noticeable.

Disneyland Paris once had a reputation of being the ugly duckling of Disney resorts, but no longer. 2017 will be the year that everyone will take notice and look to book a trip.

Walt Disney Imagineering

Now for the negatives. I cannot ignore the change of Space Mountain into Hyperspace Mountain. Here’s the problem, I see this more as a reflection on WDI than Disneyland Paris – although the blame will, perhaps unfairly, land on the shoulders of the resort itself.

The reasoning is clear, Star Wars is popular and it sells. It’s easy to understand the commercial decision behind this swap and it makes commercial sense. However Disney parks have always been about more than pure commercial elements. We love the parks because of the story they tell, story is king – theoretically.

Hyperspace Mountain poster
The poster for Hyperspace Mountain which will open in Disneyland Paris in Spring 2017

As I have said, however, I feel this is a wider direction for Walt Disney Imagineering as similar switches have occurred in other parks (to Hyperspace Mountain as a seasonal change and the Tower of Terror change to a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction which is permanent.

A transformative year… and the best is yet to come!

2017 will be the year Disneyland Paris fans finally makes it. And by this I do not mean in the eyes of Disneyland Paris fans who, I think, have been careful watching the developments but to international onlookers.

Local fans have a reason to really brag about the resort and international fans a reason to visit. I cannot think of a better birthday gift for Disneyland Paris.

Thunder Mesa rumbles back to life (sort of)

The newspaper handed out to the first to ride Big Thunder Mountain

It’s 8:20am on Saturday 17th 2016 and like many people, I am waiting at the entrance to Frontierland. Excitement is building, it’s a big day; after 13 months of absence, Big Thunder Mountain is back!

The reality, however, is that Big Thunder Mountain has been back for a few days through soft openings. In fact, I rode it on the Friday although some of the new effects were not working. But today was different, it was actually opening and all the effects had to work or else it would be categorised as a failure.

Big Thunder Mountain from the Molly Brown
Big Thunder Mountain from the Molly Brown

The Opening Ceremony

At 8:35 we were lead slowly through to Thunder Mesa where we waited until 8:45 for the opening ceremony.

The ceremony was a very basic occasion but to fans, such as myself, was an invaluable moment filled with poignancy and delight. Daniel Delcourt, Chief Operating Officer of Disneyland Paris, who delivered a short speech about how important the attraction is to Disneyland Paris and how wonderful it was to have an integral part of Thunder Mesa returned. He also paid tribute to all the cast members who work on the attraction and the imagineers who have worked on the attraction over the past 13 months. Finally, Mickey and Minnie came out to cut the rope and that was that.

Then we waited for 9am and the opening spiel and to be allowed onto the ride.

9am, The return of Big Thunder

The spiel ended, the rope removed. Some guests opted to run. But I went for a nice walk past all the clapping cast members who were waving souvenir newspapers in the air. And then I joined the queue.

Big Thunder Mountain queue line

I say joined the queue, I walked all the way through it and straight onto the ride. The queue line sparkles and shines as if new, however the interactive elements have not made the jump from our American cousins meaning the queue remains one of the least inspiring in Disneyland Paris as you simply zig zag through to the trains.

The Ride

The ride itself is looking beautiful, the newly refreshed colours make the ride seem as new and all the effects are working as they should.

My big surprise on the first ride on this special day was to come off the first lift hill and to turn the corner and see the geysers working! But the gifts kept giving, the splashdown effect was simply wonderful and then turning the corner to see smoke coming from the buildings on the lift hill.

The new explosive finale is a delight. As you enter the final lift hill there are warning signs plastered across the entrance, then as you continue up the hill the projection mapped fuses lead up to the top of the hill before a giant explosion and smoke filling the hill. The new scene is short, but thrilling and worth the 13 month wait.

The final delightful surprise were the bats on the final lift hill which have been newly repainted and look more 3D than previously and is a fitting end to a wonderful ride experience.

As I disembarked the ride, I was handed a souvenir newspaper. A unique souvenir which is to be framed and placed on my wall as one of my most prized Disneyland Paris possessions.

The newspaper handed out to the first to ride Big Thunder Mountain
The newspaper handed out to the first to ride Big Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing

I then rushed immediately to Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing and was joined by a few Disneyland Paris fan sites to enjoy the newly refurbished rivers of the far west. The effects across the trip were amazing to see. A highlight was Smugglers Cove which has plenty of echo and sound effects which took me by total surprise.

Smugglers cove from the Molly Brown at Disneyland Paris
Smugglers cove from the Molly Brown

As the final section of the crossing arrived, the geysers were in full force showing their might and beauty. I remember, as a child, running away from the geysers as I thought they would get me wet (and as a child, this was an odd fear of mine). Seeing them alive again brought life to this area of Frontierland and are absolutely mesmerising.

 

And then it broke…

And then Big Thunder Mountain broke. The ride was down the whole day Sunday 18th DecemberĀ and then the majority of the following days. But now it is back in its full majestic might and delighting fans once again.

Welcome back Big Thunder!

In conclusion, Big Thunder Mountain is back with a vengeance and looks and rides fantastic.

Project Sparkle is the best refurbishment schedule we have ever seen in Disneyland Paris and will make the park look at its 1992 levels and will ensure that 2017 is the year to visit Disneyland Paris!