Following our breakfast routine (two croissants with ham and cheese and three pain au chocolat!) we set off a little later this morning as Walt Disney Studio’s Park does not officially open until 10am. We arrived at the Disney Village area at 9am and had browse in the massive World of Disney Store. We then decided to queue at 9.30 to get into the Park for opening so we could do the Ratatouille ride before the queues got too long.
Once in the park we joined the queue for Ratatouille and within 7 minutes we were on the ride. I really liked the queue area for this ride especially a section where you feel like you our outside in a Parisian suburb. The ride system is combination of a dark ride and 3D screens including smells, water and temperature effects. The general story is that you are a rat and you are being chased through the restaurants kitchen. As a family we all really enjoyed this ride. For me it doesn’t quite work as well as similar rides I’ve been on (such as Spiderman at Universal) but it’s still very very fun.
We then got some Fast Passes for Tower of Terror, with a 30 minute wait until we could use them we decided to go on the Magic Carpets which had only a 5 minute wait. By now our little lady had become accustomed to flying in the air, so she was quite happy for the Magic Carpet to be in the air at all times. We still had a few minutes spare so we decided to take some photos at the Monster Inc. photo spot in the park until it was time for our reservation at the Hollywood Tower Hotel.
Whilst tall enough to ride Tower of Terror, we knew that this ride would be too dark and too thrilling for our little lady to do, so I initially went on the ride with my Mum and then got the benefit of going on it a second time with Mrs Geeky Dad. I absolutely love this ride from the queue theming (the library and boiler room), to the story and special effects, and not forgetting the awesome drops. For me this is the best ride in Walt Disney Studios and is a Disney classic. As a fan of the Twilight Zone I really hope they don’t retheme it like they have in California, although I appreciate that the Twilight Zone is probably not well known these days.
It was now 30 minutes until a showing of Mickey and Magician Show, so we joined the queue and were seated 10 minutes before the show started. We were second row (we could have sat front row but I decided against it due to my fear of audience participation, mainly due to being regularly picked when sat on the end of rows or in the front row of shows!). This show is absolutely fantastic. The basic premise is Mickey Mouse is tidying up a Magicians room and coming across magical artefacts which leads to interaction with classic Disney characters and Disney songs including the Circle of Life, Let it Go and Friend Like Me. I don’t want to spoil the show by giving away any more details but needless to say the combination of special effects, magic tricks and live music makes this a must see show.
It was now lunch time, so we headed over to Restaurant Des Stars, but with a 30 minute wait for a table we decided to eat at Restaurant En Coulisse in Studio 1. I had the Darth Vader Burger with Yoda Cupcake which again was very nice. Feeling stuffed we decided to let our meal go down by seeing Cinemagique. The film starts as a showcase of the history of cinema until a ‘member of the audience’ is literally taken into the cinema screen and we view his adventures through the history of film, including some very clever special effects. I absolutely love this simple, but really effective show and I was sad to learn that it is now closed and is due to be replaced in 2018. As a movie buff and someone interested in the history of cinema, I think it such a shame that they’ve decided to replace the show. It is the kind of attraction that only Disney do and whilst I understand it may not appeal to everyone and a more modern show (perhaps involving Marvel characters) maybe more popular I will miss this attraction next time with visit.
After Cinemagique my Mum kindly agreed to take our little lady to see the Disney Junior show (which we saw the previous year) whilst Mrs Geeky Dad and I went on Rock N Roller Coaster. Our little lady really enjoyed the Disney Junior show again, although there are some characters in it she is not familiar with, (they really need to update this attraction) there is enough Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to please her. I imagine next year she will be too old for this attraction. As for Rock N Roller Coaster, we both enjoyed this ride especially the launch at the start. It’s a very fun coaster but both of us felt a little shaken afterwards. Could it be I’m finally getting told old for these kind of rides?!
As Rock N Roller Coaster had no queue we were on and off it within 5 minutes, so we decided to find a spot and wait for the Disney Junior show to end. Once we had met up with our little lady and my Mum, we spotted two Stormtroopers (First Order ones) meeting guests in the Front Lot area of the Park. This was a part of Walt Disney Studio’s Season of the Force, a celebration of all things Stars Wars. Both Stormtroopers spoke French and English and said basic commands ‘come forward’ and ‘move along’. Our little lady and I managed to get a good photo with them and I’m not afraid to admit that I was as excited as she was! (if only they knew I was the rebel spy…)
Another part of Season of the Force was a show called Star Wars A Galaxy Far Far Away, this was a short stage show involving characters on stage and video clips from the films. The only English language showing that day was due on in 30 minutes, so we decided to have a look in the Art of Animation building to kill sometime when we spotted a short queue to meet Pluto in the Toon Studios area of the park. After 10 minutes we were second from the front of the queue when the cast member told us that Pluto needed a drink and would be back in 2 minutes, however 30 minutes later Pluto never returned. We were all really unhappy with this. All it would have taken is for the cast member to come out and explain that Pluto would not be back after all, but we got nothing. This simply is not the standard I expect from a Disney Park. The Star Wars A Galaxy Far Far Away was also cancelled due to the technical difficulties, but at least they told us this.
Feeling peckish and in need of a sit down, we decided to get a snack from Studio 1. I had a large chocolate pretzel which is was very tasty and possibly my favourite snack of the trip. We still had a couple hours from Star Wars A Galactic Celebration night time show so decided to a few of the smaller attractions. We went on the small Cars themed ride, which was similar to the teacups and the Slinky Dog ride in the Toy Story Playland area of the park and another quick ride on the Magic Carpets. We then saw that Ratatouille only had a 20 minutes wait so went on that again. By now it was dark and we decided to have a walk around the park with all the attractions and areas lit up. Walt Disney Studio’s is often described as the ugliest of all Disney Parks (more on this later) but at night with it was really quite pretty, especially the Parisian Area and the Tower of Terror.
It was soon 8.15pm and time for Star Wars A Galactic Celebration this show was a combination of video clips, characters on stage, projections on the Tower of Terror and some pyrotechnics. Being a big Star Wars fan I really enjoyed the show and how it encapsulated the spirit of the Star Wars saga. Some of the projections on Tower of Terror were very clever and innovative using the structure of the Tower of Terror to create buildings and scenes. It’s such a shame that this show does not take place all year round as Walt Disney Studios desperately needs more entertainment during the evening and what better way to end a Disney day than a night time show.
Feeling tired we headed straight back to the hotel and our little lady was soon fast asleep. With my Mum happy to stay in and rest, Mrs Geeky Dad and I went to the Garter Saloon for a couple beers. That evening there was a country band playing music in the bar which added to the atmosphere of the bar. After our second drink we headed back to our room to get enough sleep for another day at Disneyland Park.
To conclude I wanted to comment on Walt Disney Studios as a park. As most Disney fans know this park is the ugly stepchild of all Disney Parks. It first opened around 2002 at a time when Disney was opening ‘cheaper’ parks (Disney’s California Adventure & Hong Kong Disneyland also opened in this period). It quickly became apparent that none of these parks met the publics expectations of what a Disney park should be and both Disney’s California Adventure & Hong Kong Disnelyland have had billions pumped into them to bring them up to standard. Alas, poor old Walt Disney Studios has yet to see the same amount of investment (although this could change if the Walt Disney Company are to take full control of Disneyland Paris resort). There is nothing wrong with the attractions at the park, whether it be the rides or shows. All meet the standard of theming and quality you would expect from Disney, except there aren’t enough of them. We really struggled to fill the time between 5pm and the evening entertainment at 8.15pm. The real problem with Walt Disney Studios is how it looks. It’s simply a series of studio style buildings spread throughout a vast expanse of concrete. Sure the theming of Studio 1 when you enter the park is great, the Tower of Terror looks imposing as it should and the Ratatouille area if the Park is a great example of how imagineers can get it right, but overall the park is ugly (although better looking at night). I also question whether the ‘Studio style theming’ is a bit old fashioned now. Sure it worked in the 90s but it really doesn’t make much sense when the park isn’t a real film studio. Why take a backlot tour of a fictional backlot?
In my opinion Disney need to bite the bullet and completely retheme the park in my opinion. There’s nothing wrong with it being a park celebrating the movies but make it a park that has specific areas themed around different studios and property’s they own. The rides based on Pixar films are all in the same end of the park so why not make that Pixar Place. Perhaps use the left hand side of the park to make a Marvel area (it wouldn’t take too much to retheme rock n roller coaster into a Marvel ride, just don’t touch my beloved Tower of Terror), and of course there’s Star Wars, Walt Disney Studios, Disney Junior etc. so plenty of options. If they removed the backlot tour there would be plenty of room to make Walt Disney Studio’s a great park with plenty of attraction for a full day. Don’t get me wrong Walt Disney Studio’s is still probably a better day out than any theme park in the UK, but it could be so much better and Disney know it.