A Golden Afternoon in Disneyland Paris

After our lunch at Walt’s and a brief stop in our room, we were refreshed and reinvigorated. We went back into Disneyland Paris with hopes high that the snow was melting enough to allow some of the rides to reopen. The first one we checked was Les Mysteres du Nautilus walkthrough, and it was open! This one was at the top of our list because it is unique to Disneyland Paris and, like Skull Rock, a re-creation of something we never got to see at Disneyland in California—namely, the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea movie sets and props that Walt Disney brought to Disneyland in its early days.




As you can imagine, it’s tricky to take photos in such a dim environment, so bear with me….

Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality says the challenge here was to make all the room sets from the movie connect in a real way, so Disney turned to the biggest 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea fan in history, Tom Scherman. This was a man after my own heart: If you thought our Haunted Mansion bathroom was nuts, check out how he redesigned his entire apartment into the interior of the Nautilus!



Scherman had befriended 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Production Designer Harper Goff and learned all the secrets of creating the submarine. He communicated these to Walt Disney Imagineering via more than 250 sketches on cocktail napkins (a.k.a., the French Post-It note), some of which may be seen in Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality.


I’m gonna declare this THE best napping spot in all of Disneyland Paris!


If Disney had a ship with cabins themed like this, I might actually be interested in taking a Disney cruise!


This is classic Disney theming at its best and reminded us strongly of the Mysterious Island in Tokyo DisneySea. Except, you know, they have an entire 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride there…. But, like any Disney diehard, we just enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere in a place we’d never been before.



According to Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality, this room contains actual antiquities—like a real 1794 map of the East Indies and a book from 1638—for guests to hustle past as they look for “where the ride starts.”



Scherman even created these dive suits for the attraction. For his efforts, Disney gave him a certificate naming him Admiral of the Nautilus!



The main attraction is an iris window that opens to reveal an impossible-to-photograph giant squid attack, complete with electrical flashes and sound effects.




The last major set piece is Captain Nemo’s pipe organ. As you know, the original from the movie can be found in the ballroom scene of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, so Imagineers were able to study it to create this replica.




I don’t quite understand why Nemo himself appears creepily in the mirror—is he supposed to be a ghost?—but it’s a cool effect.





If you’re interested in seeing more of Les Mysteres du Nautilus, there’s a comprehensive video walkthrough here.




Next we decided to go over to Frontierland and see if Big Thunder Mountain was open. It was not.


Nothing to ride in Frontierland, but you can see people riding the PanoraMagique balloon at Disney Village!


We took a moment to throw rocks and snowballs into Big Thunder’s frozen lake. It looks like we weren’t the first! The ducks were none too pleased….


Duck: “HEY! I’m *walkin* here!”


There’s plenty to do in snow-closed Frontierland if you love looking at old mining equipment!


Ain’t she a beaut?

Whoa whoa WHOA—slow down, Disney! There’s only so much mining equipment a person can handle seeing at once!


There was a nifty Coco display over at Fuente del Oro Restaurante—probably the most color amassed in one place in the whole park, outside of It’s a Small World.






We half-heartedly tried to check on Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril. Not only was it still closed, they wouldn’t let you get anywhere near it! The closest we came was the edge of Adventureland, near Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost.



Like Toad Hall, this was a restaurant I was really interested in seeing, but mostly because of what it used to be. When Disneyland Paris opened, this was a table-service restaurant called The Explorers Club, a sort of cross between Pleasure Island’s late, lamented Adventurer’s Club and the Enchanted Tiki Room. Originally it was supposed to draw parkgoers back toward a Jungle Cruise-type ride, but that ride never made it into the park’s final design. Even after the park opened, the Explorers Club didn’t last long as a sit-down restaurant. One of the early complaints about EuroDisney was that it had too many table-service restaurants, so after a brief stint as a counter-service Chinese restaurant, the Explorer’s Club was flipped into a pizza place (ah yes, jungle pizza!) called Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost.



Apparently the Explorers Club opened with a roving cast of Streetmosphere-type adventurer characters who would interact with diners and the animatronic birds in this massive tree. The restaurant also contained a lot more theming elements that have since been stripped away (perhaps plundered by Joe Rohde for use in Animal Kingdom?).




I was impressed to see a trio of drummers performing in this out-of-the-way spot on an off-season weekday. Not something you’d find in most Disney park restaurants, let alone in a pizza joint!



Amazingly, the AudioAnimatronic birds were returned to Colonel Hathi’s in 2016! I couldn’t tell if they still work (apparently they were designed to have subtle movements so you would be caught by surprise when you discovered they were “alive”).


So this is whatever happened to Rosita!


We’ll call this one “Steve”


Two can sound better than one toucan can!


I dragged poor Patrick all over the place requesting a million photos of the World’s Most Over-themed Pizza Joint.




The drummers were playing their hearts out for a handful of indifferent diners.


“Uh, could you keep it down? I’m trying to figure out where the pepperoni is on this 15€ slice…”


The porch must be a really nice place to eat in better weather. It wraps around the side and front of the restaurant and is surrounded by a pretty little creek.




This is where you go if you want ice in your drink at Disneyland Paris.




I feel like this would be an amazing place for an in-park wedding reception. There’s even a stage for a band!



The order counter area still has ridiculous amounts of theming—like, more theming than in all of California Adventure’s “new” Pixar Pier! It’s such a shame that this is all being wasted on an empty quick-service restaurant now. But maybe it gets more appreciative traffic in high season.






So… What’s with all the ginormous bottles of Pellegrino..? Is Colonel Hathi some aging Yuppie?



Nice little reminder of what we’re missing….







This is what happens when the air conditioning is on and you leave the door open….




You can just make out the spire of Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril in the distance, but they had ropes up so we couldn’t get any closer. It was a ride that remained forever out of reach during our trip and became one of our ridiculous White Whales. Since then we’ve learned that it’s basically just a clone of Tokyo DisneySea’s Raging Spirits, with which we were mightily unimpressed, so I guess we didn’t miss much.



Thwarted, we wandered through Adventureland toward an attraction Patrick had been looking forward to, Le Passage Enchanté d’Aladdin.



I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing incongruously snow-covered scenery like this! Welcome to frigid Africa….



OK, I was wrong—I guess La Girafe Curieuse (the “Curious Giraffe”) gift shop DID open during our trip, cuz Patrick got a photo in there. In true Disney fashion, there is literally a curious giraffe poking his head through the roof!


“So… How much for the neon zebra-striped Minnie Mouse bobble-head pen?”


The Imagineers designed La Cabane des Robinson to be the “castle” or “weenie” of Adventureland, but today its looming, off-limits presence just mocked us.


“Ha ha, you can’t touch me!”



One place that was open was Le Passage Enchanté d’Aladdin diorama walk-through. This one was on Patrick’s Must-See list, and he went through three times! It is very colorful and charming.






These two photos are different. I promise.








It’s like you took a wrong turn and ended up in Morocco at Epcot!








This was me yesterday when I realized all the rides were closed cuz of snow…


This was Patrick









Ah yes, that timeless parting expression… “Later, dudes!” But shouldn’t we also be excellent to each other?



Next we went across the path to Agrabah Cafe, a buffet restaurant that feels like a smaller version of the Casbah Food Court at Tokyo DisneySea. The theming is off the charts!



The paintings in the entryway depict a slightly more conventional version of the Aladdin story.



Possibly the prettiest drinking fountains in the whole park!


“Peee-yew! Nobody told me this horse was gas-powered!”


You’re not going to believe this, but Agrabah Cafe was originally the Adventureland Bazaar, a warren of little shops selling authentic Middle Eastern merchandise and themed to One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, with names like Les Trésors de Schéhérazade (Schaharazade’s Treasures), La Reine des Serpents (The Snake Queen) and Le Chant des Tam-Tams (The Tam-Tams’ Song). In 1999 they turned it into a buffet.

That’s right, they demoted the Explorers Club down to a pizza joint because people said there were too many sit-down restaurants at Disneyland Paris, but then they replaced a one-of-a-kind shopping experience with another sit-down restaurant! Disneyland Paris, you cray-cray…










Not for sale! This is a restaurant! Do not attempt to buy!



Patrick captured this surreal shot of the patio in the snow through one of the colored panes in the window!




Back out in the Hub, Sleeping Beauty Castle was looking gorgeous with her snowy blanket under a clear blue sky.





Then we temporarily lost our senses and hiked all the way over to Discoveryland to be disappointed by Videopolis.



Videopolis and Cafe Hyperion, the ginormous counter-service restaurant inside, kind of made us wonder, “What were they thinking?” I mean, OK, yes, they were thinking, “Tony Baxter is one of the all-time raddest Imagineers and he never got to see his Discovery Bay concept or its Island at the Top of the World airship come to fruition at Disneyland, so we should put them in Disneyland Paris!” But that’s apparently where they stopped thinking, cuz inside this thing is just a ginormous empty hangar.

When it opened, they tried to use Videopolis as a night-time disco for teens and young adults. But the teens and young adults were at DISNEYLAND and they wanted to continue EXPERIENCING DISNEYLAND right up to closing time, so that tanked pretty quickly. Over the years, they shoehorned in various stage shows that had absolutely nothing to do with Discoveryland: Beauty and the Beast, Mulan—The Legend, The Legend of the Lion King, Legend—The Legendary Tom Cruise Flop of Legend (I might be misremembering that last one). In between they would show music videos—until enough parents complained that their kids were now pestering them for Hammer Pants and hair gel—and, later, cartoons.

Nowadays Videopolis serves as the Jedi Training Academy and, in-between, a dim cavern in which to watch Star Wars: Clone Wars on an infinite loop while you slug back minuscule 6€ Cokes and something called a “fish burger.” Which is exactly what I go to Disney for! Of course, Jedi Training Academy is fun and popular and makes sense because Star Tours is nearby. But just look at the size of this place and imagine what kind of amazing ride would fit inside!



Because it’s Disney, there’s some elaborate backstory about the Hyperion airship captain who took explorers to 49 destinations while serving them overpriced burgers with a side of “Ice Ice Baby” before mysteriously disappearing (perhaps he stepped into that A-ha video). The dirigible remains poised for take-off, its bow looming over Discoveryland.



Inside, you can see the “stern” or “butt” of the dirigible.







Back outside, Wall-E and Eve were having a snowball fight and the line for Space Mountain was backed up all the way outside the building.



We probably rode Star Tours again…






Buzz Lightyear looks pretty pleased with himself for replacing an elaborate CircleVision film starring such notable European thespians as Jeremy Irons and Gerard Depardieu and filmed in an ancient castle filled with 500 candles by 400 lb cameras that later hurtled 1,000 yards down a bobsled run at 60 mph. (Thanks, Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality!)





Exploring Agrabah Cafe without paying for the buffet had been pretty easy. But the queue at Plaza Gardens made us nervous about looking like line-jumpers, so Patrick just stuck his head in briefly to grab a few shots.








Our mostly aimless wandering led us back to Main Street, U.S.A. and the Discovery Arcade.



We thought maybe we’d take a load off in the seating area for Cable Car Bake Shop, but when we rounded the corner, the throngs of guests stuffed into every nook and cranny momentarily looked up from gnawing their baked goods and growled at us, so we skittered off to the next shop.



This is what was in the next shop:



I kind of love Art Deco Ariel. Maybe that should have been my souvenir instead of the… nothing I ended up buying.



Belles of the Ball!






It was fun to see the Aristocats featured so prominently at Disneyland Paris.




Apparently the Imagineers’ original concept for Main Street Motors was to sell all kinds of extravagant, one-off things like you’d find in the Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog, and that included three vintage cars. Now it just sells the same T-shirts and hats found in every other clothing shop on property.



“I’m being driven to my death! Beep-beeep!”


But at least they have sales! I feel like I have never ever seen a “sale” sign in an American Disney park gift shop.



The Vacation Laundry Queen was very disappointed to discover this is not an actual laundromat.



Nope… definitely not a real laundromat…



The sad remains of the SnowMickey.


The Fragile Things Shop….



“Meringue Tete de Mickey Nappage Chocolat” means “Princess Leia Cookie” in French, right?



BoardWalk Candy Palace is pretty fabulous. But they seem to have more glass candy in the decor than real candy for sale!








See, I wouldn’t mind all the faux columns on the McMansions in my neighborhood if they had CANDY for capitals!




Man, I wish we had more than this one blurry shot of Dapper Dan’s Haircuts. I love that they have a real barbershop for grownups that you can actually get an appointment at!



We shoulda gone up in this thing—I bet the snowy photos would have been amazing!



As we stepped back out onto Main Street, we noticed the Stars on Parade 25th Anniversary Parade making its way around the Hub. Longtime readers will know that we are super disinterested in parades and I had to look up the name online just now. BUT when you’ve flown thousands of miles to visit a theme park that is 75% closed, suddenly a parade starts to seem like a really fantastic thing to see!

Also, we got a hot tip from this couple: Snow mounds make a great parade-viewing perch!



Snow mounds do not, however, eliminate electrical poles…



Disneyland Paris was really all-in on the whole Steampunk thing for the 25th anniversary, and it’s kind of nice.








“Why yes, this whole float is driven by our pedal power!”


“And no, Mickey doesn’t pull his weight!”















Do you think they take Buzz Lightyear down from the front of Astro Blasters when he’s in the parade like they turn off the curtain-twitching Evil Queen in Disneyland’s Fantasyland when she’s in the parade?







So the Maleficent dragon was pretty amazeballs—and we didn’t even know she could breathe fire! Apparently she only recently had her fire effect reinstated.













And then it happened. After about 10 minutes of watching the parade from just outside Frontierland (can you believe it? Patrick got all those parade shots with a telephoto lens), I happened to look through its gate and see a train running at Big Thunder!!! We bolted for Frontierland and sprinted all the way to the front of Big Thunder, then all the way back around it and up the exit after a cast member directed us to the sometime-FASTPASS entrance (more on that later). Breathlessly we waved our hotel FASTPASSes under the guy’s nose and then we were ON!

At last, our first big E-Ticket thrill ride! (Sorry, Space Mountain, but you don’t count cuz your music was turned off.)



It was F A B U L O U S! It’s so much longer than the one at Walt Disney World! You get to go out to this island and loop back around and really feel like you get your money’s worth. Also, of course, the scenery was breathtaking in the snow.  We don’t have photos of any of that because we were just enjoying the ride, so here’s another shot from afterward.



At this point we were getting dangerously close to our dinner reservation time at Captain Jack’s Restaurant, but we couldn’t resist going one more time. Who knew if we’d ever get back on? And then we had to take more photos, of course…








And that is where I’ll leave you for now…

Up Next:  Another 250+ photos of nighttime at Disneyland Paris, plus our review of Captain Jack’s Restaurant!

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