I promise you, Dear Reader, that I wanted to like Walt Disney Studios Park. I tried to like it! Nobody spends all that money and time flying across the Atlantic just to hate where they’re going. Surely WDS couldn’t be as bad as everyone said. There had to be some overlooked gem, some underappreciated theming…. something! But, despite our lowered expectations and natural excitement over seeing this new-to-us park for the first time, Walt Disney Studios just wore us down, chipping away at our goodwill moment by moment until we fled back into the arms of Disneyland.
And if you think this assessment is harsh, consider that just one week after we returned from our trip, Disney announced a multiyear, €2 billion makeover of Walt Disney Studios!
We got up early and hit the ground running that morning, ready to experience that tummy flip-flopping thrill of walking into a Disney theme park for the first time ever. The sun wasn’t up yet and workers were already back at it in Disneyland, trying to clear the ice that had formed overnight.
It was so nice to be able to walk a few steps down the hall and get a fresh, made-to-order omelette…
… Or, you know, an intravenous sugar explosion!
After breakfast we ran back to the room for our 47,000 layers of outerwear and our completely unsuitable shoes (a.k.a., The Widowmakers!). Patrick noticed our doorknob.
I noticed the workers were still clearing paths through the ice.
After a fond last look at Disneyland, we turned toward Walt Disney Studios with a spring in our step. A new adventure awaited!
Fantasia Gardens was still buried under Elsa’s goo…
“Look! There it is!!!” we shouted as we pointed and threw elbows like Angular Kids™ in Disney concept art.
“Wow,” we said to ourselves, “It looks just like a real-live outlet mall!” We could almost smell the Wetzel’s Pretzels…
It was Extra Magic Time, so when the rope dropped, we didn’t stop to take pictures of Studio 1 or the Hub as we hustled to our first ride. Here’s one from later, after the snow started.
At the top of our Extra Magic Time To Do List were Crush’s Coaster and Ratatouille: The Adventure because we don’t have them in the U.S. Because Crush’s Coaster doesn’t have FASTPASS, and because I’d read it gets the longest lines, we ran straight there first.
We screeched to a halt, flummoxed by the presence of a line. On a weekday. During Extra Magic Time. Five minutes stretched to 10… then 15. The streams of other guests passing us to get on rides that were actually open began to worry us. Periodically one of us or someone else near us in line would head to the front and quiz the cast members, but they kept telling us they didn’t know what the delay was or when the ride would open.
The woman in line ahead of us said her husband had taken their kid over to Ratatouille, but it was down too! That’s right, the park’s two (only?) star attractions were both closed during WDS’ Extra Magic Time!
After 20 frustrating minutes, Patrick and I decided to take our chances with the rest of the park instead of wasting our one extra magic hour standing in a line that wasn’t moving.
Fortunately, park management had decided to open Tower of Terror early, since the two star attractions were still closed. It was a bummer to have our first ride in the park be one that we’ve ridden hundreds of times in another park, but at least it was an E-Ticket.
Paris’ Tower of Terror is a hybrid of Florida and California’s (RIP) in that the queue has real, 3-D details on the walls and ceiling like Florida’s instead of California’s cheap trompe l’oeil painting, but the ride system is the shorter California version.
We decided to knock out Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Avec Aerosmith while we were sorta in the neighborhood. It seemed to be just like the Florida version, but with a shorter, nonsensical movie at the beginning (no Ken Marino from The State!), more crazy loops at the start of the ride, and a sort of anti-climactic ending. But Patrick liked that it doesn’t have all the cheesy LA freeway signs and is just lighting and rigs as if you are at a concert.
From there we looped back around to Crush’s Coaster and discovered that it was finally open—with a 50-minute wait! D’oh! Our naive decision was to come back after the park opened so that we could ride it using the Single Rider Line, because surely the universe would not heap insult upon injury by denying us even that small victory. Off we went to try our luck with Ratatouille!The park’s layout is completely unintuitive. For some reason, the Cars Quatre Roues Rallye is shoehorned in over near Crush’s Coaster and not back in the Pixar section of the park. Actually, “shoehorned” is a good way to describe the entire park. Everything seems plopped down wherever it will fit, with jumbled sightlines that encompass multiple incongrous elements instead of narrowing your vision to reveal only the elements of the “land” you are in.
This is as close as we got to the Pixar Midway. I think the expression “I just can’t with [X]” was coined to describe Pixar Midway.
The Ratatouille section of Walt Disney Studios is quite well done and exactly the sort of thing they should have had from the start. Maybe having Disney California Adventure in California has inured me, but I didn’t even mind that it was fake Paris set just outside real Paris. As Patrick said, if the rest of the park was this well themed, you wouldn’t even care that the rides here are a random assortment of almost all clones.
By that time, Ratatouille: The Adventure was running and had only a 15-minute wait, so we were able to ride it twice! Patrick really enjoyed it and got it right away. I was a bit confused at the beginning about what was going on in certain parts, but on our second pass I realized that our car hadn’t been properly aligned with some of the screens on the first go-round. It was much easier to understand the second time. I’m not entirely sold on these mostly screen-based rides, and I don’t feel like this one integrates them as seamlessly as, say, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. But hey! The ride is unique (until they finish Epcot’s) and how often do you get to ride a new-to-you E-Ticket attraction for the first time?
It is my fault that all these interior images are blurry because I kept excitedly dragging Patrick along the queue.
As you can totally not tell at all from this photo, the ride cars are shaped like mice!
The park was open by then, so back out we went into the bitter cold, heading for Crush’s Coaster.
This time, the line at Crush’s Coaster was 60 minutes long and, even though the park was open, STILL Single Rider was closed. The aggressively disinterested cast member at the gate had no idea when single rider would open, why it was closed or whether the earth was even still spinning. At the rate our luck was going, if we’d waited to come back a fourth time, the ride proably would have been on fire, so we sucked it up and got in the Standby line just as the snow started up again.
After 30 minutes in the freezing cold, we spent another 15 minutes shuffling through a dark, bare corridor before we finally made it to the underwhelming loading area.
Just as we reached the end of our 45-minute wait, we saw that they’d finally opened the Single Rider Line, which queues on the other side of the loading platform. D’OH again!!!
I want to know what sadist designed the Crush’s Coaster ride vehicle. Somehow I missed the fact that the tiny footwell is located in the center of the car as I scrambled to get into ours before it reached the end of the platform. So as I sat down, my foot became pinned under me at an incredibly awkward angle, and I spent the first half of the ride in excruciating pain as I frantically tried to pull my foot into the correct position with both hands. By the time I finally got my foot free, I was so nauseated from looking down the entire time that it was all I could do not to toss my cookies all over the ride track.
To my surprise, Patrick—who had experienced the ride as it was supposed to be experienced—was also so nauseated by the end of the ride that he declared he never wanted to ride it again! We sat down on the exit side of the queue for a minute to get our tummies back in place.
I was able to convince Patrick to give the ride one more try via the Single Rider line, which ended up being “just” a 20-minute wait. This time we were both loaded into backward-facing seats. I knew exactly where to put my feet, so the ride was much better. I felt like I even saw more things in the ride from the backward seat, like a school of jellyfish and some clumps of coral. But I still got nauseated at the very end. I don’t understand how little kids can ride this thing if they can’t do the Orange version of Mission: Space!
As we wobbled out of Crush’s Coaster, Patrick and I agreed that we were totally over Walt Disney Studios. The layout is a disaster, there is no sense of place or immersion in theming, the overall theme is at its core a cheat and the laziest version of it—even Disney Hollywood Studios was actually a studio once!—the rides are mostly clones (and often the worst version), and the “lands” are all pale imitations of other, better lands. And to top it all off, Walt Disney Studios sits directly across from THE most beautiful Disney park in the world! Patrick says it’s like displaying a Burger King crown next to the actual Crown Jewels.
Why were we wasting precious time here when we could be back at Disneyland?
However, Patrick was really taken with the maquettes around the perimiter of the Art of Disney Animation, so we wasted some precious time taking a photo of every single one! I’ll need your help to identify all of them, on account of the snow drifts…
It was snowing in earnest as we bid farewell to Walt & Mickey….
We speed-walked through the pathetic “Main Street” that is Studio 1. I remember reading about it and being so intrigued by the idea of movie sets as a Main Street, but in person it’s more like a cut-rate Universal CityWalk stuffed into an airplane hangar. There’s a reason people love Main Street, U.S.A. and it’s arguably because the shops are designed to look individual, even if they’re really all one big building. Here it’s a big walkway between two hallways containing souvenirs and quick-service food counters all shoved on top of each other. I felt like I was at an airport or something.
Outside it was snowing in earnest, so Patrick had to get more photos.
I love how it looks like Mickey is directing the brooms to gather and distribute snow instead of water!
We took a quick detour to the edge of Downtown Disney to check out World of Disney.
The inside reminded me a bit of the one in Tokyo—great displays and a lovely Art Deco look! Unfortunately, the merchandise was all the same stuff we’d seen in every store inside Disneyland. Of the three countries we’ve visited so far, Japan’s Disney has the most interesting and diverse merchandise, and France’s Disney has the least.
Our day was off to a shaky start, but I promise it got better…. And, hey, at least we could say we’d experienced something we NEVER had before: touring a Disney park that’s actually bad!