Paris 2014 – day 1 – Walt Disney Studios Park

Aware that Studios closes at 6pm and the main Disney park at 8pm (and it’s already 4pm), we enter Studios and endeavour to do as much as we possibly can. We know what big attractions are there that are open, and our list basically consists of:

  • Tower Of Terror
  • RC Racer
  • Aerosmith Coaster

And that’s it. There is Crush’s Coaster, which is sadly closed for refurbishment (a bit of a pity, as from on-ride YouTube videos it looks quite a decent little dark coaster) and Ratatouille, which was still being built at this time (but is a trackless motion ride or something like that – I think it uses the same tech as the new Antarctica thing at SeaWorld).

We enter the park through a warehouse-like structure which has shop fronts inside it as we walk through. When Disney do shop fronts, they actually make several “shop fronts” all made out to look like several stores, but are actually just one single extended shop. It is the same in this case. Nevertheless, it looks quite pretty and, I think, gives off a bit of a 50’s vibe, before we make our way into the park proper.

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Now, I’m just going to go out and say this.

In terms of theming, I hate these parks.

Largely, they’re trying to make it look like a film studio, or what we think a film studio should look like. Hence the name “Walt Disney Studios Park”. You’ve got areas like Front Lot, Toon Studio, Production Courtyard, and of course Backlot. And, apart from the new Toy Story bit opening up, I can’t see a blind bit of difference between them. They all look, well, pretty plain.

Plain isn’t the right word. Bland, I guess, is a bit better. There is no touch of whimsy, no grand spectacle to look at. Architecture is nice but nothing that I haven’t seen before. There’s some greenery. Movie props. Camera equipment. Areas made to look “Hollywood-ish”. It’s like we’re walking around a replica of Hollywood, without the glitz and the glamour.

So, with the review of the general theming out of the way, onto the rides!

The Aerosmith coaster (or, to give it its full, French name, Rock n Roller Coaster Avec Aerosmith) was going to be our first ride of the day, but at the time was closed, so we headed on over to the Tower Of Terror (or The Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror – whatever).

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Tower Of Terror is a brilliant example of how to theme an otherwise boring ride. Put bluntly, it’s a haunted hotel, and you’re going to ride the lifts. Enter the hotel and the queue winds all the way through to the boiler room in the bowels of the building, and I really must say the theming is excellent. Nice and spooky. Then you board the lift, taking your seats and getting settled in the safety restraints.

The fact that this lift needs safety restraints should really warn people. I’ve never encountered that on regular lifts before.

In any case, the lift starts to ascend. We pass various spooky scenes, each telling either a small story or a small part of a larger story, or both. I don’t know, as it’s all in French at this point (which is something we cannot complain about, being in France – and besides which, the English language inclusion, as well as other languages, is great, but more on that later).

We reach the top of the shaft and the door opens to give us a good view of the park. We’re allowed a moment to take this in before the lift begins a quite sudden, and quite forceful, free-fall for a few moments, before deciding to reverse and hurl us back upwards again. At the top, once more, the lift levels out and it’s down we go again. This continues for a bit, and is actually good fun.

So there you go – compared to most drop towers it’s quite a small ride, but seems to last a fair whack longer than others I’ve been on. And it has the theming down brilliantly, especially compared to Islands Of Adventure’s Fearfall. I can’t really remember that much about Port Aventura’s drop tower to say.

Our next ride is the RC Racer, in the Toy Story section. This differs from the other sections as, well, it actually seems themed! It is just like a giant toy section. You’ve got K’nex barriers, a giant Buzz Lightyear, benches made of Brio train tracks, Rex, a ball of some sort, a queue made of Scalextric pieces…

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Which brings us to the RC Racer. There are a fair few other rides in the area, just as there are in the park, but we’re concentrating on the main ones. RC Racer is a rollercoaster featuring RC, the radio controlled green car from the films. He’s got a giant piece of orange plastic track which boasts inclines of 90 degrees, and he’s just going to go up and down them a few times. Go forwards, get to the top of the track, reverse, get to the top of the track, so on and so forth like a halfpipe.

It’s a fair enough little coaster, and it’ll doubtless keep kids or young coaster riders entertained. Obviously it’s not meant for small children, but for those who have some confidence, this would be one to brag to their friends about. We do have to say though, out of the four coasters that we’re able to do on this trip, this is the worst. Not that any of them are bad or anything, so I guess I should say it’s the least good.

I should briefly mention queues. We’re getting through a fair bit of the park and queues for both Tower Of Terror and RC Racer have been about 20-30 minutes. Not too bad really – definitely better than I thought they’d be.

Whilst we’re passing on our way to see if the Aerosmith coaster is open, we see the Studio Tram Tour is about to leave, so we quickly jump on. Basically, this is a slow-moving photo opportunity, passing various props and sets and, of course, the standard “water in a canyon with an exploding truck” scene. There’s also something about Reign Of Fire too, a movie which features dragons attacking modern humanity. I think it’s that movie. Nevertheless, here’s a slightly London-looking scene with a beast in the sewer belching fire. If you’ve been on the Florida one you know what to expect. Take a camera and expect it to take about 20 minutes for a circuit.

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Studio Tram Tour (aka large photo opportunity) over, we head on over towards Aerosmith and find out that it’s open! Huzzah!

For those of you who don’t know, the Aerosmith coaster actually has some sort of a story. Aerosmith are recording a song, and also designing a roller coaster at the same time. Apparently that’s what bands get up to. They realise they’re late for a gig and hurry outside to the “stretched limousine coaster” that’s just parked up in the alley behind the studio. Needless to say, that’s what we’re riding.

A short wait in the studio, watch the band rehearse and go through the narrative, and then a queue in the alley, and we’re off. Into the stretched limo, which has a launch (which everyone can see – it’s not like it’s Hulk or anything) and into a weird dark roller coaster with neon signs looming at us from every direction, all sorts of multi-coloured lights and I’m pretty sure I saw a disco ball in there. Not like you actually get much time to look around as this thing goes like the clappers, with a few inversions and a bit where I genuinely wasn’t sure which way round I was oriented. Basically it’s set in a warehouse, and you can tell because you can, at points, see the walls/floor/ceiling. But it’s still good. Basically the most manic dark coaster you can think of, and it’s got a bit of breathing room – something its Parisian brother, Space Mountain, doesn’t manage – but more on that later. In any case, slight spoiler – this is my second-favourite coaster, and it’s a bit of a shame we didn’t go back on it.

So, with that over, it’s now 6pm and Studios is shutting up shop. Disneyland Park or whatever it’s called is open until 8pm, so it’s over there we go! I’d review Studios in depth but I’ll wait until I sum everything up on the second day – quick summary, I didn’t think Studios was much cop – but then, much like it’s Floridian counterpart and Universal Studios, I don’t think they’re brilliant either.

To Disneyland!

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