Sunday, April 8, 2012

Disneyland Paris: August 2011 Trip Report & Review - Part 2

Welcome, foolish mortals

  Continuing from part 1, (two posts in one day! I had the first part finished a day ago, but had to add some visuals) we are going to look at one of the high points of the trip for me. It needs to be described in as much detail as possible, because I feel the experience was too good for even a detailed post to do it justice. We left off with us getting off of Peter Pan; the first ride of our third day at the resort. It was then that my Brother sprung it on me and everyone that he though now was the time to do Space Mountain. I'm not going to lie, I was a bit surprised at first, and a bit jelly-legged once it quickly sunk in that I would have to do it with him. My reaction needs to be explained though. Let me tell you the abridged version of the story about me and roller coasters. So, let's begin this off-topic tale that will explain my less then positive reaction.

  I have always been fascinated with roller coasters. As a young child, I always had to look up how high and how fast a roller coaster went before anyone could get me on it. I was chicken to get on any coasters until maybe the first grade, when I rode what was then called the Sky Princess, (now the Kingdom Coaster) at Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, PA. I recall riding that thing at least twelve or so time that day I finally got over my fear and rode it. A few summers later, I made the mistake of upping the bar a bit too quick, and got on the Comet at Hershey park. That first drop scared the crap outta me at that age! My plans to get on the Sooperdooperlooper afterwards fell through in the blink of an eye. Thus, my first roller coaster riding phase came to an abrupt end early on.

The famous Coney Island Cyclone;
My #1 Favorite Roller Coaster.
  It was in November of 2008 that I finally began to try and start riding again, during my trip to California. There, I conquered the Giant Dipper at mission beach; my first "real roller coaster" since the Comet so many years ago. During that trip, I did every coaster I felt I could handle, going at a slow pace. Fast forward to the summer of 2009. A road trip lead me to Coney Island, the home of the world famous Cyclone. I knew that I had to do this one. It was famous. Butterflies in my stomach, I boarded into sofa-cushioned seats for a ride I will never forget. It took one more ride with my  (other, younger than the one on the trip with me) younger Brother before I realized that the feeling of being scared to death and having my stomach drop out from under me was fun! I hit all the wooden coasters I could that trip, as well as my first up-side-down coaster; a Zamparela flying contraption at Playland in Rye, NY, that I don't suggest anyone ever get on. Later that Summer, we hit Hershey park again for the first time in years. I did the Comet, and low and behold, the drop was a piece of cake. Compared to the Cyclone, it was nothing. Heck, I could hold my hands up, and not have them wrapped around the bar, hugging it like my life depended on it as I did years ago. I then decided it was time to do Sooperdooperlooper.
Lean back against the seat, or feel the pain!
Sooperdooperlooper at Hershey Park

  I had waited years to get on it. Sooperdooperlooper, which was one of the first modern coasters with an inversion, isn't exactly all that popular at Hershey Park nowadays; with rides like Storm Runner, Great Bear, and such being far more thrilling, and offering more loops. So we walked right on to this old, slightly rusty coaster, and were out of the station before I ever got a chance to take in any sort of safety warning. The ride is only equip with a lap bar, so your relying on force alone to keep you in the car during the loop. Well, nobody told me your supposed to lean back against that flat, highly uncomfortable seat when you do the loop. It all happened in slow-mo, even though it was just a few seconds. I instinctively leaned forward, as though we were going up a hill. Midway through the loop, I realized my mistake, and bent back against the force towards the seat. The rest of the ride would have been enjoyable, had I not begun to panic that I might have fracture vertebra in my lower back. I spend the rest of the ride holding my lower back, and got off feeling like what I imagine old people feel like each morning, who always are complaining about their backs. So, I didn't ride any more rides that day, and while my brothers rode Great Bear, I sat on a bench holding my lower back. So, I had a pretty bad track record with going upside down on coasters thus far. I hadn't been upside down since that fateful day in 2009. So, we jump back to 2011. Third day at the resort, and my Brother says it's time to take on Space Mountain.

  For those of you who do not know; Space Mountain at Disneyland Paris is a completely different ride compared to all the other versions. A radical new concept by imagineer Tim Delaney, Space Mountain: De la Terre à la Lune took the idea of Space Mountain, and combined it with a modern looping steel coaster. Utilizing a unique up-hill counterweight launch system, this version of the classic Disney park staple actually launches riders in rocket fashion up the side of the mountain. Now known as Space Mountain: Mission 2, the ride is advertised as trip to the edge of the universe, and no longer just a trip to the moon. An encounter with a Super-Nova is also placed in the fore-front.

  So, we head out for Space Mountain in Discoveryland, the Paris park's answer to Tommorrowland. I'm staring to get those butterflies. We pass the attendant at the front gates; dressed in a Bill Cosby sweater; and proceed along the side of the dome-cone in a switch back area wedged between it and the Submarine Lagoon. I watched as the cannon on the side of the Mountain blasted a train full of riders into what I knew would be a sweeping, spiraling mess of track in the dark inside at high speed. Screams filled the air, and then disappeared, muffled by the cone-dome. I kept thinking, why am I doing this? It's not to late to turn back. The wait was pretty short. In fact, I don't think we ever waited too long to get on. I mean, we waited longer for Peter Pan, Dumbo, and at times, Pirates and Phantom Manor. As we entered the tunnel portion of the waiting area, inside the cone-dome, we heard screams echoing about from behind the walls, along with the rumbling sound of the rockets zipping along the twisted track around us. We passed a window where a loud bang sounded, and a train full of screaming riders came to a crashing halt in the break run, complete with flashing lights an the sounds of electricity spikes; all under the eerie glow of a black-light. It wasn't long before we entered the load area.

  I don't know what it is about Disney Roller Coasters and their lighting fast dispatch systems, but watching even a train on Big Thunder be shot out of the loading zone with a sudden surge of speed can even be a bit intimidating at times. These trains were no different. The literally shot out of the loading area into a dark tunnel up ahead. We climbed into the rocket, and I pulled down on over-head restraints for the first time in my life. No sooner had I done that, we were moving at what felt like at least 20mph our of the station and into a hairpin turn in a dark tunnel. It was right about then that the What have I gotten myself into? thoughts came about, and the muttering of "Oh shit! Oh shit!" began coming out of my mouth, pretty much hushed by the sounds of rocket moving and the on-board soundtrack prelude. The rockets took sharp dive, and then began to climb that cannon covered incline I had watched from outside. No sooner had we begun the climb, the rocket came to a quick, rough, unexpected halt, throwing me forward. We came to a quiet stand still. I looked over at my brother, and I think I asked him what the hell  had he gotten me into before flashing lights lit up the track in front of us. The pre record sound of a man speaking in French began to play:
"Lancement en Un, deux, trois..."
The cannon launches a rocket load of thrill seekers
into simulated space. A "Winnie" if there ever was one.
   I didn't need a translator to know what was he was saying. I knew he was counting down to my impending doom. With that simple 1, 2, 3 countdown, we were launched up the cannon at what felt like at least 60 some miles per hour, and into a dark hole at the top. Strobe-lights flashed, and that was when it really hit me that this wasn't just a coaster with loops; this was a Space Mountain with loops, and I wouldn't be able to see much of anything to prepare myself for those loops, because it was about to get pretty dark! It was also the moment I truly realized what kind of madness I had gotten into. I grabbed that restraint and thought to myself, It's a Disney Ride; You're not gonna die; just hold on, it will all be over in a minute or so. One final "Oh shit" must have echoed from the car for all to hear outside the cannon before we disappeared into the darkness. I hung onto those over the shoulder restraints, as we took an initial dive at a sharper angle than any other space mountain; we banked to the left, and circled around at full speed, only to dive again, right into the first inversion, the sidewinder. Pushed back against my seat, the train flipped over with great force, and then spiraled out into another curve, and through a smoky asteroid, complete with fog effects. Another dive followed by a air-time hump lead to the second inversion, the corkscrew. Up was now down as the rocket spun through the darkness. A few more curves and the rocket began to climb high into the black abyss. Slowing to a crawl, a projection effect of an exploding supernova was played before us. This distraction was short lived, as the rockets took what I would say had to be the tallest dive in any Space Mountain; a sharply banked drop to the right, which led to a severely over-banked turn. (In fact, RCDB claims it to be a unique inversion element) This lead to the final leg of track, through a tunnel of red-spiraling light We hit the breaks, and proceed back to the station to unload.

  I got out of the train slowly, and headed for the exit. My face felt contorted. It turns out what I was feeling in my face was one of the biggest smiles I've had for quite sometime. I enjoyed that! That had to be the most amazing ride ever! I guess you know what happened next? It was time to ride it again! I think me and my brother did Space Mountain at least twenty some times. (We had kept count, but lost count at some point after the trip; I know it was Twenty something though) Here's a video showing off the ride, since I didn't film one myself:

  After a good three or so rides on Space Mountain, we headed to Disney Village, the Paris version of Downtown Disney. I have to say, since I've been to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney's, I can say that I'm pretty sure the Village isn't as big as the Walt Disney World mini-park sized one, but it's most likely bigger than Disneyland's.  We ate lunch at Cafe' Mickey, where I drank way to many Mr.Smee's to keep track of; (a non-alcoholic cocktail drink; it was so good. I could have legally obtained alcohol in France though, since their drinking age is so low) and watched in amazement as nearly every five minutes, someone, somewhere in the cafe, would celebrate a birthday. This was priceless. Here is a video showing off what happens when someone celebrates a Birthday at Cafe' Mickey. I didn't film it by the way:

  I have a strong feeling that not everyone who started that catchy parade was actually celebrating a birthday. I think some of them just wanted to hear that catchy song again.

The dilapidated Hollywood Tower Hotel
towers over Walt and Mickey.
  Anyhow, we then headed for the Walt Disney Studios Park. This was our only stop at this park on the trip. Although the idea of a Movie studio park isn't exactly something new or original, this park doesn't follow the Universal Studios & MGM Studios layout pattern. This place actually was laid out like it could have been a functioning studio, with a huge sound-stage at the front of the park functioning as a sort of "Main Street" style area with shops, food outlets, and such. The only two rides we ended up getting on here were Tower of Terror, and Rock'n'Roller Coaster with Aerosmith. We would have tried Crush's Coaster, but the line was way too long, and at the time, I wasn't aware what a monster of a ride was inside. So we did Tower of Terror first. By the way, that's not Photoshop. They do have the partners statue in the shadow of the dilapidated hotel. I love it; you expect to see that statue against a fairy tale castle backdrop. Instead, you get the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

  While I wasn't surprised by the French Rod Sterling in the Library, I was surprised that we got an English elevator spiel. I've been told that it's really rare that you ever get that in Paris, since they have both a French and English spiel, and normally the CM's always press the French button. It's essentially the same ride as the one in Disney's California Adventure, but with a larger courtyard in the queue out front.

  After taking on Space Mountain earlier that day, it was time to do the other launch and loop coaster on the property; Rock'n'Roller Coaster with Aerosmith. Not staring; with. That's the actual title of the ride here. I still got butterflies going into this one, knowing that this ride would be a bit different, with three actual inversions, and a flat launch section. Mid way into the wait, both my brother and I felt the desire to locate a restroom. We both were feeling our lunch come back to haunt us. We almost chickened out to find a bathroom, but we decided we had to do the ride first since we we're already half way there. This of course, at the time, was my first ride on this Disney Brand roller coaster, which has an older brother here in the states that at the time, I had not yet been on. The ride is themed differently in Paris; here, Aerosmith has designed the most insane coaster they could create (apparently, the most insane thing they could create was a standard Vekoma launch model) and they want us to be test dummies. (As apposed to a mad-cap limo ride to a concert through a nightmarish version of Hollywood lit in black lights as seen in Orlando) Thankfully, there was no attempt to translate the songs or the band into French. We get into the Sound-tracker; not a limo, but a train with audio boards and media equipment hanging all over it; and once again, are rocketed out of the station, coming to a much smother halt right around the bend. We wait, and then, being thrust forward at 60-some miles per hour while strobe lights flash and "Young Lust" (A very Disney appropriate song I might add) begins emitting from the speakers. Lights flashing everywhere, spiraling up, down, around, and all over the building. The ride was pretty awesome, but it wasn't exactly what Space Mountain was. After that, the Studio park was going to start closing for the day, so we headed back over to the other park.

  As you can see, I have been plowing through the majority of this report. Because it was such a long trip, and so much happened, and it was back in August, I don't recall everything we did in order. My next installment will look over the Hotel in more depth, Main Street and it's master planed Arcades, it's a Small World, and more. Hopefully that installment will be ready by the actual anniversary coming up soon.

I'll see you all a little later...


Disneyland Paris: August 2011 Trip Report & Review - Part 1

Welcome, foolish mortals

  In honor of the 20th Anniversary of Disneyland Paris on April 12th, 2012, I thought it would make sense for me to go back and do something I never got around to doing last year; a trip report on the entire experience I had back in August of last year. With all the things that 2011 ended up throwing my way at the end last year, (Disneyland Paris, Room For 1 More/Walt Disney World 40th Anniversary, 2 Digital Download collections, etc.) I only got around to reviewing Phantom Manor, (in case you missed that, parts one, two, and three) and  Pirates, after releasing my HD tribute video back in December. Since I canceled the new Phantom Manor set, and am doubtful that I will finish it's HD tribute video by the 12th, I felt that I needed something Disneyland Pairs related to talk about since the anniversary is coming up soon (even if they have already started their official celebration, the actual anniversary is still a week or so off) and this review/report seemed like the thing to do. I doubt I would have ever gotten around to it had this opportunity not presented itself. So, let's begin, shall we?

  I'm feeling nostalgic just thinking about last August now, so excuse me for rambling on about certain things that some of you are likely to have no interest in. While the whole trip was really centered around getting to go to Disneyland Paris, the full itinerary actually covered nearly half-a-month's worth of on-the-go, non-stop traveling through both Paris and London. As exhausting as this trip was, it was one of the best vacations I've ever had, and one I'll never forget. It was my first time out of the country, and my French vocabulary could probably be counted on my fingers. That should give anyone who's been there an idea of how out-of-place I felt in France at first. Thankfully, everyone I spoke to there knew more English then I did French. We spent the first day catching up on sleep (I'll never take a flight across the Atlantic over-night ever again; I can not sleep on a plane; what a fantastic way to spend a birthday; packing all day, and on a plane all night.) and just walking around, taking in the sights. The next day, we toured the Opera Garnier, the building responsible for the infamous story of the Phantom of the Opera, and then visited a little carnival near the Louvre where I got my first amusement rides of the trip. (yes, surprisingly, Phantom Manor was not the first spook house I rode in France; that honor goes to Train Fantome) While I'm on the subject of that carnival, I wanted to point out this blatant rip-off of Marc Davis' concept artwork on one of the pirate-themed fun houses:

Now that I got that out of the way...

  The next day, we packed up, and taxied out of the city to Disneyland Paris; which is located out in the farmland to the east. If you've been to Disneyland from out of town, then you know how it is with other Disney Resorts besides Walt Disney World; where the first thing you see isn't the marquee, but a towering ride (Matterhorn, Tower of Terror) or something of that sort from the road. It's exciting. Well, looking all over the farmland around me while my fellow vacationers (My Aunt, Grandfather, younger Brother and Cousin) caught up on sleep, it took a while for me to spot anything. I had a feeling I should be looking for Tower of Terror, the tallest structure on the site. The first thing I actually spotted was the hot-air balloon, floating high above the treeline, tethered to the completely hidden Disney Village bellow. Then I spotted Tower of Terror and knew we were getting close. This was my first time in a while that I was arriving at a Disney Park during the daytime, and not at night. The excitement of getting to go into the park while we checked into the amazing Disneyland Hotel was hard to control. I knew where my first point of origin was in the park, and I'm sure you know too.Of course, you can read what I though about Phantom Manor in my 3-part review. Our group split up for a bit after that. My Brother, Grandfather and I took off for the next big attraction on my to-do list, which was...? If you guessed Pirates, your correct. Again, I have a whole post that reviews that, complete with pictures and an HD tribute video.

  Since there was still an hour or two until our reservations for Lunch Blue Lagoon, my Brother, Grandfather and I went to Fantasyland to ride some of the dark rides, which were all in French. Pinocchio, Snow White, the Carousel, and finishing off with another ride on Pirates, it was finally time for lunch. The food here was awesome. I got some sort of Chicken ka-bob with shrimp and coconut something on it. Needless to say, it was great. We also got to see the house-lights come on in the Blue Lagoon when the attraction broke down during our meal. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, the Blue Lagoon is a restaurant similar to the Blue Bayou at Disneyland, were you sit in the dark next to the opening scene of Pirates of the Caribbean, as boats drift by in the gentle lagoon. We heard cheers from a boat-full of riders somewhere off in the distance (presumably on the lift hill off near the back side of the giant show-room, or from the queuing area) as the attraction was fixed, and the boats began moving. I'd  also like to stop the report for a minute to point out a phenomena that seemed to be everywhere I looked in Disneyland Paris; the character balloons of doom.
  During my trip, me and my brother spotted several hidden Mickeys that were definitely not installed in the attraction by park officials; instead, by children with butterfingers. Several lost Mickey Balloons; as well as a Minnie and Pooh Balloon; were found in various parts of the park, including the insides of one particular attraction. A Mickey balloon was trapped against the roof of the Blue Lagoon sequence, some 40 feet above the ground; another was in the queuing are dungeons, along with a Minnie Mouse balloon. And in a tree outside of Phantom Manor, Winnie the Pooh's helium inflated visage was tangled into the branches. These lost balloons where there the entire week we spent at the resort. I really wish the Pooh one had been removed at some point, as it really got in the way of my facade photos and videos. Just wanted to mention this since I was on the topic of Blue Lagoon.

  The first day was well spent. I think we rode Pirates one or two more times, and I know I spent the last ride of the day on Phantom Manor. We ended the day with a Fireworks show, and left for the hotel. The walk couldn't have been any more convenient to get back to our room. We walked out the gates; under an archway; through a doorway into the lobby; up a few flights of steps; down the hall, and to out room. Talk about being close by. This walk made the transfer from the Contemporary to the Magic Kingdom look like a marathon.

  The next day was the day my Brother felt a bit sick I think. I only know this because of something that I will cover in day three. On day two, my Grandfather and I did It's a Small World, the Fantastyland Storybook Boat ride, the Train, and later that evening, Big Thunder Mountain. My Grandfather loves Big Thunder. The ride at Disneyland Paris is superior to all the other versions, being placed in the center of the river. I had heard that this version had a sharper drop then the other versions. I'm here to say this is not true at all. If anything, the drop is longer in length, but as for the steepness, it's not true. The trains descend into the final tunnel after a short outdoor segment off the third lift; this is where the bat cave scene is, and the drop is really a very gradual, but very long decline under the mountain from the far side towards the opposite side, and across the river to the station. Here's a video I took while I was there of the ride; you really won't see much in the final cave, but it's not like you'd really get a full understanding from the video. As I've said before, videos never do anything complete justice.

  This would bring us to the end of day two at the resort. The next morning, we all headed over to the Disneyland Park once again to ride Peter Pan's flight. I filmed this one too, but have yet to upload it, as with my video I shot of the Walt Disney World version back in January 2011. I've never been a big fan of Peter Pan; the lines it draws never seem to match up with the ride you get after waiting for an hour or more. This version looked like a slight improvement. They had pirate ships twice the size of the originals, with two benches instead of one, and a new star-field scene that looks exactly like the scene in the E.T. ride at Universal. But because the majority of it was in French, and it lasted only a tad longer then the American versions, I really didn't take to much from it. This leads us to one of the high points of the trip. I have to pause here and let you know that this will take some explaining, and thus, you need a bit of background on my love-hate relationship with roller coasters. Real roller coasters. Not the Big Thunder Mountains, and American Space Mountains, but real, fast, jarring, white-knuckle roller coasters. In fact, I think I'm going to stop here, and leave you all hanging, because I think my experience on day three deserves it's own post. So, to be continued...

I'll see you all a little later...