Whether it’s Orlando, Anaheim, Hong Kong, or Paris, one this is certain: Disney sure knows how to put on a celebration.
In this case, Disneyland Paris, marking its 15th anniversary with the grand opening of its Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction, invited clients, guests, and media representatives to a daylongevent April 5, climaxing with a light, video, sound, and fireworks display that only Disney could come up with.
A tour of the parks beforehand, as well as a pleasant stay at Disney’s Newport Bay Club Hotel, presented some American visitors with a reassuring sense of the familiar. From Main Street, USA and Cinderella’s Castle to Space Mountain and, now, the newly opened Tower of Terror, the attractions in the two Disneyland Paris parks (Walt Disney Studios and Disneyland Park) are not appreciably different from those in Anaheim and Orlando. But for the Yank used to Disney American-style, Disneyland Paris provides an experience that has a distinctive Euro flair. Families, couples, and young adults float through the resort conversing in languages ranging from Italian and Spanish to French and Dutch, and the English spoken is delivered with a distinctly un-American accent.
The cultural and linguistic challenges for this American journalist were on full display as I waited in line to experience the sinking sensation of a trip in the Tower of Terror, a ride that involves a Twilight Zone–inspired elevator car that jerks violently up and down, and eventually seems to fall to the bottom of the elevator shaft. You know you are in a different place when Rod Serling is speaking to you in French. As we waited to board, guides dressed as hotel bellhops addressed guests in French, with some occasional English thrown in. Once inside the elevator, though, there are no language issues, only the sense of anticipation of the stomach-churning ride that’s about to take place.
One of the added advantages of a trip to Disneyland Paris is its proximity to the City of Light. At the western end of a commuter rail line, a visitor to Disney can hop a train and arrive at Paris’ Gare de Lyon. From there, it’s a short walk to the Louvre and Les Tuileries. On this particular April day, the sun shone brilliantly, making it a perfect day to walk along the Seine, past the booksellers and souvenir stands, for a visit to Notre Dame. Ah, Paris in springtime.