Christmas visit 07/01/05 – 10/01/05
Friday 7th January 2005
So there I was, bagged up and ready to go before the rest of the family were awake. It was 03.15 on the morning before my first DLRP visit in around 2.5 years (oh how I have tried to get to DLRP before this point!). I was craving my magic dose yet again, but this time it was stronger than ever before. Having not seen Fantillusion, The Legend Of The Lion King or any of the Christmas activities, I was sure that this trip was going to be the most magical ever!
After nagging everyone to hurry up, I was paranoid that we would miss one of our trains, be late or just not get to DLRP, so I was busy loading up the car with our bags, cameras and food for our long journey by train. We left our local train station at 05.10 GMT that would take us to London (where we would later catch the Eurostar direct to DLRP). The train was virtually empty so I could play my Disney music loud without feeling embarrassed, which was a good thing for me.
When we arrived in London, we had to lug our heavy and over-packed cases around the London Underground train system, but we got to the Waterloo International Eurostar station with around 2 hours to spare… all part of my plan of course! We were greeted by some friendly DLRP staff at a special Need Mag?c podium, where we could check in our baggage to go into the parks, little did my dad know that he did not pay for this facility… wooooops! It was too late to be added to the service so the next chore was to find space on the Eurostar for our army of matching cases. Anyway, you don’t want to know all about that fiasco!
We arrived in the Marne La Vallee station at exactly 13.29 CET and were greeted by the pleasant sound of Need Mag?c being played in the station, now that’s what I call an entrance! After a long wait for our sickly pink Pep’s “Selected Hotel” bus (and the treacherous on it when full of families with bags) we finally got to the Movenpick Dream Castle Hotel where we would spend 3 glorious nights in the resort. The outside was decorated with white lights in the trees closest to the building outside and garlands, lights and a twinkling Christmas tree in the foyer. BTW, can anyone explain the logic behind the selected hotels free shuttle buses’ order of visiting hotels, as it goes to the Explorers hotel and then back to the Kyriad, Holiday Inn and finally the Movenpick? Just seemed odd to me.
We wasted around 45mins of park time in the foyer waiting for assistance, only then to leave our bags in a storage room as our bedroom was not ready, typical! It was time to face the journey back to the parks on the bus (minus all of our bags) armed with 10 camcorder tapes, plenty of drink and nibbles. Although the wait in the hotel had taken longer than predicted, my Disney schedule was working fine as we had good time to get into Disneyland Park and wait for the Christmas Parade, but my family thought otherwise. They wanted “food” so chose to take a “quick” visit to McDonald’s in Disney Village. I wanted to resist this evil movement, but decided that arguing would destroy the holiday.
The time eating the meal had totally ruined my first day’s plan and we missed the Christmas Parade, to my regret. We got to the DLP gates, but I could still hear Chante C’est Noel coming from Town Square, so I tried every trick possible to keep us away from entering the park, until the parade was over (as I really didn’t want to be teased by only seeing part of the best daytime parade in DLP). I succeeded and we entered Town Square as the last few notes of the music faded away.
WOW! Main Street USA looked so great! The twinkling trees in Town Square were a nice and relaxing way of entering the Fairytale Christmas kingdom so we used this opportunity to explore, take pictures and film as the weekend’s weather was not predicted to be that good. We caught it snowing down Main Street as we were peeping at the fantastic Christmas window displays and twinkling lights everywhere, before heading for Central Plaza to wait for the Enchanted Fairytale Ceremony.
At just after 17.00 we reached the perfect spot to see the ceremony right in front of the stage at the bottom of Main Street. Dad wanted to film the show there and it was the best place for mum (who is a little short bless her) to see the show. My brother and I went to the left of Central Plaza and waited on the side of the road to see the mini-parade come past. The twinkling music began and the 15-minute announcement started. My heart was pounding and just wanting the show to start. 10-minutes to go, then just 5! That classic Main Street Electrical Parade-style music played and I just started to shake… I really should see a doctor about this DLRP effect.
The announcement ended and the beat came into the music. All of the guests were clapping away and dancing to the music, such an incredible sense of anticipation! We saw camera flashes beam bolts of light around the base of Main Street so I could tell that we were about to see something. The dancers, dressed in glorious white costumes, came around the corner first as the royal princes towered the parade. It was close to impossible to film as I felt so happy, but there was nobody in front of us at all and I was to get some shots that I was very very pleased with. The princesses followed and began to wave gracefully and I looked across to my brother who was smiling far far more than normal!
The show started, which was just great, and then Tinkerbell appeared. All of the parents pointed up to the castle and went “wow”, shortly before the children did exactly the same. As the tree started to sparkle I was running around like a headless chicken trying to find a good vantage point. Finally I got there and relaxed while watching the rest of the show unfold. Although I knew exactly what would happen, where and when, nothing could have prepared me for the really Christmassy feeling I got so far after the actual day itself!
The show ended and we ran to find our parents who were strangely slightly disappointed with the show. They found the show kind of boring, but agreed that the lighting moment was so incredibly special. Like everyone else, we went around Central Plaza admiring the lights and artistic creations with the great park atmosphere music playing away in the background. This was an opportunity for yet more pictures and film J
After a long time wandering around the plaza, we made it through to Fantasyland where we saw Belle’s Christmas Village at night. As you all know, the village was covered in many lights and Fantasyland really set the mood for even more fantastic nighttime entertainment.
I had shown my family pictures of Fantillusion, played the music and shown parts of videos yet they were just expecting a variation on the Main Street Electrical Parade… how wrong they were! We stood right in front of the castle for the parade and had fantastic views of everything and it seems that Fantillusion was everyone’s favourite part of the holiday!
As we had already had such a long day, we quickly went for the park gates to get back to the hotel, but obviously the volume of people in the resort put a stop to that idea. We got back to our room finally, where we were all still on a high from the afternoon in the park.
Saturday 8th January 2005
Breakfast in the Dream Castle Hotel was basically to eat everything under the sun. There was food to cater for every nationality and taste and definitely saved on our food budget for the day as we were all so full after that meal alone! When trying to leave the hotel, we encountered a large crane inside the foyer, busy changing light bulbs. I was honestly quite shocked, but I suppose this was not Disney so I could not complain. The design and service in the Movenpick was incredible, but little details spoilt it a bit. Really visible Christmas light cables and a computer exploding with wires in the main entrance were a few of the little touches that were not taken care of.
As nobody had bothered to get up early, we were later getting out and about than we had previously thought. We grabbed some baguettes from Disney Village so we could save time, eat food and also wait in queue lines in the Walt Disney Studios and we instantly headed for Moteurs… Action! A man at the entrance was busy telling people that it was not going to be shown on that day because of the “wind”, which concerned me as there hardly seemed to be any. We were all disappointed as this is our favourite show in the studios, so we went to Studio 1 to warm up and wait for the next showing of Animagique. “Jolly Holiday” started to play as a selection of film crewmembers invaded the street to start their movie. We had to leave this behind to see Animagique, but we returned to see it later.
We thoroughly enjoyed the show, indeed my mum forgot how short it was and wanted it to continue J. We then went on Armageddon Special Effects and the Studio Tram Tour before hearing the strange sound of motorcycles. The Moteurs… Action! stadium lights were on and we were missing a re-scheduled performance. I wanted to jump off the tram and run to the stunt show, but I didn’t really think that was a safe option although I was very disappointed, and the cold atmosphere made us freeze when we got wet in Catastrophe Canyon. I ran to see the end of the Cinema Parade and my Dad and brother went to check the Moteurs… Action times and see Santa Clause by his monster truck.
For the first time I had seen the after-show parade of the Disney Cinema Parade which was really fun to watch and then headed towards Rock n’ Roller Coaster with my brother. Being the kind and generous guy that I am J when a CM came up to us wanting a survey, I took part. It was all about our experience in the resort and in WDS in particular. They asked us to rate the shows, attractions, and atmosphere etc. They also asked what they should improve, obviously I said “more of the same quality please”, but it was cool to chat to a CM about WDS’s possible future
As I was desperate to see the Christmas Parade, mum and I went to DLP to watch it as my dad and brother went to see the Stunt show… oh what a nice family moment!
Mum and I stood on the Town Square bandstand to see the parade and boy, what a view! Every float looked amazing and the whole parade appeared so expensive… especially with so many dancers. I just loved how Mary Poppins was keeping everyone tidy on her float, cleaning them up and fiddling with their hats. What a great character! We all met again after the parade where we just had time to have a strangely timed dinner in Videopolis before the Enchanted Fairytale Ceremony (which was just as good as the first time we saw it).
Next on the agenda was Mickey’s Winter Wonderland if we were to fit in every show into our busy 2 and a half-day visit. This show was spectacular and such fun to watch, with all of the characters in such vibrant costumes and great music playing. The show was also quite funny too, which I was not expecting and the rest of the audience tended to agree J There did seem to be one problem however, as when we saw the show again on Sunday, Donald did not appear in his fishing scene with Pluto. The characters acted as if he was still there, Pluto threw the boot that Donald catches out of the pond and I don’t think most people noticed, although Donald was talking throughout it all, very bizarre!
It was then back to Central Plaza again for the fantastic Fantillusion where we moved further towards Main Street for a new view of the parade. Here we saw a great CM play a game of stepping stones with the kids around him. He was challenging them to cross the road in fewer steps than him, but as he was so tall, he could do it in just 2. He played, joked and really entertained the children that I thought was a fantastic effort from someone clearly enjoying themselves!
We hit the Main Street shops afterwards and spotted a bright glow in the sky. Slowly moving over Main Street, this light twinkled… was it Tinkerbell? No, it was just a plane, but all the kids thought it was Tinkerbell flying away after Fantillusion which was very cute indeed. We headed back to the hotel for a well-earned rest as we HAD to be up earlier the next day as there was so much more that we had not done!
Sunday 9th January 2005
I was up at 06.15 and made sure that everyone else followed suit (how evil I am). We got to Disneyland Park really early and met all the characters and got as many autographs as possible. It was a bright, sunny day so was perfect for everything. After our character moments, we queued for the Legend Of The Lion King and got our tickets. What a strange design!!? No offence DLRP, but these tickets look so amateur… they don’t even have any official graphics on them at all. As we had booked for the 12.00 show, we had little time to do much else so we just explored the newly painted Discoveryland and meet Winnie on his cool snow-caped stage. I also tucked the camcorder under the Le Visionarium fencing, you can see what’s really on the other side here: http://www.chrismedia.co.uk/visionarium.wmv
The Legend Of The Lion King was far better than I could have every hoped for. The effects look so spectacular up close and the atmosphere is incredible. Whoever thought of the idea of filming the audience before the show is a genius, it really gets everyone’s attention! And as for the singing, that was great too as we had, what I would class as, the best cast possible. After all the videos and recordings of the show I have seen/heard, the cast we had was the best of every character. The new words that the characters say between the songs really does help the story along a lot better and Rafiki’s “feel the rhythm of the music yeeeeaeah” adlib in the finale was really cool. I was not antisipating that!
Next up was Le Noel De Mickey. I was not expecting much from this show, but it was surprisingly good and had a positive audience reaction throughout. The sets were just a tad basic, but the structure of the show was superb and went down well with all of us. IASW had a crazy CM that seemed to be on drugs or something and really did not give DLRP a good image at all. He was poking guests, pulling stupid faces and making hyperactive noises, I was not impressed, but IASW at Christmas was very nice indeed. As my daring parents tackled the Disneyland Railroad and the Molly Brown, my brother and I went on BTM and Phantom Manor before going back to Belle’s Christmas Village for Belle’s Musical Medley. I thoroughly enjoyed this small show as the music and dancing was extraordinary, but is the “As Long As There’s Christmas” song exclusive to DLRP? This mix seemed like Vasile Sirli had made his own version, but I was unsure. Anyone know?
There was almost time for Honey I shrunk The Audience before we went to the Videopolis Theatre to see the Lion King stage. It was covered in green curtains, but the sides were open and showed a team working on the stage itself. A group of bags were in the centre of the floor, with one guy playing with Zazu on the left hand side of the stage and another ripping Zazu (on the right) to pieces. The cables used for the flying people in the “Be Prepared” fire scene were being tested and a small section of the flooring didn’t seem to be there. Added to this, 3 people were in the sound/lighting booth doing something, but as I didn’t have a camera with me, I don’t have any pictures or video. Sorry guys. There was definitely no evidence of the capacity being changed though… that was on Sunday night. We went to watch the Enchanted Fairytale Ceremony again and then we went back for that repeat visit to Mickey’s Winter Wonderland.
Space Mountain was our last ride of the trip and was also an emotional one. It was my brother’s first ride on a roller coaster that does any form of loop and he was petrified. In the queue he was really pale and looked like he was going to be sick. We were loaded into the cannon and the music played. I was excited as I knew this was my last ever opportunity to ride this great creation, but then the music stopped. We were stuck in the cannon. I was hoping that I could just stay there while they changed the ride into Mission 2 (as I would be the first to test it out), but it wasn’t to be. Out of the blue and way over a minute after the music had stopped, we were launched into outer space and my brother loved it. He was screaming, shouting and so happy that he had the courage to ride it.
As we slowly past the man in the moon, it hit me that this was the very last time. I know I am not able to go back this weekend for the fan event, but this was the next best thing, just a few days before. We ran to Main Street USA for the Disney’s Fantillusion Parade again and left the day on an extreme high. I got to see every single villain and princess transformation with the beauty of the added lighting in the Main Street windows. What a day!
We had watched the parade on Main Street so we could have a quick getaway to Annete’s Diner before all the queues turned up. We got a place, ordered our food and then the cast started dancing again. I will never forget the first time that the staff got on the tables, put on their skates and danced, but this moment was just as strange J
I got all of my money together and spent ages in Hollywood Pictures and the Disney store buying presents and gifts to myself… along with a mickey and Minnie soft toy for my parents as a small thank you for the trip. As we left Disney Village, mum started to cry and nearly got me going too as this is probably the last time we will all go to DLRP as a family. It was also such a special and magical stay that made us all so sad we were leaving.
Monday 10th January 2005
The dreaded last day of the holiday and oh what an exciting one! It was the day of endless train connections and buses, no time in the park and Christmas had officially ended. All of the Frontlot and Disneyland Park entrance decorations were down and so were our hotel ones. The magic had gone and we were waiting for a train that was running 20 mins late, leaving us 7mins to leave the TGV and get onto the Eurostar (after customs etc) in Lille Europe. The Marne La Vallee staff were very helpful in this situation and seemed to communicate English very well. As it was all such a rush, there was no official time to say goodbye to my treasured resort. L
We passed the parking lot behind Discoveryland (I saw one of the 5th Anniversary Hunchback Bells there, not sure if they are always there) and then we were out. To keep the Disney spirit alive, I got the camcorder out and started to watch all of the footage back again on the train, but obviously didn’t see a fraction of it!
We did make it to Lille Europe in time for our connection, although it was stressful, but the weather suddenly started to deteriorate. It got windy, wet, grey and cold in just a few minutes so perhaps it was a good time to leave DLRP anyway. There was no mention of the Magic Unlimited season anywhere in the resort over our stay that I thought was odd, does anyone know how successful it is?
Over the whole trip, my camcorder was with me so have recorded every show or parade (apart from Disney Cinema Parade) and can now look forward to editing these videos up over the coming weeks. Shots of the decorations, snow, characters and atmosphere are also on the tapes. With Disney’s Fantillusion and The Enchanted Fairytale Ceremony being filmed 5 or 6 times, I hope that I can make something worth watching.
Best wishes for a magical year everyone (and for all those who have gone to sleep while reading this “WAKE UP!!!”)