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A tour of Disneyland Paris: Discoveryland

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Published: July 27, 2012 at 3:46 PM
The final land on our tour of Disneyland Paris is the only one with a unique name among all Disney parks - Discoveryland, Paris' Jules Verne-inspired take on what other Disney parks call Tomorrowland.

Orbitron

That's the Orbitron, with the Cafe Hyperion in the background.

Space Mountain: Mission 2

The highlight in this land is Space Mountain: Mission 2, and I walked over in the mid-afternoon to pick up some Fastpasses for what might be Disney's most extreme roller coaster. Along the way, I snapped a few photos of other attractions in the land,

Including Star Tours (Paris runs the original version, although the update is said to be coming next year),

Star Tours

Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast,

Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast

And Autopia.

Autopia

I found a rare Wall-E presence, too:

Wall-E and EVA

One of my frustrations with Disneyland Paris was its handling of Fastpass. Actually, it's a frustration with its handling of print at home tickets. At the US theme parks, you exchange your print at home ticket, upon your initial pass through the turnstiles, for a "traditional" magnetic stripe Disney admission ticket. But in Paris, you keep the page you printed at home and use it as your ticket throughout your visit, including at Fastpass machines.

So instead of inserting your card into the machine, you futilely wave the barcode printed on the bottom of the page in front of an infrared beam thingie on the somewhat dilapidated-looking Fastpass machines, hoping that it will spit out your return tickets.

I was one for six on my attempts. At Thunder Mountain earlier, the attractions cast member took quick pity upon me and the other guests in the same predicament, and used his secret key to crank out my return tickets. But at Space Mountain, the cast member stood slumped over the machine I was trying to use, watching me struggle to get the machine to read my ticket. Only after asking for help in French could he be bothered to push himself up off the machine, and override the machine to give me my two other tickets, which he did with an audible sigh and an eye roll before returning to lean over the back of the machine. Nice show there, pal.

But I had my Fastpasses! Oh, wait.

Fastpass fail

#Fail

When I showed the tickets to my family, I expected them to share my disappointment, but their blank expressions simply said, "what's the big deal?" That's when I realized, sure, I've got Fastpasses with a 30-minute return window, for two different attractions, on opposite sides of the park. But I'm still going make it to both rides on time. Because that's how I roll. ;^)

So we presented ourselves at Thunder precisely at 6:55 pm, waiting in a 10-minute standby line for our ride. After exiting, when began our, uh, aggressive walk across the park to get back to Space Mountain by 7:25 pm.

We were making great time as we passed through the fort at the entrance to Frontierland, when I heard the music, and saw a throng of people stopped in front of us. No, that can't be.

It was. The 7:00 parade. On the hub in front of the castle. Blocking the entire parade route from Fantasyland to Town Square.

Degree of difficulty? Just jumped from about 5.5 to a solid 10.

I turned to Laurie and Natalie and actually laughed. Then together, we broke into a slow sprint around the outer hub, past the Adventureland entrance and up past the side of the castle. We've got this.

We reached the start of the parade route as the final float left Fantasyland. So we pushed through into the post-parade rush surging around the side of the hub into Tomorrowland. I'll spare you the details, but we did what we had to do. :^/

And at 7:20, we made it! We walked up to the Fastpass return entrance at Space Mountain, ready to ride...

Fastpass entrance

And found the ride down.

(You knew that was coming, didn't you?)

Hey, we were here on time, and this was our final major ride of the day. So we weren't going anywhere, and simply waited the extra 15 minutes it took for the ride to come back up.

Space Mountain launch tube

For those of you expecting a clone of the stateside Space Mountains, consider yourself warned. Paris' Space Mountain is a much more intense experience, with a high-speed launch up the side of the mountain leading into an immediate inversion, the first of three on the ride.

Load area

Space Mountain: Mission 2 offers some amazing visual effects - I especially like the red neon tunnel near the end. But this is not a smooth ride. And it's got those ear-hugging over-the-shoulder restraints that can leave your brain scrambled if you follow advice and keep your head back throughout the ride. At the same time, if you keep your head forward throughout, you risk a nasty case of whiplash.

The only solution is to have the experience with this sort of ride that helps guide you to when to lean forward and when to relax back. Riding in the dark you've got no visual queues telling you what to expect, so you've just got to react to physical inertia you feel.

I've ridden enough extreme coasters that I came off the ride feeling okay, and raving about the visuals. Natalie, however, came off holding her head, and Laurie looked like she'd like to find a bush into which to leave her lunch.

Experience also teaches me that the best solution for a developing headache is hydration. Here's another tip about Disneyland Paris: You can find cold bottled drinks for sale in all the merchandise stores. So instead of looking for an outdoor vending cart, I ducked into the nearest store and bought the last cold bottle of Vittel.

With the headache at bay for the moment, we decided to check out a much calmer attraction, the Les Mysteres du Nautilus walkthrough.

Les Mysteres du Nautilus

This is a walk through the Captain Nemo's Nautilus submarine from Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, starting with the captain's quarters.

Captain's quarters

The detail in this exhibit can keep an adventure geek occupied for a good while. Here's the Nautilus' course 20,000 leagues under the sea.

Map

And a map of Vulcania, which also happens to the Mysterious Island at the heart of Tokyo DisneySea, the other Disney park that's devoted a land to work inspired by Verne.

Vulcania

The Nautilus' organ:

Organ

And, finally, an encounter with a giant octopus at the end of the exhibit.

Octopus

Coming Monday: We talk about the logistics of planning a trip to Disneyland Paris. Then on Tuesday, Robert ranks the Disney parks around the world.

Previously: Main Street USA, Frontierland, Adventureland, Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant, and Fantasyland

Readers' Opinions

From 94.5.229.151 on July 27, 2012 at 4:06 PM
Hi Robert,
You haven't mentioned the Disney Dreams show! Apparently better then the Magic Memories and You! And I even cry over my home video of that :o). Going to DLRP in 8 weeks just for that show so would be interested to hear your thoughts on it...
From Robert Niles on July 27, 2012 at 4:48 PM
I'll talk about that on Monday, actually....
From Jason McLaughlin on July 28, 2012 at 6:25 AM
You're spot on about Space Mountain Robert, it is a great coaster but a very rough ride at times, especially if you lean straight back into that head restraint!

And when I went in April, I was very shocked at the quality (or lack of) of the Star Tours film print. It definitely has seen better days, there were scratches, visible lines and pop marks all over the print and it looked really washed out and faded. That ride is certainly in need of a serious upgrade!

From Jeffrey H on July 29, 2012 at 10:23 AM
You know, considering how keeping Tomorrowland from seeming dated is a perpetual problem for Disney Parks in general, maybe all of the Tommorowlands should transition to this Jules Verne aesthetic. It certainly is an iconic look which has a lot of visual appeal.
From Michael Owen on July 30, 2012 at 4:42 PM
In my experience of Disneyland Paris, Fastpass times don't need to be stuck to too strictly. The cast members may not let you on before your allotted time but I've often got on a ride with a ticket which technically expired a couple of hours before.

As for Discoveryland, I think it's a fantastic concept which has been pulled off fairly well. The Jules Verne inspired attractions look fantastic, but other attractions, such as Buzz and Star Tours, aren't really consistent.

I'm not saying these attractions shouldn't be in the land, but maybe the exterior of the attractions could be made to fit a little better with the theme.

From Jay R. on July 30, 2012 at 6:37 PM
Would be cool if that Space Mountain came to the US parks!

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