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Le Visionarium: Running Out Of Time

Disneyland Paris: September 5th will be the final day for one of the best theme park movie-based attractions ever created.

From Ben Mills
Posted August 29, 2004 at 11:14 PM
Twelve years ago, Disneyland Paris landed in Marne la Vallée with a thud. Theme park fans across the continent - such as me - were incredibly excited by the Imagineers’ claims of “the ultimate Disneyland”, one that would take the staple attractions of a Magic Kingdom such as the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and Big Thunder Mountain, and create the best versions of them ever created.

They undoubtedly succeeded in that task. But for me, the most inspiring and endearing attraction at the park was not one of those classics that had been revitalised. It didn’t have a huge mountain or space cannon showing itself off to the guests of the park. It was simply tucked away in a corner, quietly confident that despite its minimal popularity, it was still a superb piece of Disney’s trademark imagination. In fact, it nearly didn’t make it into the park at all.

You know that great feeling you get watching a really, really good movie? A classic moment of imagination, when it seems like nothing is impossible, and your heart soars. I may be weird, but there is no other attraction that fills my heart with joy more than Le Visionarium, the original - and far and away the best - Timekeeper attraction.

On paper, Le Visionarium is just a 360º cinema attraction. But boy, is it way more than that in reality.

It starts with a simple little pre-show where, through a short film, you are introduced to the Timekeeper, a robot with a fascination for technology and its inventors. Thus, we are treated to a version of Bizet’s Habanera, with lyrics paying homage to the Timekeeper’s heroes and idols. Soon after, we are introduced to his newest and most impressive invention: the Time Machine. Except, this one has personality. 9-Eye and the Timekeeper are constantly bickering, prompting some great comic moments. After a few more clips, we are invited to proceed into the demonstration room.

At this point, I have to point out one of the many factors that separate the DLP version from that at Walt Disney World. The doors to the demonstration room do not simply open. They literally burst open in a spectacular surge of smoke, lights, and sparks flying from the hinges, something which I noticed was missing in American version. (The scripts are also completely different, but that’s a whole different matter…)

Once inside the room, yours eyes are instantly drawn towards two things: the nine screens that completely surround you, and the Timekeeper animatronic on the podium at the front of the room. While this may not be anything massively out-of-the-ordinary in today’s theme park world, ten years ago, a robot that could move like a human was a big thing. Okay, maybe he’s not quite as flexible as your average theme park visitor, but the technology was still astounding.

What follows is, in my eyes, one of the best theme park movie-based attractions ever created. From Time To Time is a fun time-travelling adventure, with humour, great special effects, a contender for best theme park attraction soundtrack, and a cast including actors such as Gérard Depardieu, Franco Nero and Jeremy Irons. All of this presented by a live, in-the-flesh - well, sort of - robot. How frickin’ cool is that?

Clearly, not cool enough. On September 5th, Le Visionarium will close forever. Its replacement? For the time being, nothing, but is expected to eventually be replaced with a straight clone of Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters. Hmm.

See, I’m too sure I’m really that happy about this. I’m not one to stand in the way of progress. I’d love to see a great new ride in the park, and if one of the less popular attractions is the fodder it takes to appease the great theme park gods in the sky, then so be it. But the Buzz Lightyear attractions are hardly beacons of greatness. I guess they’re fun enough, but from a personal perspective, certainly not worth losing my beloved Le Visionarium for.

Anyway, that’s how the future stands in Disneyland Paris. Instead of removing the repulsive, massive Autopia attraction - which is also closed “permanently” - Disney are one by one shutting down the attractions that hold any sort of French connection. The very same ride that Michael Eisner was quoted as stating was his favourite ride in the park, and has spawned similar attractions in all other Disney resorts - albeit inferior versions, despite featuring the voice talents of Robin Williams and Rhea Perlman.

True, the movie has become somewhat dated over the years, and lost some of its wow factor. In an ideal world, I’d like to see a whole new film for Le Visionarium to revitalise it and pull in the crowds it rightfully deserves. But I guess that’s just me dreaming again.

Improbable, yes. Impossible? No...


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From daniel sears
Posted October 12, 2004 at 9:25 AM
please....don't get rid of it.

i beg you! it's one i like

From Ben Mills
Posted December 31, 2004 at 5:26 PM
And that's a wrap! Le Visionarium is officially dead, as everything inside has been removed. In fact, construction on Buzz is rumoured to start some time in the next couple of months. So yep, that's yet another clone to look forward to!

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