Reeling in the ears As Europe's premier theme park celebrates 30 years in business we take a trip down memory lane
During a nostalgic trip down memory lane for Disneyland Paris’ 30th birthday, Robbie Farrell finds you’re never too old for some magic
YOU are never too old for Disney — Fact! This time 30 years ago I was a spotty 17-year-old kid preparing (well supposed to be anyway) to sit my Leaving Certificate.
It’s quite funny, because I now have a son of the same age who is following in his father’s footsteps - doing absolutely everything other than study.
Back in 1992, Ireland was in the throes of an economic downturn - with almost 300,000 people out of work - and the daily news bulletins were filled with stories and scandals that shook the nation its core.
It was the year when Charlie Haughey resigned as Taoiseach, Bishop Eamon Casey stepped down in disgrace, Linda Martin won the Eurovision, Donegal were All-Ireland champions and Michael Carruth took gold at the Barcelona Olympics.
While Ireland was mired in financial misery, the French economy, after much consideration, was given a major shot in the arm when Walt Disney’s European theme park finally opened its doors on April 12, 1992.
This week, Disneyland Paris celebrated its 30th Anniversary in style, and myself and my 14-year-old daughter, Ruby, were on hand to witness the ‘Magical’ milestone.
The anniversary celebrations will continue throughout the year, with a whole host of new attractions set to make a bow at Europe’s most-visited theme park.
Later this summer, fans of the ‘Amazing Spiderman’ franchise, which has been a box-office smash around the world, will celebrate the official opening of the all-new Avengers Campus.
The new area will feature many characters from the Disney Marvel movies, including Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure, which closely replicates the popular attraction at Disney California Adventure park.
This latest attraction will see families battle against each other by virtually catching spider-bots that are out of control. The competitor who racks up the most points at the end of the ride will earn the bragging rights as the web-slinging champion.
Elsewhere in this brand-new campus, fans of Iron Man will be drooling at the mouth when they discover that the Marvel hero is also getting his very own attraction.
Whispered to be the replacement for the Disneyland Paris version of the famous Rock ’n’ Roller ride starring American band Aerosmith, this new rollercoaster is rumoured to be so exciting that it’s possibly the best-kept secret since the invention of Willy Wonka’s ‘Everlasting Gobstopper’.
But it’s not all about the thrill-a-minute rides and superhero for the 30-year celebrations. Brand new shows and even new costumes for Mickey and Minnie will also give the Mighty Mouse a ‘hole’ new look and feel over the coming months.
One of the highlights for myself and Ruby was our meeting with more than two dozen of Disney’s main characters at the new “Dream… and Shine Brighter!” extravaganza.
This magical show, which was solely produced to celebrate the park’s milestone anniversary, takes place a couple of times each day and features some of the best choreographed dancing and music that you will ever see live – it really puts anything you’d ever see on X-Factor, Strictly Come Dancing or Britain’s got Talent in the ha’penny place.
The theme tune itself is so catchy that both myself and Ruby were still singing it long after the show had ended.
However, it was when the sun dipped down over the beautiful Parisian skyline that the Disneyland Park really came to life. Literally moments before Sleeping Beauty tucks her tootsies up each night in her majestic pink castle, Disney cast members help send the Princess off to her slumber in spectacular fashion.
New for this year, the Disney team has introduced modern technology to keep a close eye over the Princess as she sleeps, using more than 200 high-flying drones, video projections, illuminated water jets, laser lighting and a sea of mist over the enchanting castle.
Be warned though, you need to get there early and box yourself off a front-row standing spot in front of the castle before the massive crowds arrive - it’s that popular.
Like a team of well-drilled synchronized swimmers, Disney cast members fly the drones high above the castle to form the number ‘30’, highlighting the park’s milestone anniversary. The new ‘Disney D-Light’ show, which is accompanied by a catchy new them song, sets the tone for the nightly fireworks display as the evening draws to a close.
But it was still the old classic attractions that got our pulses racing and I found myself ‘Reeling in the Ears’ on the likes of Hyperspace Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain rollercoasters.
Over in the Walt Disney studios, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror brought wonderful memories flooding back. It is almost 26 years since I first braved the haunted hotel in Florida - not long after the attraction first opened in 1994 - and it still gives me the very same thrill as it did back then.
As Morgan Freeman said in the Shawshank Redemption, that young kid is long gone, and this old man is all that’s left. But this old man still gets the same shivers down his spine when it comes to the wonderful world of Disney.
And just seeing the smile and excitement on my own little princess’s face, even though I thought at 14 years of age she’d be too old, made me the happiest man in Dis’ World.
There is just something about the place that brings out the big child in everyone. Like I said… You’re never too old for Disney.
For more information about a family break to Disneyland Paris please call 01 605 83 83 or visit: www.disneylandparis.ie or contact your local travel agent. Price based on Friday 29 April 2022 departure date, subject to availability. Terms & conditions apply.
■ A two-night/three-day package, including flights and transfer to Disney’s Santa Fé Hotel, starts from €1,956 based on two adults and two children sharing a standard family room.
■ Package includes two night’s accommodation at Disney’s Santa Fé Hotel, three-day park hopper tickets with unlimited access to Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park.
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