Disney Passes Explained / Toy Story Playland Opens
Trip Start Apr 19, 2010
14Trip End Sep 01, 2012
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
It was after finding myself at Disneyland Paris for the third time this year that I decided an annual pass was probably in order. Initially, being from the U.S., I hadn't really believed that Disney was possible as a day trip. However, after having gone 3 or 4 times now, I must admit that it is not only possible, it is enjoyable...for the most part. After that piece of culture shock sunk in, I had to decide which of the three types of passes to buy: the Francilien, the Fantasy or the Dream Passport. ( A note to those not living in France: you do NOT have to live in France to buy one of these annual passes, and sometimes it makes economic sense to do so.)
The Francilien is the cheapest of the lot and fairly bare boned. It has roughly 65 Blackout Days throughout the year
The Fantasy is the mid cost option. It has 30 blackout days per year and includes the same restaurant and party discounts as the Francilien. It also includes parking, a 10% discount on boutiques at Disney. There is a 25% discount on Disneyland Hotels as well, and this can save you quite a bit of money. In addition there is a 20% family discount, a 10% discount on 1 Day park tickets for friends and a 15% discount on the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show...whatever that is. I am not a big fan of the cowboy genre so I doubt anyone will be able to rope me into going to a Buffalo Bill show. Eeewww, I can't believe I just made that awful pun. (Or is it a pun actually?!?) Anyway, getting the train of thought back on track, to make this work economically, I figured that I would need to go to Disneyland at least 3 times a year on a standard 2 park ticket price. No problem. However, the cost of this was not THAT much less than the Dream, so read on
The Dream Pass is the top of the line. It gives you all the advantages of the previous passes except you get 50% off parties, 20% off on boutiques, 35% off on hotels, and 20% off one day park tickets for friends. You also get some extra advantages including, but not limited to, invitations to special events, free aperitif at table service restaurants (yawn), free use of a stroller and luggage storage AND, and this is what got me, extra magic hours access. This means that on many days, one can get in 2 hours before the park opens so you can "ride some of your favorite rides before the lines get too long". So this is the pass that I chose. I figured that I would have to go to the park at least 4 times a year on a standard 2 park ticket price. As we had already gone 3 times, this seemed like a no brainer. I was also really intrigued by the "extra magic hours' . I sort of "discounted" almost everything else, including the discounts. This proved to be a bit backward, as the extra magic hours have some drawbacks that make it less appealing while some of the discounts really do add up.
The Low Down on Extra Magic Hours: There are many ways to hide clauses in something like this, so I feared that the number of days they were available would be severely limited. While they are not every day, they are a lot of days, so that is not an issue. What is an issue is that 1) it only applies to the Disneyland side and not the Walt Disney Studios side and 2) very few of the rides are actually open even on the Disneyland side. They sidestep this with the wording "some of your favorite rides" which makes a person think "my favorite rides" and not "favorite rides at the park". In truth, the only rides that are open during the "magic hours" are Peter Pan's Flight, Le Carousel de Lancelot and The Mad Hatters Teacups in Fantasyland, and Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast in Discoveryland....that's it
The Other Perks: There were a couple of perks that did surprise me though. First, since we had decided to stay at a Disneyland resort for Seb's birthday, I called to see if we could get the discount now that we had the passes. As it turned out, because it was also a special event type of thing, we got almost 50% off of our hotel stay. This pretty much paid for one pass in and of itself. The other perk that I had COMPLETELY discounted was the "invitation to special events" part. I had assumed that this would be the usual "you can go and wait in a line with a small chance of getting some cheap ice cream somewhere" kind of a thing. In short, the sort of stuff that takes more time and trouble than it is worth. Surprise, surprise, this has actually turned out not to be the case. The very first of these turned out to be an invitation to the Premier of the Toy Story Playland part of the park. Which takes me to part two of this installment.
Toy Story Playland Premier
Disneyland Paris has been advertising the bejesus out of this for months
The Good, The Bad and the Underwhelming
So, if you are like me, you like to have your expectations set. I am one of those people who likes to know a general outline of a movie before I go to it. ( I am seeing the same in Lucas, as he always wants me to tell him "the scary bits" of a movie before we watch it, so he can be prepared.) To this point, I think the Disneyland Paris folks set expectations a bit too high for this area. In truth, the Toy Story Playland turned out to have only 3 attractions. As they advertised this like it would be another Fantasyland (14 attractions) or Discoveryland (11 attractions), this seemed a bit meager and underwhelming. Also, the space itself was quite small, which was fine while we were there with limited people but which I expect will be highly annoying when hit with the full tourist influx
The "Slinky Dog ZigZag Spin" was designed for kids who are at least 18 months, and was great for Seba, who is 21 months. This ride is one of those circular rollercoaster type rides. For those familiar with fairs in the US, it would be like a very mild version of the Himalaya. For those familiar with Parc Asterix, think of it as a wilder version of the Drakkar boats. No matter how you describe it, I can pretty much promise that the under 3 crowd will love this. I appreciate that they have added a ride for this age group as it can be very frustrating for the younger ones to see their older siblings go on rides from which they are prohibited. What was really great was that, given that this was a premier, we only had to wait about 5 minutes in line so we could ride multiple times in a row. And we did! Seb loved this ride so much that each time it was over he kept running back to the entrance. By the time he had gone on it the third time, he was letting out ear piercing shrieks of joy the moment the ride started. Really, it was ear piercing. Other people thought it was really cute. I, on the other hand, am now deaf in one ear
The "Toy Soldiers' Parachute Drop" has a height restriction on it, but it is only 81cm. So, theoretically Seb could have gone on it, but don't let that fool you. This ride is NOT for the under 2 set. It is probably not for the under 3 crowd. Basically, the ride lifts you up in the air and then drops you. When you watch it, it looks like the drop is fairly slow, but when you are on it, you get the full "stomach to the throat" effect. Lucas, our 4 year old, LOVED it. The seating is in groups of 3 and Lucas and I sat next to a French woman in her 50's. I swear she screamed louder than Lucas, which made him love it even more. But I would never have taken Seb on this ride. It is way too intense for the younger crowd.
We did not get a chance to go on the RC Racer ride as there was a height restriction of 1.20 meters. Lucas really wanted to go, and quite frankly, I think he is emotionally mature enough for it, but I understand physiological basis of the height restrictions. My guess is that he will be tall enough in 6 months, so I had to put him off. All things said, he was quite good about it.
In addition to the rides, the layout and decor of the playland is really nice and friendly feeling. They have a toy car for kids to climb on and a giant replica of "Rex" the dinosaur....who whines appropriately
So, while I think they made a bit of a "mountain out of a molehill", I was pleasantly surprised on several counts. First, the annual pass got me an invitation so something actually worthwhile. Second, there was yet another ride for Seb. Third, the charming factor was greater than I expected.
I will have to see if the charm is worth the claustrophobia once the crowds set in.