Guidelines For Visiting And Photographing The Disneyland Paris Resort – Part 2
This is Part 2 in the series on Disneyland Paris. If you missed Part 1, click here.
As you get to the end of Main Street, one of the first things that you’ll notice is the fact that there is no hub per se as you would find in Anaheim or Orlando. Instead, the center of the park is taken up by a large gated performance stage which is presumably used for special events. No Partner’s Statue, no benches, and no way to walk through the direct center of the park. The layout of Disneyland Paris is similar to that of the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Anaheim but there are some key differences. As you come to the end of Main Street and turn left, you enter Frontierland first before Adventureland. The entrance to Frontierland is not merely the outer wall of a “fort” but a two story play area for kids to explore:
Just beyond the entrance to Frontierland is Disneyland Paris’ answer to the Golden Horseshoe: The Lucky Nugget:
Directly across from the Lucky Nugget is the dock for the Molly Brown:
As you enter Frontierland, the first major ride that you come to is Thunder Mountain, which is easily the most popular ride of the entire resort. As they were only running TWO trains for the massive 2 hour line, it was obvious that the load time would have been MUCH improved if they had been running at least four. Add to that the fact that the fast pass line had their OWN train, and it was easy to see why there was such a long line. In spite of the slow load time, the queue for the ride is about 3 or 4 times longer than the one at Disneyland with dozens of switchbacks in a shaded area before the line spills out onto the street and up the hill. The 30 minute wait for fast passes was further evidence of the popularity of this ride.
What make this Thunder Mountain Railroad head and shoulders above its cousins in the states? The fact that it is longer, faster, and…best of all…located on what would be Tom Sawyer’s Island in Anaheim. The ride begins with a long plunge into complete darkness as you enter the tunnel under the river before coming back up, now completely surrounded by water. The views are wonderful, so it’s a good idea to have your camera with you on the ride.
There are several nice angles of Phantom Manor from Big Thunder Mountain, so be sure to set your shutter speed high and keep an eye out for opportunities on that side of the river:
One of the things that struck me about Disneyland Paris overall was the lack of attractions when compared to Anaheim. In terms of acreage, it is FAR bigger than Disneyland’s or the Magic Kingdom’s, so there is ample room for more attractions to come in the future. Frontierland is basically comprised of Big Thunder, the Molly Brown, the train station, a couple of restaurants, and Phantom Manor. Before I get to Phantom Manor itself, I wanted to mention that one of the best views in the resort is from the steps of the Manor looking back across Frontierland and the river. Plan on stepping out of line as the queue wraps around behind the manor. You’ll only be able to shoot from this location if you leave the line just before entering the front door.
Phantom Manor, from what I understand, has quite a story behind it involving the rest of Frontierland. Apparently, Mr Ravenwood was the wealthy owner of the Thunder Mesa Mining Company who had a daughter who was to be married. The details are a bit murky, but suffice it to say that her fiance was found hanging in the Manor’s doorless chamber and her ghost can still be found in the attic, preparing for the wedding she never had.
Once you are inside, you notice the differences immediately. I think one of my favorite aspects of the ride was the voice of Vincent Price as the “Ghost Host.” The strecthing portraits were different, but the hallway leading out of the stretching room was identical to Anaheim. The loading area was set up the same way but featured ball room steps from an old western mansion rather than ghostly clouds:
I wish I had more interior shots, but I was only able to shoot in there once and in hindsight I wish I had brought my 50mm 1.4 instead of the 35 mm 1.8. Once the ride is moving the hallways were similar with a few changes, and Leota is basically the same. The guests in the ballroom are quite different as the banquet is set in the old west. The attic scene is also different as you see the bride-to-be getting ready:
Once you get out into what would have been the grave yard, you are instead plopped into the rest of what has become a “ghost” town. If I was a young kid, I would have been completely terrified of this section. No ghosts playing instruments, sitting on teeter-toters or singing opera. A ghost quartet is still singing in the corner, but the rest of the town is just plain creepy with a cheerful mix of skeletons, headless shopkeepers, and zombies:
Again, I wish I had more shots, but I only had one opportunity and the 1.8 just wasn’t enough to get clean shots from the moving doom buggie.
Phantom Manor marks the end of Frontierland on the far side of the river, but if you head back to Big Thunder and turn left, you will find the rest of Frontierland tucked away in an obscure corner of the park. Not too many guests were back there when we passed through and as you walk up the path to the Train Station, you really begin to appreciate the sheer size of this park and the great potential for future additions.
Up Next: Adventureland and Fantasyland.