Today is the 25th birthday of Disneyland Paris, and we're indulging our childhood wishes with a nostalgic trip to the theme park of our dreams.
Opened on 12th April 1992 as 'Euro Disneyland,' the park changed its name to 'Disneyland Paris' in 2002. At the time, CEO Michael Eisner expressed surprise that people from Europe didn't find the word "Euro" exotic and cool:
As Americans, the word ‘Euro’ is believed to mean glamorous or exciting. For Europeans it turned out to be a term they associated with business, currency, and commerce. Renaming the park ‘Disneyland Paris’ was a way of identifying it with one of the most romantic and exciting cities in the world.
Disneyland Paris is in Paris the way that 'London Luton' airport is in London: in other words, it's close on a global scale, but not actually in Paris. It's in Marne-la-Vallée:
It might surprise you to know that the park wasn't an immediate success: far from it. It opened in the middle of a recession and nearly failed. It cost $4bn (almost $7bn in today's money, or about £5,602,800,000) and made a loss of a billion in the first year, apparently partly due to being "marketed incorrectly to both the consumers and the media."
Main Street USA in 1993. Image: Anton Raath via Flickr CC
It was presented as a big, bombastic, all-American resort – to which the French unsurprisingly said a big "non." One French movie director even called it 'a cultural Chernobyl.' However, they turned it around, and by 1995 the park was in profit. It's now one of the top tourist attractions in Europe.
What's Disneyland doing for the anniversary?
Celebrating in style, of course. They kicked off with a new parade, which was livestreamed this morning:
— Disneyland Paris (@DisneylandParis) April 12, 2017
They've redecorated the entire park with 25s:
Tinker Bell is flying the flag for the Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary. Are you ready to be showered in pixie dust? ☄️ pic.twitter.com/U7UB2ltWd1
— Disneyland Paris EN (@DisneyParis_EN) April 4, 2017
Welcome to Main Street Station! RT if you think the new decor is simply stunning 😍💫 pic.twitter.com/E48fxE5Hjb
— Disneyland Paris EN (@DisneyParis_EN) April 5, 2017
They're doing a whole programme of celebrations, plus anniversary offers on trips (like 25% off – see what they did there?) and adding "extra sparkle" to their attractions. Not sure there's room for any more...!
Of course, the park – and life – is very different now to when Euro Disneyland opened in the early nineties. In those days, your dad might have taken his giant camcorder to record the action, whereas now inevitably everyone in the crowd is holding up a smartphone (or iPad... sigh). Back then, it was all about getting an autograph from the 'cast members' – now, you'll be wanting a selfie with them. And those cast members have changed a fair bit, too: while all the old favourites like Mary Poppins and Cinderella are still a big part of the action, huge franchises like Frozen and Star Wars have joined the Disney family.
Elsa, Anna and Olaf. Image: Jason Puddephatt via Flickr CC
But even though it's now older than many of its visitors, Disneyland Paris will always have a special spot in millions of hearts. Even if it's just as the place your parents always promised they'd take you "next year" as long as you brushed your teeth and did your homework. If you didn't get to go then, this would be the perfect year to treat yourself – not least because Brits might need a visa to get to France before long. Sigh. Things are so much simpler in the Magic Kingdom.
Image: Sean MacEntee via Flickr CC
Bon anniversaire, Euro Disney.
Main image: 1994 souvenir postcard, by Eurosouvenirland via Flickr CC