It may seem hard to believe, but we’ve reached the end of another year. The past 12 months at Disneyland Paris has seen heroic legends, celebrations and play days, jazz and jiving. It has been an extensive and exciting year with plenty to experience and even more to enjoy.
To look back at the busy year that was 2019 I have complied a list of my personal top 10 moments from it in Disneyland Paris. Although I was very lucky in that I was able to visit the resort and experience a wide variety of different seasons and events I obviously wasn’t able to experience everything. As such some moments or events that you would personally include may be missing. This list is merely my own opinions and thoughts on the past year.
10. Animation Celebration presenting Frozen: A Musical Invitation
Starting off the list with a very unique one. I am actually yet to experience Animation Celebration and its Frozen show for myself, but being it is a brand new show and attraction for Disneyland Paris I felt it was far too major not to get a mention in this list. As it is one I haven’t yet seen for myself though it will by default take the number 10 spot. Think of it as a defacto honourable mention.
Opening towards the end of the year Animation Celebration just about crept into 2019 when it welcomed guests for the first time in November. Replacing the opening day Art of Disney Animation, the new attraction is a spiritual successor of sorts keeping many of same props and core values of showcasing the magic of animation and their stories.
Debuting inside Animation Celebration is the highly acclaimed Frozen: A Musical Invitation. This two roomed mini show takes guests on a musical trip through some of the most beloved scenes and song of the 2013 Disney classic, with the help of Anna, Elsa, Kristoff and, of course, Sven. There’s even the opportunity to meet Olaf should fortune shine down on those with a Lineberty reservation.
9. Disney Characters Night AP Party
Closing off the Summer saw the return of the Annual Pass events with Disney Characters Night over in Disneyland Park. Whereas all previous parties kept to a these where shows mixed with Disney character meet & greets specified to a particular theme, September saw the first one to be solely dedicated to meeting characters with a record 100 out and about for guests to pose for photos with.
A noble idea on paper, but unfortunately it wasn’t as fun when brought into execution. A fully sold out event with a large number of tickets meant that each and every meet & greet of the night was tightly packed with people. Add to that an abandonment of the Disney FanDaze inspired rule of quick meeting turnover meant characters would spent an extensive amount of time with each guest.
This ultimately lead to an event plagued with overcrowding (sometimes to very not-so-fun circumstances) and queues that last well into the hours rather than minutes. Perhaps it is because I’m not the biggest character fan in the world but I feel the night sorely missed some shows and additional entertainment to help disperse crowds and give guests more to do than wait in line.
8. Toy Story Play Days
To celebrate this June’s worldwide release of Toy Story 4, Walt Disney Studios Park became the place to be for Pixar fans with Toy Story Play Days. This short mini event saw a lot of life get injected into the colourful Toy Story Playland with additional streetmosphere and toy demonstrations throughout. Add to that some exclusive snacks and a preview of the latest movie in Studio Theater it was a great little extra for those who had already booked for a trip to the magic during this time.
The Play Days also saw the return of Bo Peep to Disneyland Paris, sporting her brand new look from Toy Story 4 for the very first time. Although the queue was long as expected, it was a very fun encounter with the added novelty of being one of the first to publicly meet her new look in a Disney Park.
My only criticism is that the celebration could, and perhaps should, have lasted throughout the summer months. The incredibly small window of 18th – 28th June meant guests only had 10 days to experience Toy Story Play Days, an event that though didn’t add much it certainly breathed some life into the Studios park. Something that was certainly needed in the second half of the year after several attraction closures.
7. Disneyland Paris at D23
Appearing only every two years, the D23 Expo is branded as such but truly is the ultimate Disney fan experience. From exploring the show floor and learning about the latest projects to meeting and talking to fellow Disney mega fans and just having a blast it is a convention unlike any other and one I genuinely cannot recommend enough.
One of the biggest elements of the D23 Expo are the announcements and various nuggets of info that emerge regarding Disney Parks. Ever since the incarnation of D23 ten years ago Disneyland Paris fans have longed for news and felt disappointed by the lack of inclusion. This year however DLP got a bit of that limelight and it was an incredible experience to cover it.
The biggest thing to come from the expo is without doubt all the details we received regarding the Spider-Man attraction coming to Avengers Campus. Being cloned with an exact version in Disney California Adventure most likely helped but we got a lot of new information on the attraction including concept art, a look at the ride vehicles and basic story outline of guests teaming up with Spidey himself to stop an army of rogue Spider-Bots.
Other news to come from D23 included additional information on Hotel New York – The Art of Marvel which opens under its new theme next year.
6. Pirates & Princesses AP Party
I’ll be absolutely honest, I was never an instant adopter to the Festival of Pirates & Princesses. Despite its widespread adoration from guests and fans alike I wasn’t completely sold on such a generic, uninspired idea nor was I fully on-board with the creation of original characters for a season that so heavily relies on existing properties to work.
That all changed with the Pirates & Princesses Annual Pass Party. I may have been very late to the party (only seeing it for myself the very first time at this “farewell” event) but I had a tonne of fun. The vibrant, colourful floats and costumes, that infectiously upbeat and dancy music added with the exuberant joy from its loyal fans as they gave the festival a memorable goodbye. Going as far as to hold up literal signs begging for a season encore.
The Pirates & Princesses Annual Pass Party may be the best AP night I have so far experienced at Disneyland Paris. It certainly was a night that oozed in positivity and fun which turned me into a full convert to the teachings of Bette Rose and Jimmy Ocean. Yo-ho!
5. Disney’s Halloween Festival
It’s not so secretive that Halloween is my favourite time of year. The spookified season combined with the beautiful colours of Autumn is a particularly special time for me to visit and one such reason for that is because of the Halloween festival that runs each and every year at Disneyland Paris.
Although this year didn’t pull out every stop in new content, rather conservatively repeating what worked from previous entries, it was still able to provide some of the best entertainment of the year. The once dubbed “Halloween cavalcade” has truly evolved into something so much more and a spectacle that simply must be seen from Central Plaza.
What was new however was the launch of the revitalised story elements to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. This permanent change saw its debut as part of DLP’s Halloween fun and even provided an outstanding jazzy rendition of ‘Are You Brave Enough?’ for a fantastic atmosphere both in build up and within the Hollywood Tower Hotel itself.
4. Disney Loves Jazz
Disneyland Paris opened the summer this year with a swing as it saw the return of Disney Loves Jazz after a successful inaugural outing in 2018. Whether it was due to poor timing, an over-saturation of events or just lack of interest the night failed to generate the same levels of popularity as before. This lead to an extremely quiet night in Walt Disney Studios Park with significantly less than half the tickets available sold.
While this may have been a financial and logistical disaster for the Disneyland Paris Events Group, it was to the advantage to all in attendance. The very low crowds meant that my friends and I were free to enjoy all the night had to offer with virtual no queues; including that of very rare characters and exclusive music performances. Indeed, we were able to meet every character in attendance, watch every show and ride all the attractions open and still have room to leave an hour before closing!
Disney Loves Jazz is nigh confirmed to be cancelled. The resounding lack of sales has more than likely sealed its fate and condemned it to the Disneyland Paris history books. My night in June however was one I look fondly back on as a special event I felt totally in control of, and has me longing for a low capacity at a higher price tag compromise in future parties.
3. Marvel Season of Super Heroes
In a year that brought us Captain Marvel, Spider-Man: Far From Home and the record breaking phenomenon Avengers: Endgame, Disneyland Paris had to be sure they brought their A-game when it came to representing the Marvel universe in their second outing of superhero festival. Just like the quality of the aforementioned blockbusters, they certainly did.
Marvel Season of Super Heroes 2019 is a perfect example of how to take feedback from a previous entry and truly improve from it. The once problem riddled Marvel Super Heroes United saw huge improvements both technically and creatively, leading to one of the best shows ever performed in the resort. More attention was also brought onto the Marvel heroes themselves both with an infinitely superior Stark Expo show and the number of characters guests could meet tripling from 2018.
Best of all, the season also saw the Disneyland Paris introduction of Captain Marvel, just weeks after her MCU debut in cinemas. And it wasn’t just a simply meet & greet, oh no. With roles in both the Avengers lead shows Carol Danvers truly was the MVP of MSOSH – so to speak. This level of synergy with the rest of The Walt Disney Company was something we dreamed of just a few years prior so seeing it not only come in to play but to be used to expertly was a joy.
In a springtime that saw two of the biggest movies in Marvel’s 80 year history, Walt Disney Studios Park truly was the ultimate place to be for any fan of the superhero juggernaut. As a devoted Marvel fan I can safely say that I loved Marvel Season of Super Heroes, 3000.
2. Phantom Manor Re-opening event
It is probably safe to assume that the massive Phantom Manor refurbishment which finally re-opened its doors earlier this year has split opinions with fans. Although the attraction has garnered much praise from guests and regulars alike there are a number of those who were disappointed with the major story changes made to the iconic attraction. Myself included. Very disappointed.
One thing I cannot fault however was the grand re-opening event held in honour of Phantom Manor’s long awaited return in what was, perhaps, the best night I’ve ever had in Disneyland Park. A night exclusive to Annual Passholders, former Shareholders and InsidEars members, the dark, late April evening saw Frontierland truly turn into Thunder Mesa of the Old West with an array of unique streetmosphere characters, music and other fun to welcome back the Ravenswood Estate after its lengthy downtime.
The inside of the Manor may be where the majority of changes lie, but for this night it was the exterior who was the main star of the show. Through clever lighting and projection mapping Phantom Manor was wrapped in foreboding greens and purples all throughout the night. It was as if the restless spirits and sinister energy that corrupts the mansion was seeping out onto the garden and courtyard.
This haunted house-warming also saw two of the stars of the show break free from their entrapment within the walls. Melanie Ravenswood – the once tragic protagonist – roamed her home’s overgrown and forgotten meadows, dazed and confused as the curse upon the Manor still consumed her. All the while the evil Phantom lurked among the queueline, ready to spring upon unsuspecting guests no matter how fancy and fan-dangled their out-of-town technology was.
Phantom Manor’s refurbishment and subsequent story changes have left a very bitter taste in my mouth, no doubt about that. Though the attraction I loved and hold dear to me is no more (in my opinion), this night was a perfect celebration of everything I loved about Jeff Burke and co.’s original creation. It was a bittersweet moment, but a night I fondly look back on.
1. The Lion King & Jungle Festival
My number one moment of the year simply has to be the flagship season of Disneyland Paris 2019, the fantastic Lion King & Jungle Festival.
What an amazing event this was. Taking over the entire summer to tie in with the Hollywood release of Jon Favreau’s The Lion King, the season was a colourful, upbeat and joyous celebration of two of Disney’s wildest and animal centric properties, The Jungle Book and aforementioned mega hit. In a way that only Disneyland Paris can, not only were the stories and characters of these classic tales brought to life but also the culture and aesthetics of the Savannah and India; the two locations they are set.
Whether it was the musical adventure of Rhythms of the Pride Lands or the dancing fun of Timon’s MataDance, Disneyland Park was a vibrant and truly living in the summer sunshine. Particularly when combined with the signature food, drinks and decorations in aid of the festival.
The true standout however was The Jungle Book Jive – and what an incredible show it was. No matter what showing you saw (and quite literally come rain or shine) guests were treated to a true party of colour, music, dancing and coming together of cultures Mickey and the gang toured through an Indian safari. Never before have I seen a show in a Disney park with such a long set piece that entertained from start to finish without losing tempo. Nor indeed, one that leaned so much on culture significance and traditional music, dance and art for representation. And who can forget that song. Even after one watch you’ll be singing “We’re On Our Way” to yourself for weeks to come.
With such a heavy marketing campaign in its lead up it was clear that The Lion King & Jungle Festival was created to be the defining moment of Disneyland Paris 2019, and boy did it live up to that expectation. Indeed the season was successful it was announced to return for a second outing while it was still running in the summer. I for one cannot wait to see its return and hear that marching band descend upon Sleeping Beauty Castle again, with Goofy leading the way.
What was your favourite moment of Disneyland Paris 2019? Do you agree with my list or is there something you would have put instead? I’d love to hear your highlights of the year so be sure to let me know over on Twitter!