Euro Disneyland, now called Disneyland Paris, was the second Disney resort to be opened outside of the United States. Located 20 miles (30 km) outside of Paris, the success of the park was considered to be a sure thing after the tremendous popularity of the Tokyo resort. However, Euro Disneyland opened in a storm of controversy and mixed opinion, and in the 21st century still has a shaky reputation among Disney fans and Europeans alike.
In 1983, Tokyo Disneyland opened to instant success and spurred interest in building a European park. By 1985, an original list of thousands of possible building sites was whittled down to the French rural town of Marne-la-Vallee, less than four hours drive for over 68 million potential guests. Construction began in 1988 and quickly grew to include plans for a second park, which did not open until 2002.
From the inception of the park, some French citizens raised serious concerns and protests over what many believed to be an American intrusion on French culture. These arguments were fueled as the park approached opening day, with announcements of company policy that included conducting all meetings in English. Disney, for the most part, insisted that its standards were not exclusively American but a part of the company, and maintained its insistence on policy similar to the American parks.
On 12 April 1992, Euro Disneyland opened to a crowd only half the expected size. Attendance continued to be low throughout the year, leading to the closure of one of the park’s hotels. By 1995, park officials completed a redesign of many of Euro Disneyland’s attractions, renamed the park Disneyland Paris, and opened the European version of Space Mountain, an incredibly popular roller coaster. The resort posted its first quarter of profit that year.
Today, Euro Disneyland’s main park closely resembles the California Disneyland, featuring many of the same rides. The Haunted Mansion ride, called Phantom Manor, follows a specific back story and is considered by some to be an improvement on the Anaheim ride. In 2005, Space Mountain underwent a serious transformation and reopened as Space Mountain: Mission 2, with a totally redesigned theme and experience based on the stories of Jules Verne.
The second park of the resort, Walt Disney Studios, is themed after the movie industry. The park includes many movie-themed rides and is the residence of one of Disney’s most popular attractions, Tower of Terror. The Backlot area of Walt Disney Studios is the park’s biggest draw, featuring several stunt shows and the Rock’n’Roller Coaster.
Euro Disneyland features seven Disney hotels surrounding the park, six of which feature different styles of American life. The opulent Disneyland Hotel is the most luxurious of the seven, featuring Victorian-era design and a Mickey Mouse clock tower. Disney’s Hotel New York features the Art Deco style of the 1930s and has a miniature version of Rockefeller Plaza, complete with a winter ice-skating rink. Outside the resort’s perimeter sits Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch, showcasing woodsy charm and rustic cabins. By 2017, Disney is expected to complete construction of over 18,000 hotel rooms, located within varying distances to the resort.
If you are visiting Europe and are a Disney fan, Euro Disneyland provides a unique experience. Although attendance levels have increased in the 21st century, the park is still usually uncrowded, a rare thing in the Disney franchise. Many fans love the exquisite detail and variations that make Euro Disneyland different from its international sister parks, but to some extent, the resort is still an unwelcome guest in France.