Last week was my 7th visit during the Christmas season at Disneyland Paris, and my 4th year in a row of the festive celebrations. I’ve said on many occasions that weather aside, it’s certainly my favourite time of year to go, and I was expecting to come away thinking the same thing. I’m a huge Christmas fan anyway, and it’s a time of year that brings lots of fond memories and means a lot to me, unlike Halloween which I never celebrated growing up. I never even went trick or treating as a child – I know, cue the violins. Combine my favourite time of year with my favourite place and you’re onto a winner – so how did 2014 compare?
Decorations and Atmosphere
Before you even enter Disneyland Park there are decorations on the archway that leads you through the Disneyland Hotel, and once through the turnstiles you are faced with the character laden Christmas adornment on Main Street Station. You can see this in the header image of this article, but not overly well, as this is the best photo I managed to get – obviously not thinking about this article at the time! Some may see it as a little over the top but it does convey a message of Christmas and Disney immediately. Judging by the number of people taking photos under it, I’d say it does the job well and appears to be very popular.
On Main Street, U.S.A. there are garlands stretching from one side to the other with not so hidden Mickey’s in the middle. These are not new, but they look great, especially when you look from one end of Main Street, U.S.A. to the other, with Sleeping Beauty Castle at the end. Along with the garlands on the buildings, and bauble / Christmas bush hybrids on the lamp posts, it makes for a pretty classy festive addition to the most famous street in Disneyland Paris.
The class level does dip a bit when we enter Central Plaza and are faced with snowman statues of various Disney characters such as Mickey and Goofy. These were also present last year, but new for 2014 are standard statues of 4 Disney characters looking at the snowman variations. One thing I did notice is that they are all in winter clothing except Minnie, who looks substantially under-dressed without a scarf like the others have! So maybe I thought too much about this, but it did stand out a bit. This whole scene is not my favourite, especially in contrast to Main Street U.S.A., but it’s a lot of fun and appealing to people of all ages, especially children.
Aside from lights on the castle spire tops and on some of the square trees (love those), there is little decoration elsewhere in Disneyland Park. Walt Disney Studios seems to have more than in previous years, but that could be that because in previous years there was no new Ratatouille ride and area to make me pay so much attention on quick Christmas season trips. Studio 1 felt particularly festive and is a building that I know some have major issues with, but I still have a lot of love for.
Disney’s Christmas Parade
Renamed as a parade, from its cavalcade debut last year, but with an extra float. They can call it a parade, but there is no mistaking, this is the Disneyland Paris Christmas Cavalcade, and I for one and glad it is. It’s cold during the Christmas season, so I’m glad to have a cavalcade or parade, or whatever it is that you want to call it, that doesn’t have me standing around for too long. This is where the, ahem, parade excels – it’s non stop fun and activity from start to finish, with no parade stops to slow the whole process down. The new float, Sugar and Spice, does not scream Christmas, and nor is it the most delicately imagined float. It is however, very vibrant and colourful, and with enough Christmas additions like Gingerbread men, candy canes and biscuit reindeer heads. The latter look far more like sweet treats in real life, and less like severed reindeer heads that they appeared to be in the concept artwork.
The rest of the floats are the same as last year, with the exception of Max Goof replacing an Elf on the lead reindeer of Santa’s Sleigh. While the floats and characters are lots of fun, it’s the Cast Members in the various roles as dancers that really make this parade, and bring the life and energy. The costumes are fantastic and they have been cast extremely well, as all are utterly captivating in their roles and engage the guests as much as they possibly can. I particularly like that they are given the freedom to break ranks and interact with guests, which usually leads to a hilarious rush to get back in place.
There has been much mention of Magic on Parade being removed and nothing being put in its place, but honestly, with this cavalrade (if that catches on you know where it started) being put on 3 times a day, Magical Christmas Wishes twice, and then the park closing at 7pm with Dreams! of Christmas, I’m not sure there is enough time, and light hours, for the standard parade too. I certainly didn’t miss it while I was there, and barely had time to see what was on offer every day.
Magical Christmas Wishes
When I saw this new Christmas tree lighting showcase last year I was thrilled, which is the polar opposite to how I felt to the previous year’s float of the usual characters turning up, only to be seen if you were in the place. To give you an example of how well this works, I arrived just before it was to start and Town Square was full of guests, so I stood a little bit down Main Street, U.S.A., next to New Century Notions – Flora’s Unique Boutique as it happens, but I didn’t realise that until much later. Anyway, the point is that my location didn’t really matter, as this is an experience that can be enjoyed from all over, and in fact very close to the tree is not the place to be, unless you enjoy getting a stiff neck.
I have a suspicion that this year’s Wishes could be a bit shorter than last year’s version, but this could just be my imagination. I love the combination of Pinocchio/Jiminy Cricket commentary, great music, mesmerising light arrangements and of course the snow that falls on Main Street, U.S.A. In fact, let me pass you over to my friend Jane, and her tweet from Disneyland Paris from two days ago:
— Jane (@Pixie_Dust99) December 10, 2014
As you might have guessed I really like Magical Christmas Wishes, and it lives up to its name 100%. New this year is a second showing, just 25 minutes later, so you can enjoy this tremendous spectacular twice in one night.
Disney Dreams! of Christmas
You only have to read this to understand how much I loved the inaugural Disney Dreams! of Christmas last year, so it comes with much disappointment that I didn’t feel like this with the new version, not even close. I just didn’t feel it was much about Christmas, and more about Frozen. Yes, we all know Frozen is popular, but that doesn’t mean it has to take over this show to the extent it has. I especially didn’t like the summer song, while I’m standing there shivering and wanting Christmas.
The one thing I really miss is the Jingle Bells sing a long in different languages, as that was something everyone could feel involved with, and it was really fun to join in in multiple languages, with varying levels of success. Maybe if I was as in Love with Frozen as some people are I’d be enamoured, but I wanted Christmas and I didn’t get much of that. I saw it on the first night but didn’t bother on the second. I will watch the video to see if my opinion softens at all, but right now, based on seeing it last Wednesday, I am unfortunately not a huge fan.
Christmas 2014 in Disneyland Paris…
There are other Christmas festivities like character meets, food huts in Disney Village and a much smaller than previous Santa Village in Frontierland, but for me the parts I highlighted are what really make the season special. Even though I wasn’t so keen on the new Disney Dreams! of Christmas, I still felt Christmas in Disneyland Paris delivered in atmosphere, entertainment and magic. I was lucky it was cold, but not uncomfortably so, and there wasn’t a spot of rain the whole time I was there. Do I still believe Christmas is the best season to visit Disneyland Paris? Absolutely, and I hope to go again next year and for many years after that.