Monday and Tuesday, Kristen and I decided to forego the traditional castles and cathedrals and go to something with a bit more of a modern, childlike twist... Disneyland Paris. No, I'm not joking. There was even a 40% off deal, so it was cheap. (Comparatively) We got two days in the parks and a night in one of the hotels.
See, when you grow up in suburban Chicago, everyone you know has been to Disneyworld. I knew kids who went every Spring Break. I was usually the only person in my elementary school class who had never been to Disney. So I'd always wanted to go. Kristen loves Disney, and has been to both of the American parks, and wanted to go too. Perfect!
Disneyland was WONDERFUL. People call it things like "the happiest place on earth," and I can understand that. Everywhere you look, there are kids who are completely happy. The place is full of kids, and we saw maybe one or two crying. All the adults were happy too. It's truly magical... every little detail is so perfectly thought out, and it really does make you feel like a kid again. It's a different philosophy to rides, too. It's more about the background than the actual ride; all of the roller coasters are "inside" and most take place in the dark, with special effects. Space Mountain makes it seem like you're going through space, past stars and galaxies. Crush's coaster has lots of fish and feels like the ocean. The Aerosmith rock and roller coaster has stage type lighting and rigging, and loud rock music. The rides are alright, but the experience is incredible.
I surprised myself on several occasions with my reaction to the shows and the costumed characters... the atmosphere seems to bring out the joy and youth in everyone. Plus, the weather was ideal (sunny and mid-70s, not humid at all), the lines were short (the longest we waited for a ride was half an hour for Space Mountain... a lot of the time the only "wait" was the time it took us to walk through the empty lines. The second and third times we went on Space Mountain, the wait was less than five minutes.) and everything was bilingual at the very least. And since I'm a linguist, I had a TON of fun paying attention to the translations, and to what languages were found where.
Space Mountain: (AWESOME roller coaster!)
Our hotel, the Santa Fe, was a surprisingly realistic, though over-the-top, Western style resort hotel. I've stayed in real ones before-- the kind of place where you still change the TV channel with a knob, and where everything from the carpet to the bedspreads is pueblo-colored geometric designs. This hotel had it perfectly. Perhaps the John Wayne billboard over the neon sign was a bit too much... but it was great. They even had evergreens, a fake UFO, and a movie-set-style Western town to complete the atmosphere. Everything was in English and French at the hotel, but they had staff speaking all the other Disneyland languages (Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish).
In general, signage was in English and French-- however, most of the ride names were in English because they're the same ride as in the States, and all of the "exit" and "bathrooms" type signs were in French.
The Lion King show (which had fun costumes and shortened versions of all the songs) was either in English or French-- we went to the English one, and went back for the French one. However, it was pretty disappointing, since the dialogue was in French but all the songs were in English.
The Animagique show was really cool: it was a blacklight show with a lot of the classic songs, and they did some really cool things with puppets. There were animatronics, puppets, full sized costumed characters, marionettes, bubbles, and it was really cool. On a linguistic level, it was interesting, because it was a true mixture: the opening scene between Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse was bilingual, since Mickey spoke French and Donald spoke English. Once Mickey left, Donald himself was bilingual: "J'y vais, here I go!" Most of the songs were in English, but Under the Sea was in French.
The It's a Small World ride was about 75% in English, but sometimes the song was in French. Now that I've been on the ride (twice) I have an actual appreciation for the song, and I mind it a lot less. It's a boat-style travel through the countries of the world, with cute animatronics dancing and singing in traditional costumes or at landmarks. For most of the countries, there's a traditional instrument, and when you go past it, you hear the instrument playing the song.
The Pirates of the Carribean ride was all in French, except for the Yo ho yo ho chorus, which was in English.
Here's the pirate ship next to the ride:
There was a neat history-of-animation type show, which had a montage of famous Disney clips (about half in English, a quarter in French, and the rest a mixture of German, Dutch, Italian and Spanish) and a presentation about animation. The presentation, which was a "conversation" between a real live person and an animated Mushu, was in French. All the seats had headphones which could play the translation in the typical handful of European languages.
Some of the rides that had video introductions (Space Mountain and Star Tours, for example) had video with subtitle. Some had English with French subtitles, some had the reverse.
The Tower of Terror had a real live human giving instructions (after a French-only video). The one who explained procedure to our "elevator" did it in French (for me and Kristen... ironic), English (for an English-speaking family), and Spanish (for a really annoying group of teenagers who screamed throughout the entire thing, so that we couldn't hear any of the story). We have no idea how he determined that we spoke French.
The typical roller coaster "Keep your hands and legs inside the car at all times and secure your hats and glasses" was either in French or in English, rarely in both.
The stunt show (which was really cool: car stunt driving, fake fighting, huge balls of fire...) was in English and French, but in the strangest way. There were two hosts, one French-speaking and one English-speaking, and they gave the same information in a conversational style.
"Pour conduire ces voitures, il faut au moins trois mois d'entraînement."
"That's right, you need at least three months of training to drive these cars."
Exact same content, but they made it sound like they were just chatting about it.
The studio tram tour was in English and French, but in an even stranger way. There were two famous actors in the video, one French and one English, but they didn't say quite the same things. Sometimes it was just different jokes, but sometimes they pointed out different things that we were supposed to notice.
My favorite show, however, was Stitch Live. We went once in French, and once in English. It's a real-time show, where the animated Stitch interacts with the audience. There's got to be someone with a lot of controls for what happens on the screen, because they can turn the image upside-down, produce cake out of nowhere, and make Stitch move around anywhere. There's actual interaction with the audience: Stitch asks people's names, takes a picture of a kid and puts it on the screen, has conversations with the audience... it was hilarious. The French show was 100% French, and the English show was 100% English.
And here are some pictures!!
Cinderella is one of my favorite Disney movies:
Being France, there was a shopfront from Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, complete with umbrella and rain.
I was excited to take a picture with Sully:
And Kristen took one with Mike:
Finally, here we are with the ultimate of French Disney characters: Lumière.