I’ve very recently returned from a incredibly fun, busy and exhausting FanDaze weekend at Disneyland Paris. I thought it’d be good to give my thoughts on the weekend, especially as I was one of the people that actually purchased a package. To make it easier I’m going to split this into two sections, one part for everything before the party and one for the party itself.
I’d grab a cup of tea or something before diving into this, because its going to be a long one!
Exclusive Park Enthusiast Package Review
On the announcement of the FanDaze packages back in January, most of the excitement I saw was directed at the premium character packages. Personally though, what drew me in was the Exclusive Park Enthusiast package. If you’re not familiar with this package it was advertised to include:
- Minimum 2 night stay at an onsite hotel with park tickets and a Photopass
- FanDaze party ticket, lanyard and pin
- VIP fastpass
- 2 hour tour of the Disney parks with a Disney Imagineer
- Reserved viewing areas for Disney Stars on Parade and Disney Illuminations
The first two things on the list are included with the classic packages, and the VIP fastpass was included with the regular Park Enthusiast package. For the purposes of this review I want to be as transparent as possible, so with that in mind I can confirm that the price of this package for 1 adult staying in the Sante Fe hotel from 1st to 3rd of June was £1,011.
I know what you’re thinking, HOW MUCH??? That was my first reaction too. When I thought about it though, how many people get the chance to tour the parks with an actual Imagineer? This sounded like a complete bucket list item for me so I decided to go for it. And…well lets just say reality and expectation didn’t exactly tie up.
My frustrations with the package started to build as the date of the event approached. With only a few weeks to go I’d been given no information on when the tour would be, or what it actually entailed. Then on the 4th of May, the Disney FanDaze twitter account tweeted this:
My first reaction was “oh cool! They must be plussing the packages due to low sales, so I’ll get my tour of the parks and a tour behind the magic of Ratatouille! A few days before the event though, finalised details of the programme were leaked and my heart sank:
My tour of the Disney parks was now a tour of one ride? Needless to say I was and still am unhappy about it, and have a complaint outstanding with Disneyland Paris. You might also have noticed that the VIP Fastpass was stated to be collected at 5pm on the Friday, rather than being available when I arrived. After checking with Disneyland Paris through several different channels I was assured it would be waiting for me check in.
You can probably guess what happened next – no VIP fastpass at Santa Fe check in. The receptionist I spoke to was really unhelpful, just throwing her arms up and saying I had to speak to guest services. I immediately went to Studio Services and, after a long process of explaining what a FanDaze package actually was and what I’d bought, they found that the hotel did have it and should have given it to me. Happily they sorted one out for me for Friday and I picked up the other one from a very apologetic hotel concierge later on.
Onto the tour itself, it was scheduled to start very early on the Saturday morning. It was well organised at the Studios entrance, with my tour group being given our own entrance to the park. The package did not sell out, of the 16 available I think only about 10 or 12 had been sold. A nice little perk was getting to enter the park about 10 minutes before Extra Magic Time began which was a nice opportunity to get an empty park picture or two:
We headed into Bistrot Chez Remy and were personally greeted by Laurent Cayuela which was a nice touch. A small continental breakfast had been provided:
In true FanDaze tradition though, we weren’t told this beforehand so I’d eaten breakfast before I arrived…
I wasn’t allowed to video or take pictures of the presentation due to it including confidential Imagineering images, but it essentially started with a background of Imagineering from its birth through to how it manages projects these days. This was then explained within the context of the Ratatouille project itself and there was an in depth discussion of the ride. Afterwards we were led out into La Place de Remy and some of the detailing and reasonings behind the design of the area, the Chez Marianne shop and some of the design elements of the ride were explained to us. We then got to ride Ratatouille through the Fastpass line and have any further questions answered. At the very end of the tour we were led through Toon Studios to the front of the park for a very quick explanation of the concept of the area before the tour finished.
I did learn some cool snippets of information on the tour, a few of them being:
- Imagineering at DLP had wanted to build some kind of trackless ride since 2009.
- A trackless ride was chosen to ensure the ride was different every time and increase re-rideability.
- The leaves on the ceiling of Bistrot Chez Remy are made individually by hand, to make them more like real leaves.
- Each table top in Bistrot Chez Remy is a Mabel tea bag. Mabel is the name of the jittery old lady that appears in the film, and the tea is non-caffeinated for that very reason.
- The fake office next to the toilets is for the health inspector who appears in the film.
- The imagineers joked about making the fridge scene smell like the fish that you can see hanging there.
- At the point Hollywood Boulevard morphs into Toon Studio you can see the plaque below on the ground. If you can’t read it, it says “Mortimer & Co. contractors 1928”. Mortimer being the original name for Mickey and 1928 being his birthday! This appears backwards when you stand in Toon Studios as you’re meant to have stepped through the screen between here and Hollywood Boulevard.
There was elements of the tour I enjoyed. Laurent was a very warm and charismatic speaker, and you feel his enthusiasm and love for Disney come through in everything he says. Some of the facts above were also genuinely interesting and new to me. My main problems with it were:
- It essentially wasn’t what I paid for. To me a “tour of the Disney parks with an imagineer” had me thinking of something similar to the tour Tony Baxter gave to some bloggers last year.
- I think the Ratatouille area is lovely, but its not something I’m passionate about in the slightest. I find the ride to be very disappointing at this point, and if it’d have been advertised that this would be the focus of the tour I’d never have booked it.
- We didn’t actually get to see anything a regular guest can’t see. We didn’t get to go behind the scenes of the ride at all. When the tour was switched on me I was at least hopeful that we’d get to walk the sets of the ride and have some of the elements and technical details explained. The closest we got though was riding it just like any other person can.
Overall I just found the tour to be a massive disappointment. As I’ve already stated, what they advertised on the website and what they delivered were just 2 completely different things. There was also a complete lack of understanding from Disneyland Paris cast members as to what the packages were, which made getting resolutions to the issues I had incredibly laborious and painful. I can’t in good conscience recommend someone buy a similar package if they offer these for next year, unless they’re much more transparent of the package details and massively improve their internal and external communications.
I’ll also note that I didn’t use the viewing areas. I’ve seen Stars on Parade from every angle you can imagine, and I hate Disney Illuminations. I can accept that this might be a nice perk for someone travelling to Disneyland Paris for the event though.
Disney FanDaze Inaugural Party Review
I arrived at the entry line around 6pm and found that we package holders had been given a nice perk (that wasn’t really a perk but I’ll get to it) – we were being given priority entry! The area to enter the event was split into 3 lines – one for package holders (excluding classic packages), one for those with a disability pass and another for general ticket holders.
I’m going to be completely frank, the first half hour of this event was an absolute mess and a complete cluster f*ck. We were let into the front lot and held at the entrance to Studio 1, which did nothing but let a massive crowd build up at its entrance. The cast members could then barely control the people trying to run through Studio 1, and then when we got into the park we weren’t allowed to enter the rest of the park until after the opening ceremony anyway? So the priorty line wasn’t really a perk anyway, unless you were desperate to be front row for the opening ceremony.
The result of all this is, when they did drop the ropes to the rest of the park, people were running, pushing, shoving and all sorts to get into the character lines. I’ve honestly never seen anything like it. Surely this could have been avoided by just letting us get into any character queues we wanted as soon as they opened the gates? We started in the line for Kuzko and Kronk, but with all the pushing and shoving we’d ended up pretty far back.
It quickly became clear that the cast members weren’t really enforcing the pictures rule at this time and we’d have no chance to meet them in this set, so we decided to bail and head to the Darkwing Duck line. At this point, the night really wasn’t off to the best start.
We joined the Darkwing queue with about 25 minutes of his and Launchpad’s set remaining. The queue was moving fairly quickly but it was looking like it would be down to the wire. Thankfully though at this point we got our first bits of pixie dust of the night! The 2 families in front us were waiting for Max and Goofy so were happy to let us past so we could do our meet, and the character attendants very nicely extended the set slightly to let us get our pictures before the switch! So with literally no time to spare, I finally got to meet Darkwing Duck!
At this point the night got even better. We left the Darkwing queue and pretty much ran straight into Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Bear and Br’Er Fox. These guys were so high on my list of wanted meets and I was incredibly happy to finally get pictures with all of them!
This random meet actually worked quite well too and I managed to get all the pictures I wanted with pretty much no fuss whatsoever!
I’d heard through Twitter that some of the VIPs had pretty short waits, so with most of the other lines closed until after their breaks, we decided to chance it. It turned out to work incredibly well and we managed to meet Mickey, Daisy and Goofy in quick succession.
Goofy was a particular highlight, loving my Powerline tshirt and doing a picture perfect version of the perfect cast!
With those meets out of the way, there was a 90 minute break before characters would start meeting again. We decided to use that time to watch some of the shows.
First up was the Dance Your Ducktales Parade! I was a massive fan of the Ducktales TV show when I was younger (as well as the awesome SNES game if anyone remembers it). Once the theme tune came on I was already hooked. I know its the same tricycles they used for the 25th anniversary, that it was essentially a small dance party and it was a fairly short parade. But I don’t care about any of that. This show was like a straight shot of nostalgia. It was fun, the characters were great and the dancers energy was fantastic. I loved it!
Then it was time for the entertainment I was most anticipating all night – Max Live! From the moment I saw the concept images of Max in the Powerline outfit I had incredibly high hopes for this show. The scope of the stage and the Powerline posters on the walls around it only served to heighten that hype up to ridiculous levels. What can I say except it didn’t just meet those expectations, it completely smashed through them. A Goofy Movie is one of my absolute favourite Disney films (I still think its massively underrated) and to see some of my favourite songs from it being performed live on stage was just mindblowing as it gets very little (if any) representation in the parks. I just about lost it when the whole stage started doing the perfect cast during I2I, and liked how they gave focus to some films which also have little parks representation like Emperors New Groove and Zootopia/Zootropolis.
With the Max show finishing around 11pm I headed back into the Kuzko queue as I was determined to meet him and Kronk this time. I was about 20 people back in the queue, but thankfully this time they kept the queue moving quickly and I met them at around 11:40pm. Another bucket list meet was complete!
At this point time was of the essence, and characters queues were starting to close, so I managed to fit in a few last cool character pictures!
Firstly, Meg and Phil!
And my final meet of the night, Pluto!
With the Pluto meet over we were done with character meets for the evening. I grabbed some food from Studio 1 (actually enjoyed the star shaped nuggets, a clear sign of how tired I was at that point!) and we headed back to Production Courtyard for the final showing of Max Live! I won’t repeat myself but I enjoyed it just as much as last time, and am sad at the thought of never getting to see it again.
Thankfully the area we were watching the show in Production Courtyard was also part of the parade route, so we quickly got a spot for the finale parade. I did really enjoy this, but to be honest I was dead on my feet by this point of the evening so just took it easy and took a few pictures.
With the parade done it was around 2.20am and the night was over! Outwith the first 30 minutes, I had a fantastic time at the party. I met 13 characters and saw both the shows I wanted to, multiple times in the case of Max Live. My main other complaint was with how they handled the Roger Rabbit meet. Like the Splash characters he was in a roaming meet, however due to his popularity there was a literal mob of people chasing after him at all times. When he did stand still he would take literally 1 or 2 pictures then move on again. I tried to get a picture with him a few times but eventually just gave up. I’m guessing there was a reason they decided these some of the meets had to be unscheduled, but Roger Rabbit was much touted in the advertising for the event and I just find it baffling they thought it was a good idea. I also didn’t try the Heroes and Villains Alley which, from everything I’ve read online, was a bit of a disaster.
The last piece of feedback I’d give to Disney is that I’d happily pay a bit more for a standalone ticket in return for reduced crowds at the event. The welcome speech touted the event as exclusive but at times it felt anything but.
That pretty much sums up my FanDaze experience! How did yours fair in comparison? Will you go next year in whatever capacity the event returns?