Disneyland Paris kicked off its 30th anniversary with a celebration featuring Mickey Mouse and friends in their new celebration costumes, joined by celebrity guests and Imagineers behind the creation of the resort – including Tony Baxter, who is arguably the Walt Disney of the resort.
The anniversary includes some new additions, including the Gardens of Wonder, 9 enchanting gardens in the central plaza featuring 30 unique Disney character sculptures, exclusive merchandise, a joyful new show in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, and Disney D-light, a pre-show to the nightly Illuminations spectacular featuring projections and drones.
Disneyland Paris has gotten a lot of flack due to the way it has been (poorly) run and is often considered the unwanted step-child of the Disney Parks family. But in this article, we’re going to take a look back at the resort’s happier moments in its 30-year history.
A Little Background
We have to go a little further back than 30-years, all the way to 1984 when Disney’s theme park division kick-started its international expansion following the major success of Tokyo Disneyland. This time, Disney would have a stake in the resort rather than licensing it to a third party, as was done with the Japanese resort.
1,200 locations across Europe were under consideration, with England, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain considered the top countries. Eventually, England was dismissed due to the hilly terrain and climate, and then Italy was cut, leaving France and Spain.
Two locations in each country were considered, with Spain being the most likely country due to its hot weather. But Disney would ultimately choose the Marne la Vallée region due to its proximity to Paris (21 miles) and easy travel distance to many neighbouring countries.
Construction would begin in 1988.
*Disney had allegedly discussed a European Resort as far back as 1966, but I could not find a reliable source on this.
1992: On April 1st, the Marne-la-Vallée-Chessy train station opened ahead of the resort opening on April 12th. The resort included Disneyland Paris Park, Disney Village (the resort’s equivalent of Downtown Disney/Disney Springs), eight hotels, and Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch.
1993: Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril) opens as the first expansion of Disneyland Paris Park. This thrilling roller coaster takes guests on an outdoor adventure around a lost temple in runaway mine carts.
- The station was expanded to include a high-speed rail section which opened on 26th May. This linked the resort to 54 cities across France and Europe. A special parade starring a 300-meter long paper train travelled down Main Street, U.S.A to celebrate.
- This was also when Euro Disney changed its name to Disneyland Resort Paris.
1995: Space Mountain: From Earth to the Moon, the second expansion of Disneyland Paris Park opened. This was a new version of the classic attraction found in the three sister Disneylands, but far superior in every way! Guests at the opening ceremony included Elton John and Buzz Aldrin.
This was also the last expansion the theme park would have.
1996: A year later, Eurostar began servicing the resort with direct trains. The resort also received its first name change: Euro Disneyland Paris, before it was eventually changed on 1st October to Disneyland Paris.
1997: The 5th anniversary begins with the castle receiving a Hunchback of Notre Dame-themed makeover.
1999: Disneyland announces its second theme park, Walt Disney Studios Park, a sister to Florida’s Disney-MGM Studios Park (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios).
2000: To reignite some interest in the resort, Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril is reversed! It is also renamed Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril: Backwards!
2001: The resort celebrates its 100 millionth visitor!
2002: Walt Disney Studios Park opens with much fanfare but disastrous reviews due to the small size and only three opening day attractions. With its opening, the resort is renamed Disneyland Resort Paris.
2004: Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril is reverted to its original forward-facing direction.
- Disneyland Resort Paris becomes the number 1 tourist destination in Europe, even beating popular Paris attractions like the Louvre Museum and the Eiffel Tower.
- Space Mountain: From Earth to the Moon closes for a rehaul and reopens as Space Mountain: Mission 2 with a new exterior paint job, onboard soundtrack by Michael Giacchino, and interior effects.
2006: Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast replaces Un Voyage à Travers le Temps (The Timekeeper).
This was the last NEW attraction Disneyland Paris Park would have.
2008: Disneyland Resort Paris celebrates its 200th millionth guest!
2007: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror opens at Walt Disney Studios Park. It has been called a carbon copy of the version found at Disney California Adventure at Disneyland Resort, buuuuut technically, their version is the one that was planned for Paris – it just had the opportunity to open 3-years ahead due to budgeting reasons.
- The resort undergoes another name change, going back to Disneyland Paris. The world’s first Toy Story Land also opens at Walt Disney Studios Park (under the name Toy Story Playland) to coincide with the release of Toy Story 3. It includes 3 attractions: RC Racer, Toy Soldier Parachute Drop, and Slinky Dog ZigZag Spin (ZigZag being the French name for Slinky).
- The 15th anniversary officially ends in March after being extended several times due to its success.
2012: The 20th anniversary of the resort begins with some exciting new additions for Walt Disney Studios Park, including the Disney Dreams show.
2014: Ratatouille: The Adventure opens at Walt Disney Studios Park.
2015: Some much-needed renovations begin in the Disneyland Paris Park with Big Thunder Mountain and “it’s a small world” temporarily closing.
- Rumours circulate that The Walt Disney Company wants to buy out Euro Disney SCA, the holding company which owns the Disneyland Paris Resort. They even increased their stake to 85.7% after purchasing stock from Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, who had been financially involved in the resort since 1994. Previously, The Walt Disney Company had a 39.8% stake.
- On the 13th of June, The Walt Disney Company announces that it has purchased 97 per cent of the Euro Disney SCA shares. The buy-out is completed on June 19th, with Disney assuming full ownership, making it their only wholly-owned Disney Resort outside the US. The other Disney resorts are owned or co-owned by other entities.
- On the 1st of September, Les Villages Nature Paris, a holiday village and nature resort developed by Pierre & Vacances-Center Parcs and Disneyland Paris. It was built and operates using sustainable energy, including swimming pools heated by geothermal energy. The village includes one small water park and 1,730 housing units. It can be found on the outskirts of the Disney Resort.
- During this year, the resort also celebrates its 25th Anniversary.
- Space Mountain: Mission 2 receives the Star Wars: Hyperspace Mountain overlay for the anniversary season – the overlay would remain to the present day, although Mission 2 is expected to return eventually.
2018: On 27th February, Bob Iger announced that Disney would invest €2 billion into Disneyland Paris with major refurbishments and rehauls happening across both parks, but more excitingly, a massive expansion to Walt Disney Studios Park, which will include new areas based on Marvel, Frozen and Star Wars.
- On 1st June, Disneyland Paris hosted the Magical Pride Party, an LGBTQ+ celebration – a first for a Disney Resort.
- The Backlot area of Walt Disney Studios Park closes for its retheme into Avengers Campus.
- Disney’s Hotel New York closes for a lengthy refurbishment and retheming into The Art of Marvel.
2021: Disney’s Hotel New York reopens as Disney’s Hotel New York – The Art of Marvel.
- The Disneyland Hotel closes for a lengthy refurbishment.
- The resort celebrates its 30th anniversary!
- Avengers Campus to open in the summer.
- The Kingdom of Arendelle and the new lake area begin construction at Walt Disney Studios Park.
Disneyland Paris still has a bright future ahead with the opening of Avengers Campus, The Kingdom of Arendelle, and the mysterious third land, which may or may not be Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. But it does have more than enough room for improvement, such as new attractions for the Disneyland Paris Park (I’m not counting rethemed or upgraded attractions like Star Tours: The Adventure Continues or shoe-horned attractions like Mickey’s PhilarMagic).
While a lot of the above has been compiled from my own knowledge. This article would not have been possible without the following resources.
Walt Disney Company Takeover:
If I missed any important moments in the resort’s history or have listed anything incorrectly, don’t be afraid to let me know on Twitter or in the comments below!