April 18, 2013
Forty-eight minutes into queuing for Disneyland Paris’ Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin and I’m smiling at my six-year-old and thinking, cynically, “Yes sweetie, this is what Disney’s all about: an intestinal-like tailback of hundreds of children and their bored-to-tears parents, all endlessly waiting for their turn on a dizzying dachshund…”
I’m not alone. Every other adult here is staring into the middle distance, trying to remember that they’re on the trip of (their child’s) lifetime. The kids don’t seem to mind, though, which is bizarre. This sort of wait – or even a quarter of it – would never be tolerated on home turf. But this is Disneyland, and Disneyland has cast its magic. Or, it’s the plastic buckets full of popcorn (sold in the hundred-odd on-site Disney stores) strapped around each and every one of their necks. They’re probably laced with Valium.
Anyway, eventually it’s our turn. At the front of the queue I can see now why it’s taken so long. Slinky Dog is being manned by some European youths with about as much fervour for childish fantasy as a dead dog. Weirdly, though, in between gum-chewing and idle gossip, what they are fervent about is on-board safety: they check the security bars of each canine compartment with such scrutiny I actually worry for a moment this is going to be akin to Space Mountain. Alas, no: our 90-second ride (yes, 90-second after 52 minutes!) make the Teacups seem positively alarming.
Okay, so it is the Easter holidays – what did we expect, right? But shouldn’t Disney limit the number of tickets sold at peak times? Even with a Fast Pass, you’re spending around 90% of your day queuing – for rides, for food, for a bottle of water, for the loo, even to get out of the blasted place. I almost choked on my crummy €7 sandwich when someone told me that Disneyland Paris celebrated its 20th birthday last year €1.9bn in debt. How is that possible?! (I’m shouting, in case you missed that). It’s swarming with thousands of us suckers, all haemorrhaging money at every turn, and still it’s not turning a profit?
Regardless of season, this place is fist-bitingly expensive. In Disney Village, restaurants are charging €18 for a kids’ burger and chips. You do get exactly what you order: a limp-looking burger (doubtless with a bit of cheval thrown in) and flabby frites. Not a morsel more – not even a carrot or cucumber stick as a vague gesture of good health. Forget it. You’re here for some good unwholesome fun and that’s what you’re darn well gonna get.
We later arrive at Café Mickey (left), having booked dinner a week ago, and wait another 25 minutes to be seated. So we do have a reservation, we are reassured – but only in the queue. And yes, Disney characters do appear to greet our child as she devours her fifth burger in three days, and they do do what they’re meant to do, which is basically a mixture of looking alarmed and hugging. But every time they have to suddenly dash off in the direction of the kitchen, you know it’s only because they’re gagging for their next fag break. And who’d blame them?
You’re never too old for Disney. Sacrilege to suggest it, surely? Well – sacré bleu – I am.