Disney is now a global superpower, with theme parks in the US, Europe and Asia. But, what is it about that signature Disney magic that attracts us all through those gates? Today I’ll be taking a look at two park giants, the flagships for Disney: Disney World Florida and Disneyland Paris. But which will take the crown?
Let’s first take a look at the US stronghold Disney World, located in the heart of Orlando, Florida. With 4 parks, 2 water parks and over 25 uniquely themed hotels, several golf courses, a camping resort, and other entertainment venues, (including the outdoor shopping centre Disney Springs), the Disney empire is nothing less than majestic. We can start by having a run down of the parks.
Designed as the second Disney Park to supplement Disney Land California, it was named ‘The Florida Project’ by Disney himself. Unlike what most people think, Disney World Florida is not one combined site, each park is separated through a complex road system and themed signs. Sitting on the 27,000 acre site are four distinctive parks.
Magic Kingdom: Home to the iconic Cinderella Castle, Disney’s first park in Orlando opened in 1971. Attracting over 20 million visitors in 2018, the park mirrors a military operation with underground tunnels, characters dotted around the park and staff packed in each restaurant and shop. For me, the park truly encapsulates the Disney experience as it holds iconic rides such as Big Thunder Mountain, The Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World. It’s a must see for every Disney fan.
Epcot: The second park to open in 1982, Epcot holds rides such as Test Track, Mission: Space, and Soarin’ and the infamous ‘World Showcase’, encapsulating 11 nations including the UK, Japan and Italy to name a few. Albeit the futuristic theme is now outdated, Epcot is still an essential visit for holidaymakers if only for the World Showcase.
Hollywood Studios: My personal favourite, 1989 saw the opening of ‘MGM Studios’, later renamed to Hollywood Studios. Although it is a small park at 135 acres, Hollywood Studios this year saw the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, adding to the already legendary Rock n’Roller Coaster by Aerosmith and the Tower of Terror. Now re-innovated, Hollywood Studios combines the old glamour of 1950’s style and the new futurism within Galaxy’s Edge. Overall it is a excellent park, attracting 11 million guests in 2018.
Animal Kingdom: The last addition to the trio of parks, Animal Kingdom opened in 1998 and like the theme suggests, holds a strong natural, forest and safari theme. With it’s own conserve, a rain-forest cafe and yeti themed coaster Expedition Everest, Animal Kingdom is truly in tune with the natural world. In keeping with this, this park too welcomed an extension in 2017 with Pandora: The World of Avatar, holding a truly immersive motion ride Flights Of Passage.
Looking at this therefore, it is evident to see the true Disney Magic held in Florida, as it is the beating heart of what the brand is. Let’s now compare it to it’s European counterpart.
Opening in 1992 under the name Euro Disney Resort, the park is now called Disneyland Paris. Containing 2 theme parks, 8 resort hotels, 7 associated hotels, a golf course, a high-speed rail station, a large outlet centre (La vallée village), and a large shopping mall, Disneyland Paris acts as a large add on to the Disney experience. With only two parks, the first (Disneyland Park), offers many of the same features as Magic Kingdom in Florida, offering nothing really different apart from the Space Mountain extension of ‘Space Mountain 2’. However, it does include Discoveryland, themed after the visions of famed European thinkers and explorers such as Leonardo da Vinci.
The second park named Walt Disney Studios, which too mirrors the famed Florida park Hollywood studios. Again the park simply mooches ideas, offering the Tower of Terror and Rock N’Roller Coaster. However, On 27 February 2018, Bob Iger announced a Multi Year Expansion, opening in phases from 2021 to 2025 to coincide with the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, which will completely transform the park. The cost of this expansion is €2 billion. It will feature new areas based on Marvel, Star Wars and Frozen, all surrounding a new man-made lake. This then suggests that Paris may be gaining much more individuality than before, finally offering a different experience for Disney addicts.
So, looking at both parks they both offer that key Disney magic,and that’s why both of them continue to be popular with visitors from around the world. They have their differences, they have their similarities, but for me Florida will always radiate that individual Disney flair. That’s why for me, Florida takes the crown and will always be the winner in my eyes.
Last modified: 22nd October 2019