Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Has Disney Lost Its Magic? Travel: The Company Is Facing a Bleak Future - but Can Disneyland Paris Still Cut It with the Kids?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Has Disney Lost Its Magic? Travel: The Company Is Facing a Bleak Future - but Can Disneyland Paris Still Cut It with the Kids?

Article excerpt

Byline: SALLY SHALAM

IT'S Lion King season at Disneyland Paris. A new parade, Carnival Circle of Life Celebration, kicked off last week and runs until 7 March. But there's not much carnival atmosphere right now in the Disney empire, as it stares into the jaws of a hostile takeover bid fuelled by box office flops and the effect of terrorism on tourism, which has weakened its theme parks division. Reports suggest that, despite a renaissance in the Eighties and early Nineties, this bastion of childhood dream-making is being pursued by baddies waving a US$66 billion buyout cheque.

Two Fridays ago, I boarded Eurostar at Waterloo with three children, aged three, six and nine, and headed for Disneyland Paris. Were we destined for disappointment or could Mickey and his pals still deliver the animal magic?

Films such as The Lost Empire might have bombed, but my nephews and niece can watch The Lion King and Snow White on DVD over and over again. Their excitement was palpable. "You're going to remember this weekend for the rest of your life, Sally," I was informed by the eldest as the train pulled into the station.

The crowds weren't huge: we got into everything with minimal queuing. In this parallel universe, we discovered that humans can fly - over the rooftops of London like the Darlings on the Peter Pan ride, or with Dumbo in elephant-shaped cars, and on Aladdin's magic carpet (so good we did it twice).

I discovered that a six-year-old has an irrational appetite for being scared witless, after two visits to the Haunted Mansion to watch ghosts dancing, heads talking and skeletons playing piano.

Throughout the afternoon, characters appeared to have pictures taken. "I think I'm a bit old for this," announced the eldest, as we pushed through a crowd around Minnie Mouse. Too old, until Minnie put her arm around him and his face lit up like a firework display.

On the Saturday, the park was packed with Germans, French, Italians, Spanish and British families - it wasn't unusual to see 40-minute wait times displayed. Not an option wth a three-year-old in the team.

MEALS - that's chicken nuggets, fries and Coke or sandwiches slathered in mayo - were not great, reminding me that this is a piece of America in France. …

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