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Disneyland Article
California vs. Paris: The Lands of The Future - Part One
Hugh Allison
This month and next, I shall be comparing the Lands of The Future found in the two Disneyland parks closest to my heart (California and Paris). In California, as per Florida, Tokyo and Hong Kong, this land is called Tomorrowland; in Paris this is called Discoveryland.

For the benefit of these articles, when I say Tomorrowland, I am only referring to the California one; I am also only writing about the lands in their current incarnations (July 2012) rather than their previous versions.

Geographically, the position of the two is identical (the first land encountered counter-clockwise, if standing at the Hub, with your back to Main Street, U.S.A.) with the only other land directly accessible from either being Fantasyland.

The first attraction one comes across in either California or Paris if entering Discoveryland from the Hub - is an aerial carousel. In Paris, this is called Orbitron Machines Volantes (or, more commonly, just Orbitron), whereas the California version is called Astro Orbitor.

In many ways, the two are practically identical. They have similar color schemes, they are both "spinners" where the rider can control their height and both feature astrological symbols on the tails of each of their twelve rockets.

Once past the Orbitron/Astro Orbitor, the layouts of the lands differ. Whereas Tomorrowland is laid out much like a corridor, with attractions/shops/restaurants/etc. to your left and right as you walk in a straight line, Discoveryland is set out as a circle, with the majority of the sites around the edge, and Space Mountain centrally.

The Paris version of Space Mountain is remarkably different from the California version. The exterior design is more colorful, there are inversions (the first Disney attraction to feature these), the rockets go in sets of six each seating four (whereas Anaheim goes in sets of two, each seating six) and there is an ideal dispatch interval of 36seconds as opposed to 20.2.

In Paris, once you are loaded, you go straight into the launch, whereas there are a few mini-scenes in California's Space Mountain, such as a rotating tunnel and a small lift with an overhead mirror.

The main lift in California is relatively slow, with a few screens either side to look at. In Paris this section is much faster. You are supposedly being catapulted out of a cannon [The Columbiad] and into space. This portion of the attraction is covered from the elements, but is visible to those outside, which adds to the kinetics of the land.

The coaster section in Disneyland Paris feels the faster of the two. This may be due to its track length (including storage and maintenance) being 1.1km whereas California's is approximately triple this. The visuals are, in my opinion, a lot more interesting though, featuring more near-misses and an easier plot to follow.

Although neither version has much in the way of a post-show, there is less far to walk after disembarking the Paris Space Mountain before leaving the building. This exit area seems less well-kept than in California, with fewer bins and often visible sandbags. For both, riders pass an area where on-ride photos and other merchandise may be purchased ("Spaceport Document Control" in Anaheim; "Light Speed Photography" in Paris), although only the Anaheim version of the shop is covered.

There are some similarities between the Paris and California versions though. For example, both have a Fastpass option, both feature "warning" videos in the queue line, both are manufactured by Vekoma, both use the SOBAT system for their audio and both have a diameter of approximately 200ft.

The full name of Paris' Space Mountain is "Space Mountain: Mission 2". This is to distinguish it from "Space Mountain: De la Terre à la Lune" ("Space Mountain: From the Earth to the Moon") which sat on the same site, operating from 1995 until 2005.

In many ways, "De la Terre à la Lune" was quite similar to "Mission 2", especially in terms of the track or the layout of the attraction. The soundtrack was different though, and some of the audio spot effects were toned down. The majority of changes were made to the preshow: there used to be flags hanging from the ceiling in the load-room; the console had a different color scheme; there were different photos in the "gun club" room; and people in the queue were able to see the riders and portions of the track.

Mid-ride was a video image of a personified moon with a rocket in an eye. This was a reference to an image in "Le Voyage dans la Lune" ("A Trip to the Moon") a 1902 George Melies film, based in part on the Jules Verne novel "De la Terre à la Lune" which inspired the original moniker for the attraction, as well as the name for the cannon.

Paris' Space Mountain has not yet had Rockin' or Ghost Galaxy versions.

Thematically, whilst Tomorrowland is supposed to be a modern look at the future, Discoveryland is more of an interpretation of how European visionaries of yesterday saw the future. Over time, this theme is becoming less apparent in both parks, especially with the introduction of the Buzz Lightyear attractions.

Other than the names ("Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast" in Paris; "Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters" in Anaheim) the two Buzz rides are practically identical.

Incidentally, both Buzz attractions are currently in locations which once held 360 degree cinemas. In chronological order, the California version of this cinema showed "A Tour of the West", "America the Beautiful", "Wonders of China", "American Journeys" and finally various transportation related videos as the queuing area for Rocket Rods. The Paris one showed "Le Visionarium", a narrative fiction tale about time travel, featuring Jeremy Irons as H.G. Wells and Michel Piccoli as Jules Verne.

Alphabetically, the other attractions in Discoveryland are Autopia, Captain EO, Discoveryland Station, Les Mysteres du Nautilus and Star Tours. Paris has no equivalent of the Disneyland Monorail, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage or Innoventions.

I have already written about Discoveryland Station in my articles about the Railroads. I shall be contrasting and comparing France's Autopia, Captain EO, Nautilus and Star Tours with their California counterparts in part two of this article next month, along with comparisons of the two lands' shops, shows, eateries and arcades

Attractions Referenced In This Article:
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