Earlier this month, I headed back to Disneyland Paris with a friend to experience Season of the Force for the first time. As Season of the Force is the first major addition of Star Wars to Disneyland Paris since Star Tours, it’s really operating as a bandage for Star Wars Land. I was interested to see what they’d do and what sort of impact it would have. The studio is often criticised for having no atmosphere since Stars ‘n’ Cars ended a few years ago, so it’s hoped that the Season of the Force will draw people to the park and give it a much needed lift.
The Season itself involves an Imperial Stormtrooper March led by Captain Phasma, a daytime show, and a night-time illuminations show similar to those in Florida and California—with, I’m told, a few slight changes.
The first thing I want to comment on is the advertising, which might seem strange if you don’t know the park’s history. In the past, Disneyland Paris hasn’t been fantastic with its marketing, but for me they’ve done a good job this time around. It’s been heavily advertised here in the UK, so even though I was going at the start of the season I had a good idea of what to expect and was ready to jump on in.
The first thing we came across was the Imperial March in production courtyard. It was a fun inclusion for Phasma from The Force Awakens taking the troopers through their paces and explaining why they should be proud to be in the First Order. It had a good use of music and the Stormtroopers were really fun interacting, in character, with the crowd. Overall, the march was pretty basic, though. With only a handful of storm troopers, it was quite underwhelming, especially if you stood anywhere towards the back. From there, you could only really see Phasma and a few of the troopers on stage. Meeting the Stormtroopers afterwards was as close as we got to a character meet and greet in Disneyland Paris for Season of the Force, and it was quite a scramble even if the characters were well done. This is the one big criticism I have of the season – the adverts lead you to expect character meets when none are actually offered, and I know I’m not alone in that. I assume this is being held back for the new Star Wars Meet Point when Star Tours 2.0 opens, but it is something to keep in mind if you’re deciding on going.
Following on the heels of the Imperial March was the new daytime show, which was really engaging and, thankfully, they’ve taken the smart choice of doing fully French or English shows. I know that, like Dreams, they often try to do a mix, but it rarely works, especially with something like this which delved into the history of the franchise. It could have strayed a little too close to documentary, with a heavy focus on interaction between thestage and new screen built in the production courtyard, but the characters arriving on stage got a great response from the crowd. Each character was introduced with matching clips from the franchise and some even interacted with the screen. Kylo Ren in particular was fun for that. It was short at about a 10-minute run time, perhaps less than what you’d normally expect from a show, but it’s a nice bit of entertainment with some characters you don’t normally see out.
The Imperial March and stage show together was solid 45 minutes that just felt quite engaging. I’m not sure how well it plays for non-fans, but they mainly stuck to the big characters, so I can see it being easy to get caught up in. My friend isn’t a huge Star Wars fan, but was still pleased to see some of the big names.
The real show stopper for me though was the night-time illuminations on Tower of Terror. The effects projected onto Tower of Terror – which makes a great back drop – are stunning, clear, and the use of fireworks and fire really add to it. I know we’ve seen this before with Dreams, but they’ve really taken it to a whole new level here. The appearances of characters at appropriate points on stage also really helped add to the atmosphere, getting a good response from the crowd. I’m a big Star Wars fan, and this show really reminded me what I love about the franchise.
The big thing for Disneyland Paris is the crowds. I have rarely, if ever, seen the studios that busy, especially that close to closing time and it was a brilliant atmosphere. While the other two parts of Season of the Force are carrying on until September (a good move), the night show is stopping with the end of the season. It is, probably, the big thing worth braving the cold for. While I know the temptation is to wait until March or April with Star Tours reopening, the show’s well worth seeing, especially considering we’re going to have Star Tours 2.0 for a long time.
Star Wars in Disneyland Paris has become a talking point recently, and before Season of the Force I wasn’t convinced more Star Wars was a good move. To a degree, this experience has helped change my mind. I still wouldn’t be keen on a permanent Hyperspace Mountain overlay or Discoveryland becoming Star Wars Land, but the studios? I absolutely think there’s a place in the studios, especially if it’s handled like this. Most of the entertainment takes place to the right of the park anyway, so if you really dislike Star Wars you can avoid it. It just brings some much needed life and attention to a neglected bit of Disneyland Paris. All in all, I think Season of the Force has been a good success for Disneyland Paris and will hopefully bring people back to the park. The March and Stage show are fun but the night-time illuminations are really what worked for me and, yes, while I would have liked some character meets, I think that’s something we can expect next year when they hopefully expand on the season.