The rides were key. The parents loved the decor and the ambiance, the places in the warm to share a pot of tea (this was in Europe, people!), the wonderful stores, and we did like the rides. For the children, the rides were it, the “sine qua non,” “la raison d’être,” and all those other fancy phrases. The rides were the whole point of the place.
So much so that when I mentioned to Alban in early 2011 that I was updating the Disney pages here, he reminded me that only Nick could ride on Space Mountain in Paris. I had completely forgotten that. Alban was between five and eight years old during our annual passport period in Paris. Sometimes he claims to barely remember going there during those years. But I mention Disneyland in Paris, and whoosh, straight to the point he goes! The big brother had a big privilege, just because he was taller than the others. The injustice remains.
But you people running Disney, if you should happen upon all our enthusiasm for what you do, please take note. Three days admission to the theme parks at Disney World during the summer of 2000 cost us over $800, and that was with some creative accounting! Isn’t there anything that you can do to keep it down a bit for large families? We’re a relatively rare breed in the US, and a little help, a little thought on your part, would make all the difference.
In fact, we did not make a collective visit with all the children to any Disney Park after that 2000 visit. In part, that’s because the parks are just not as convenient to us in Santa Cruz as they were to us in Paris: the closest, the original in Anaheim, is an eight-hour drive or a flight away. In part, that’s because our adolescents would rather have eaten dirt than accompany their loving parents anywhere! That’s perhaps a little strong: but after they became teenagers, it was clear doing things with the parents was simply less of a priority.
But all of them liked Disney and had warm memories of Disneyland in Paris. Each of them would likely have gone with us to Anaheim if we could have brought along one of his or her friends. Because the cost would have added up to too much, we never offered to bring their friends too (in the US, that is: we did bring their friends at times in Paris), and as a result our teenagers rarely went at all. There’s a little commercial subtlety missing here. In short, Disney people, you’re missing out on a definite potential clientèle.
But in any event, we didn’t have the same relationship with Disney after leaving France. Things had changed. We spent two years living apart, with Nick and Tom in Paris with their mom, and the rest of us in Santa Cruz. Something about that separation kept us away from Disney: at least, that and the eight-hour drive each way kept us at a distance. Another explanation for that sorry state of affairs is here.
Our first visit to the original Disneyland in Anaheim, the closest one to our new home in Northern California, came at Christmas 1998. Daphné and Alban were visiting Pierre, their father, in St Germain, near Versailles, for the holidays, and Nick and Tom, still living with Sunshine in Paris, were visiting us in Santa Cruz. This was only the fourth time that they had visited us since we moved to the US. At less than a year old, this was Alex‘s first visit to Disneyland, and our first almost collective visit since arriving in the US.
All eight of us finally went together to Disneyland in Anaheim in March of 1999, when Nick and Tom again came to visit. Daphné and Alban were not visiting their father this time. So we could all go together. Finally. It had been 21 months since we left behind our regular visits to Disneyland in Paris.
Below are a selection of rides in a selection of Disney parks.
Finally, here’s one of Cath and Jim Stock, my parents, at the original Disneyland in Anaheim in 1976, roughly. They’re in front of the Matterhorn. That’s a ride, and that’s my sole slim justification for fitting this photo on this page!
They had come over to visit their son and heir, while I was studying at UC Berkeley, and we drove up and down the California coast together. Disneyland was a required stop. I’d been an occasional visitor since my year at Whittier College (1974-5), and knew that they would love it. They did!
Disneyland was then and is now required viewing, whatever your age or style.