Festival of Pirates and Princesses : A Review
By Patrick G.
When Disneyland Paris announced late last year that the fan favorite “Swing Into Spring” season was to be replaced by a brand new “Festival of Pirates and Princesses” fan reaction was mixed to say the least. Disneyland Paris had already toyed with this theme previously as fans may remember the cancelled hard ticketed events “Mickey’s Princesses and Pirates Party” which were originally planned for summer 2011. This time the theme put the spotlight on the bankable Disney princesses facing off against Captain Jake (of Disney Channel fame) Captain Hook, Mr. Smee and friends. The first visuals of the festival teased that guests were more likely to witness a character bloodbath rather than the family friendly entertainment which people have come to expect from Disney.
They know that this is just for fun right? RIGHT?
As the season draws to a close join me as I take a look back at the festival including the good and the not so-good.
It is no secret that the 25th anniversary celebrations have been in full swing at Disneyland Paris since March 2017. This has meant that some seasons have seen their decorations modified to fit in with the blue and silver look of the anniversary year, like Christmas, and some have seen theirs reduced entirely, like Halloween (lest we forget the villains being ferried about on the 25th anniversary tricycles!). The festival tried to bypass the problems of previous seasons by taking advantage of the spring weather and introducing four new stages to slot into the flowerbeds of Central Plaza thus eliminating the 25th anniversary statues which had been present beforehand as well as the accompanying metallic blue and silver flowers.
The replacement flowers brought a much welcomed touch of colour more in line with the season of spring itself. Central Plaza welcomed some themed lamp posts which showed guests which side to stand on for Team Princesses and Team Pirates. For those who were missing “Swing Into Spring” various decorations made their return including a floral Tinkerbell by Castle Stage, a floral Bambi next to Central Plaza and Mary Poppins and Bert flying kites in Town Square. In my opinion the returning decorations felt a bit out of place. There were plenty of flowers on show which tied into the princess theme but with the exception of the aforementioned themed lamp posts, there was nothing to reinforce the pirate element of the festival. I suppose the fact that there is a fair bit of recycling going on is understandable especially considering that the season was being tested out in its initial year. However, it is quite shocking to see how little pirate themed decorations the park has in stock and it would be nice to see more to be done for team pirates should the festival return.
Patchy Mc Lamppost had a tough job representing Team Pirates on his own.
The mixture of the 25th anniversary decorations in Town Square and Main Street USA did feel a bit confused with the festival decorations especially since there is a general atmosphere of the 25th anniversary wrapping up despite continuing until September 30th.
I’m not a fan, not a fan, not a big fan…
Despite Disneyland Paris having table service restaurants dedicated to both teams nothing out of the ordinary was offered in “Auberge de Cendrillion” or “Captain Jack’s – Le restaurant des pirates”. A princess and pirate themed ice-cream cone was available in March Hare Refreshments in Fantasyland with cupcakes and sweet treats themed to both themes available in Market House Deli on Main Street USA. This was a nice touch as I have often longed after the special themed treats available in the different Disney parks around the world. Disneyland Paris still has quite a way to go in the treats department but at least they are trying and I for one hope that they will make these types of treats more widely available. The festival also introduced the Cinderella popcorn bucket which had previously been available in the American parks and although it is great that Disneyland Paris is upping their game in this area, the price tag of 25
euros is excessively expensive especially when so many other – more interesting – princesses could have been chosen.
Characters are at the heart of what Disney does and I was excited to see more of the characters out in the parks more often. I have often arrived in the parks after the parade and there tends to lack atmosphere as people are just hanging about until the fireworks show begins. The highlight of the festival was the “Pirates and Princesses: Make Your Choice!” show which saw each team taking command of a float with one leaving from Fantasyland making a show stop at Castle Stage whilst the other left from Town Square with a show stop on Main Street before meeting for a face off at Central Plaza.
The floats for both teams had been recycled from previous parades but I thought there was enough change to make them interesting again. The princess float was elegant and vibrant with plenty of space for all nine of the princesses to dance about. The fact that Ariel was included with her tail in her old Stars N Cars vehicle was a nice touch but she was left out of the dance routine. I could not help but thinking if there was one time that Ariel would have have wanted to have taken advantage of her legs it would have been now.
The princesses all had new dresses for the occasion…not that I noticed…much!
The dance routine created for the princesses was surprisingly catchy and I really appreciated the small changes in how each princess performed the routine for example instead of taking a selfie Moana stuck her hand up to the sky as the true way-finder that she is and Merida showed us all how strong she was. This may seem insignificant but it is nice that the entertainment division is dedicated to providing quality shows that capture the imaginations of the young and the young at heart.
Team pirates impressed me with their high levels of energy as well as lots of mischief and tomfoolery and some impressive acrobatics to boot. I enjoyed how the pirates liked to shout and interact with guests by confiscating shiny treasures like the ever popular bubble wands. The controversial choice of having multicoloured costumes paid off in my opinion. The objective of the festival is to be joyous and fun. If the pirates had came down Main Street USA in traditional darker colours it would have felt more ominous and given guests the impression that it was a battle of good versus evil.
Minnie showing us that everyone can be a pirate. E-VERY-ONE.
Team Pirates had tough competition trying to attract new recruits but the impressive acrobatics of the pirates, Minnie Mouse and the ever popular characters from Peter Pan seemed to present a solid alternative to Team Princesses. I just thought that it was strange to have Peter Pan and Wendy joining forces with Captain Hook and Mr. Smee – maybe they found a common ground facing off against the resident princesses of Disneyland Park?
Interaction was at the heart of the season, not only with the dance routines for each team but the short walk from the floats to the stages on Central Plaza meant that eager guests could get a snap and a cuddle with some of their favorite characters. This is a huge bonus for me and deals well with
the criticism of “Disney Stars On Parade” being less interactive than “Disney Magic on Parade!”. The only suggestion I have here would be to offer meets with Mickey in his prince costume in Fantasyland and Minnie in her pirate costume in Adventureland after the festivities of the day (this would even give guests something to do in those difficult five hours until Illuminations!)
The leaders of both teams, Betty Rose and Jimmy Ocean, did a fantastic job of drumming up encouragement for their respective teams all the while singing live which is a phenomenal feat. The element of live singing as well as dancing really pushed the show up to the top of the best shows that Disneyland Paris has offered in recent years. I loved the music which was created just for Disneyland Paris. In recent years Disneyland Paris has recycled lots of music from Tokyo Disneyland so it was brilliant to have some new music from the hitmaker that is Scott Erickson.
Betty and Jimmy surprise hits of the festival – any ideas on how to get these back all year round?
My initial fears of lack of guest participation were quashed initially as Central Plaza seemed to be awash with guests performing the routines of their chosen teams. However things may not be as they seem as I have spoken to a few castmembers who told me that the participants were often annual passholders and that regular guests were much less inclined to join the fun. Guests seemed to enjoy it as a whole with rapturous applause at the end of each show.
I really appreciated that certain characters that are not so prominent in the parks were given their chance to shine. This theme continued on with the addition of the “Princess Promenade” featuring Sofia The First and Elena of Avalor. While I must admit that I am not an avid viewer of Disney Junior it added a little extra streetmosphere to the park which is always a plus. The guest star parade music was recycled here including the theme tunes to both of the royals TV shows. This was done in a fun way and I did not mind listening to it for 15 minutes in between Make Your Choice! shows.
Even in the picture you can hear guests asking who these two are.
I would talk about the Jack Sparrow show in Adventureland but to be quite honest I did not see it because I was too busy with the main shows in Main Street USA and Central Plaza. The abundance of entertainment is astounding and the resort really has come a long way since the dark days of 2013.
In my opinion the festival was a massive success. I was apprehensive that the new season would not go down well with fans of “Spring Into Spring” but I have spoken to quite a few people that liked both seasons equally. Disneyland Park sprung back into life as the characters, dancers, awesome upbeat music and live singing filled the air of Main Street USA and Central Plaza with a fun and positive atmosphere which perfectly captures the season. The mass recycling at almost every aspect is understandable considering that the management was taking a bet on the season to see how it went. I would love to see the festival return next year going even further into the theme but keeping the “Make Your Choice!” show relatively unchanged. I cannot help but look back with fondness at the festival. Will we get to let out our inner pirate or princess next year? Who knows!