On Wednesday September 26 we were kindly invited by Disneyland Paris to experience the Park’s version of Mickey’s PhilharMagic at the Discoveryland Theatre. A lot of questions were raised regarding the level of implementation for this attraction in the existing theatre – originally built for Captain EO and transformed quite substantially in 1999 for “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience”, an attraction that was open about for 11 years.
Below you’ll find our thoughts on this experience – please note that it contains many spoilers regarding the theatre setup/effects and some of the show details, but does not spoil the film’s story.
- Discoveyland Theater 2.5
This is the third major use of Discoveryland Theatre (we’ll disregard the movie previews, Pixar Shorts and Star Wars clips as they did not really constitute a new attraction for marketing purposes).
The reason why we call it 2.5 is because not a whole lot has changed cosmetically since the days of “Honey I Shrunk the Audience”. The theatre was slightly upgraded in previous years with a new projector and lighting, but the room and pre-show is mostly unchanged from years and years ago. At Magic Kingdom, this is the fourth attraction hosted in the theatre, but the theatre was fully customized for the film.
The entrance signs and posters were updated for PhilharMagic:
The pre-show area is vastly unchanged apart from updated graphics on screen, and posters:
..but you’ll still find many elements of the “Honey” attraction everywhere, from the queue to the theatre itself (between the doors) and the stage which still features the Imagination Institute frame and even the podium!
The exit hallway also still displays the Imagination Institute message – close to no change on the theater front, then.
- The film
The Disneyland Paris version is mostly unchanged from the original. The film has been cleaned up and remastered but the two biggest modifications are the addition of “virtual curtains” to the beginning (more on this in the “effects” section below) and that most of the songs are half in French half in English. By this we don’t mean that some are in French and some in English but rather that each song is sang half in French half in English. It’s definitely a strange choice and it can get a bit weird at times especially if you speak both languages as it’s something we’re not used to from Disney (most shows will not mix two language in the same song).
A fun side note for French speakers: Ariel’s voice is from the original 1990 version, not the remastered version (looking at you, Disney Illuminations, you really can’t get anything right!)
But is it GOOD? The big question here is: have you seen PhilarMagic at any of the foreign resorts ?
– If you have not, you will love it! Most Guests who were with us and had never seen it smiled, laughed and were taken away by the story. It’s definitely a fun addition to the park’s roaster and every Disney fan should check out this classic!
– If you have, you won’t be wow’ed but won’t have a bad time, because PhilharMagic is and will always be a GREAT film. Sure the animation is 15 years old and it definitely shows (think maybe at the level of some of the better Disneytoon Studios productions) but the story is very entertaining and funny, it’s a great watch. However overall the experience is not on par with the “full blown” PhilharMagic attractions, and the reason for this is that the theatre was not adapted at all to handle all the effects that were originally meant to be featured.
- The effects
This is where things start getting tricky. Let’s go from best to worst:
– The best effect in our opinion is the moving platform. The vibrations and movement really add to the show, for example when a piano drops. The platform is not new of course but it does work really well with this film.
– The 3D effects are also very fun, they are similar to the original film – this is a case of 3D technology pushed “to the max” with objects or characters spinning in front of your eyes, which you don’t see in today’s regular cinema 3D – the animation shows it age, but dramatic 3D is always a crowd pleaser.
– Lighting: the theatre now features LED lighting on top of some of the existing lighting fixtures which gives the show a dynamic feel, good use here.
– Wind and water: these effects exist but it seems the theatre can’t handle them very well. Water barely splashed us (if at all – it might depend where you are seating) even if the system has allegedly been refurbished. The fans always seem to activate too late, and the scene has changed by the time the wind reaches you.
– Now with the more cringy aspects: the screen is limited in size compared to the original attractions, and still boasts its odd shape from the “honey” attraction. For those who have been to the international parks, you may remember the film starting on a normal sized screen and then – surprise! – the frame magically retract to reveal a massive panoramic screen. Sadly here we only have the one screen with the inexplicable “Imagination Institute” frame, and clearly no moving parts, so the curtains were added digitally. The film starts with a big “fake curtains” frame which “digitally retracts”. We get that the teams are dealing with what they are given here but it really feels shoehorned and maybe it would have been better to forget about this effect all together in Paris.
– Donald’s animatronic: no surprise here, Guests won’t see Donald’s butt in the back wall as they exit the theatre. However as mentioned, the 3D is good and if you have not seen the other versions, you probably won’t notice anything missing.
- Final thoughts
It’s fair to say that you will have a good time no matter what. PhilarMagic is a great classic of the Disney Parks and it’s great to have it here in Paris! If you have never seen it, GO immediately, you will love it.
We enjoyed it very much and would go again, even if it’s hard to stop comparing it to the “full-fledged” versions. Maybe a slightly bigger budget could have allowed for at least a removal of the old screen frame, if not the creation of retractable elements similar the other versions. On top of it, would it be really that expensive to remove the rest of the old “Imagination Institute” references? This is a half-baked version and very little effort has been made to create a “real” new attraction (as opposed to “Honey” which was properly implemented), making us question the existence of a long term plan for this show.
Given winter is coming, it will be a fun thing to do when it’s cold outside and queues are long at the other attractions during Halloween and Christmas. So in the end, yes – PhilharMagic is a welcome addition to the Park’s attractions, and if we exclude the possibility of a brand new film, probably the best choice for something to go inside Discoveryland Theatre.