For some time, Foxx from Passport to Dreams has spun tales of the strangest Disney souvenir video she’s ever seen. And now, thanks to her valiant efforts, we can see it. From 2003, it’s Disneyland Paris: An Unforgettable Stay. In this, at least, they are completely honest.
Disneyland Paris celebrates, amazingly, its 20th anniversary this year. That puts this video, from almost a decade ago, at its 10th anniversary. The dreary and drab Walt Disney Studios Park had just recently opened, but that doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the video’s stars!
It’s hard to know where to start with a video like this, which chronicles a vaguely psychotic family – Peter Fonda, Skeletor, and their two children – on their three-day journey to Disneyland Paris. The overtly white-bread yet somehow terrifying family is of dubious origin, seeing as their dialogue is dubbed in what appear to be American accents. This is interesting to me for several reasons. For an international destination like Disneyland Paris, I guess it makes sense if you’re filming a fairly lavish promotional piece with lots of dialogue to shoot once and overdub for your various markets. Perhaps an international audience is more used to obvious dubbing than the US, and it doesn’t play quite so … cheap. Or cheesy. But what fascinates me is that they’re dubbed with people doing American accents. Disneyland Paris’s main English-language audience is the United Kingdom, and in fact this Region 0 PAL release was flagged with a Union Jack, so I wonder why they aren’t speaking with British accents.
The overall effect is jarring, and the combination of script, performances, and presentation almost makes you feel that the film was produced by aliens who had spent years monitoring our popular culture, television, and film, and really thought they could perfectly mimic a real, human family. But they don’t have it quite right, so things are just… off. It’s the uncanny valley, just starring real people.
Then there’s the fact that this is a souvenir video – one sold in the park – that manages to not only show precious little of the resort, but also has weird plugs for resort features like hotel room shipping, Fastpass, and parkhopping. For a long time I assumed this was one of those promo DVDs they sent you in the mail, but no – people paid for this. Imagine getting home, unwrapping your video, and… well..
Take a look.
And remember: People paid money for this.
There’s so much to say.
First, and obviously, it how creepy everyone’s interactions are. All the forced “call the police!!” laughter. And why are they always in physical contact with each other? No touching!!
I love how they make them this super lovey-dovey family and yet the parents are total jerks. Why do the parents laugh mockingly when they say the kid can’t have the video camera? Why the bizarre sequence where the adorable little girl gives a huge monologue about pin trading and then mom blows her off really condescendingly? In fact, mom becomes kind of horrible as the video goes on… maybe Walt Disney Studios park does that to you. Her heinous detachment grows – why won’t she take dad’s picture with the pirates?
There’s nothing you’d rather do to remember your vacation than watch a film about other people filming things. “I know – let’s show them the parks, only filmed on a vastly inferior medium!” On the other hand, hipster dad Peter Fonda presaged Instagram by a decade.
Also, what do most kids want to relive from their vacation? The rides! So on their three days in the park our family only experiences it’s a small world, the Disneyland Paris Railroad, Big Thunder Mountain, the flying carpets, the awful backstage tram at the Studios, the French version of Lights, Motors, Action, the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Star Tours, and Space Mountain. Note that only five of the Disneyland park’s attractions are featured. But the family does walk down Main Street at least a dozen times – it is a nice Main Street, after all. The video may not show many rides, but by gum it’ll remind you how nice that in-room package delivery was!
If you thought this film felt eerily Belgian, you’re quite perceptive. It was produced by this company, and produced and directed by this guy, Mathias Ervyn. To his credit it’s actually really well made – superior, technically, to most stateside Disney PR offerings despite its terrifying inhabitants. And it’s rare in that it features actual music from the parks instead of weird sound-alike tracks, which is nice.
It isn’t all fun and games, though. Not only does dad make them late for their 10:30 rendezvous with Aladdin, but there’s sweeping drama when Zoe goes missing in the Emporium (which, for no reason, they refer to as “the toy store”). Here’s a question – where did her cotton candy go? Did she eat it all in that one transition?!
And there are more questions. How’d they lose Donald in the first place? What kind of dance are they doing in the Frontierland restaurant? Why does Captain Hook molest the mom like Torgo? And why is she so intensely desperate to leave breakfast for the Studios? Why are we not shown Haunted Mansion, but instead get to watch dad finish his orange juice?
Speaking of the Studios, how awful is it? I love that the whole buildup of the movie is to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, but then they make it look like a nightmarish hellscape that the father hates. Why is Aladdin lurking? And why is he so creepy? And why are the only characters they encounter Donald and Aladdin?
I don’t even know how to discuss what happens at Moteurs… Action!
Details: I love the peeling paint on Captain Hook’s ship, and I see you bass player with your earring in Frontierland.
All in all, an unforgettable stay.
- “Can I get the videocamera to film it?” “Noooo..” “Hahaha!”
- “Well. That is definitely a plan.”
- “Wow! Fantastic! It’s like a whole city!” “Yeah, this is really incredible!”
- “He’s got it upside down. Ha ha.”
- “This is a professional vintage camera – and my films will be magnificent.”
- “Oh yeah. You’ll see. I shall immortalize Sleeping Beauty’s Castle!”
- “He probably just quacked up.”
- “Kids – listen up. I read that this show has 130 animated toys, 183 accessories, and 319 dolls.”
- “We’ll ride that one soon. But I’m getting hungry. Let’s get a FASTPASS and we’ll come back here after we eat.”
- “Donald’s telling us he has to leave now.”
- “Will you buy me a Minnie Mouse please?” “If you give me a kiss.”
- “Oh, you’re right! We don’t have to carry our bags with the shopping service!” “Thank goodness for that.”
- “Hey, you know what? More paint was used for that ride than for the Eiffel Tower.” “But this is a lot more fun, right?” “You’re right!” “Oh yeah.”
- “Even after walking all day, I wouldn’t have missed this parade for anything in the world.” “My thoughts exactly.”
- “Lucas, finish your breakfast. You can film more later on.”
- “Oh hey, look kids, it’s Sulley.”
- “He can shake three hands at once.”
- “Oooh.. the world of cinema”
- “It’s time to immortalize Cleopatra – she is perfect for my film”
- “Oh, what a blast”
- “Yes… he was sleeping. He goes to bed early and gets up late.” (What does this mean?!)
- “Aren’t you glad Aladdin told us about this?”
- “Can I sit next to you on the ride?” “Yeah.”
- “This Studios Tram Tour is fun, but I can’t stop thinking about Rock N Roller Coaster. Did Aladdin say anything to you? Well?” “Just that it was the best.” “Aah.” “Well I guess Aladdin knows everything. Hmph.”
- “What’s that? What did you say sweetie?”
- “Well wasn’t that nice of Aladdin.”
- “Look daddy – I can trade one of my pins for one of his.”
- “See? I bet that’s the sequence we just filmed!” (OH REALLY???)
- “Ah finally! Time for a little action!”
- “Didn’t you know that ducks are chicken?”
- “Oh I’m sorry kids – I couldn’t help it. I was so tired. You sleep so well here.”
- “Ahh Relax. Don’t worry. They’re perfectly safe. Have fun.”
- “Hey, take my picture with the pirates. For my office.”
- “OK, you take them to the Blue Lagoon and I’ll get Star Tours Fastpasses. Ok, my love?” “No problem. Hey, did you take my picture? Oh, oh-oh, Julie!”
- “I know that voice.”
- “Aladdin told us that this ride goes really really fast.” “Aha! It really looks great!” “Oh yeah. Sounds fun.”
- “Yeah, and we’ll be back for your birthday.” “Yes kids, at Christmas.”
- “Hold up. Not possible. It’s over at Walt Disney Studios.”
- “You did that to save me? Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”
- “See you at Christmas!”