This month I shall conclude my comparisons of California's Tomorrowland with Paris's Discoveryland, by looking at their versions of Autopia and Captain EO.
Captain EO, the $30million 3-d musical starring Michael Jackson and Anjelica Huston, was an opening day attraction at Disneyland Paris, by which time the film had already been showing for five and a half years in the California Park and EPCOT Center, and slightly less in Tokyo Disneyland.
All four EO's closed in the late 1990s and were replaced by Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, which was known as MicroAdventure! in Japan, and occasionally abbreviated to HISTA by Cast Members working on the other three. These attractions were switched back to housing EO's, albeit in "tribute" form, shortly after Michael Jackson's death in 2010.
Incidentally, I was toying with the idea of listing the differences between the versions of HISTA (such as languages, the pre-show videos, the timing and location of the post-show audio, the spiel, and the images on the photos), but I felt this may be off-topic. However, apart from the film itself, the 3-d glasses and the flying bulb logo, there are very few similarities.
Some of the differences between the two HISTAs are the same as the differences between the two EOs, such as how California's theatre has fewer seats and how the guests travel to their right in Anaheim, and to their left in Europe. (Also, in Paris, the podium is Stage Right, as opposed to Stage Left in California).
The California and Paris EO's are pretty similar to each other, with their KODAK pre-show videos (which get worse with every version), their use of the HISTA effects (such as the water-sprays and the moving auditorium) and their subtle mid-scene lighting changes. Neither have reinstated the star fields from the initial run of the show (or the fog effects) and some of the re-theming seems quite lazy or incomplete; for example, outside the entrance to the Paris version stands an as-yet-unremoved HISTA topiary.
Cast Members working both versions of Captain EO are sometimes given earphones to wear to protect their ears from the noise. This is also the case for both versions of Autopia, the car ride where the guests provide the steering and the power.
California's version of Autopia is the longer of the two, with almost double the ride time, but this is in part because it was combined in 2000 with the then extinct Fantasyland Autopia.
Both were opening day attractions, but Paris' hasn't changed much over the years, whereas Anaheim's is practically unrecognizable from what it once was, with the more obvious changes including the name (with two of the previous incarnations being "Tomorrowland Autopia" and "Super Autopia Freeway"), the scenery and the bodies of the cars.
The current Disneyland Autopia bodies, designed by Imagineer Jason Hulst, have been in service since 2000 and come in three different styles: SUV (Dusty), sports car (Sparky) and convertible (Suzy). According to Bob Gurr who designed the original vehicles and later became Disney's self-proclaimed Director of Special Vehicle Development, some "classic" bodies were to have been used also, but that ended up not going ahead. All the cars in Disneyland Paris' Autopia have the same body as each other; they are soft and rounded in what Gurr refers to as a "French female type of shape". The same chassis is used at both resorts.
France's Autopia is currently sponsored by Ford, whereas Anaheim's is currently sponsor-less, but had Chevron at their helm until earlier this year. France's has never given out driver's licenses either, nor had Cast Members running spontaneous quizzes for the waiting guests or had a tie-in gift shop.
There are several interesting details in the queue area for California, many of which were added at the start of the Chevron sponsorship. These include little windows one can look into (and see various vehicles engaging in conversation) and the large dot matrix screen which advertises such comedy brands as "Formal A-Tire". The queue area in France is a lot more minimal, which makes the comparable wait time feel much longer.
Both versions have a section where you are driving through a park. In France, this is designated by a sign saying Park National which you drive under. In California, the sign says Car Park, is much more ornate, and there is a clearer distinction between the scenery here and that of any other part of the ride.
Similarities between the Autopias include nearby photo-ops where you can sit in a stationery car in front of a scenic backdrop, mini-lampposts along the route which are turned on at night (although in France these all have the same design, whereas they vary between scenes in California), a guiderail which gets thicker when it goes round corners, and there being four separate tracks with only two in operation on quieter days.
Both rides feature billboards although the designs of these are different and the writing on them (minimal in both resorts) is, unsurprisingly, in French in France and in English in the States. The billboards in Disneyland Paris –designed by Dave Fisher and Christian Hope to reflect "yesterday's visions of the future"- are quite high up, much like ones you would see along the side of the road, whereas they are at car level in California.
Personally, I much prefer the Anaheim version of Autopia. This is for many of the reasons given above (such as the variety in the styles of the cars, the more entertaining queue area and the differentiation of the park scene) but also due to its little details such as the mouse hole, the tributes to previous attractions therein and the off-road area.
With thanks to Bob Gurr, Christian Hope and Jason Hulst.
Hugh is a former Cast Member, who now lives in London. He is currently writing a Mouse Tales style book about Disneyland Paris for Bonaventure Press.
Hugh Allison Can Be Contacted at:
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