I learned something today.
My comparison article for January 2013 was always going to be about the Rivers of America in Anaheim's Disneyland Park, and its counterpart in Disneyland Paris.
However, until perhaps five minutes ago, I had assumed that the Paris equivalent was also called Rivers of America. Turns out, it's the Rivers of the Far West.
Whilst it has been made clear which rivers are referred to in the name of the California waterway (the Potomac, the Rio Grande, the Columbia and the Mississippi), it is as yet unstated which ones the Paris area is themed to, although the Mississippi and the Missouri are the two referred to most often by Imagineers in this context.
Rivers of America encompasses Tom Sawyer Island, whilst there are several islands within Rivers of the Far West. One of these is the home to Big Thunder Mountain, one separates Smuggler's Cove (the load/unload area for the Keel Boat attraction) from the rest of the water and several of the others make up Wilderness Island (where a "Lil' Big Thunder" was once considered).
The Keel Boats in Disneyland Paris were the Raccoon and the Coyote, whilst the ones in Anaheim were the Gullywhumper and the Bertha Mae.
Although it is a matter of some debate as to whether or not the Keel Boats are still operational in Paris, the ones in Disneyland closed in 1997, following the capsizing of the Gullywhumper.
As well as the Keel Boats (and Cast Member-only motorized skiffs), other vehicles sometimes visible on the Rivers in California include rafts and canoes. Whilst Disneyland Paris has never had the former, nor had the need for them, the latter operated in France for the first two years of the park's existence, until being discontinued due to the waterways being considered too busy.
The most iconic vehicles to travel the Rivers however are much bigger. California has the Sailing Ship Columbia (based on the Columbia Rediviva, the first American ship to circumnavigate the globe) and the Mark Twain, a steamboat with the wheel at the rear. Paris has an equivalent Mark Twain and a side-wheeler, the Molly Brown, patterned after the vessels found on the waters of California's Sacramento River during the Gold Rush.
Whilst the two "big" ships (usually known collectively as the Riverboats) in California are often in operation at the same time, only one of the two in France will operate on a given day. Likewise, whilst the two have separate launches in Anaheim, the wait/load/unload area is shared by the Mark and the Molly in Paris.
Both California Riverboats feature in Fantasmic. As Paris has no form of this show, sadly its Mark Twain has yet to play Steamboat Willie. However, it has been mummified for various Halloween celebrations in the past; known for the season as "Mummy Cruise Lines" it is redecorated with bandages and pumpkins, and sometimes has young actors playing the asphyxiated cadavers onboard, employed to mingle with the bemused Guests.
Other than when themed for Halloween, the on-board design of both Mark Twains are pretty similar (although California's is more flexible in terms of on-deck seating) and yet what the rider can see on-land, from the ships, is remarkably different.
Although there are a lot more animatronics to look at along the banks of the Rivers of America (including of Native Americans and ospreys), on show for those touring the Rivers of the Far West are more features inspired by nature, such as a geyser –which, due to frozen pipes, no longer erupts- and a mock-up of a natural rock bridge, in reality fabricated of steel and concrete.
Riders of both can see animatronic moose, live ducks, netting of various styles and (if you know where to look) a dry dock named after an Imagineer. California also has barrels floating in the water, a no-longer-burning burning cabin and a sacred Indian burial ground. France takes in dinosaur remains, Old Joe the fisherman and a wooden windmill. Obviously one can also see many of Disney's other attractions from aboard the Riverboats, although these are more varied in California than in Paris, due to the Rivers of America being in (or passing) Frontierland, Critter Country and New Orleans Square, whereas the Rivers of the Far West are solely in Frontierland.
In both California and Paris, the Riverboats are travelling along I-beam tracks and take just under a quarter of an hour to complete a tour of their respective River. In California, this round trip takes place in a clockwise direction; it is counter-clockwise in France.
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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