The problem with the future is that no one knows what is going to happen. When Walt Disney was dreaming up Tomorrowland he was living in an era where the genre of science fiction was capturing the imagination of the public. However, the problem with this land is that it can become quickly outdated, that being a criticism often thrown at the American parks.
When designing Disneyland Paris, imagineers believed they solved this problem by creating a land based on the Jules Verne vision of the future, which they called Discoveryland. This would make the land timeless, as it would capture the essence of Tomorrowland but has a design that will last the test of time. However, as we draw closer to the 30th Anniversary of the park, has Discoveryland lost its way?
The iconic gun launch system of Space Mountain no longer takes you to the moon but instead launches you into Star Wars Hyperspace. The Hyperion Cafe has hosted a range of shows, with its stage adorned with the set from the Lion King show of many years ago. Finally, hidden at the back of the land is Mickey and his Philharmagic Orchestra, not exactly in keeping with the theme of the area.
To the causal guest, this part of the park is full of fun attractions. Star Wars and Toy Story are big draws but I wonder what those who originally designed the park would make of their presence in Discoveryland? Each change throughout the years has in itself been justifiable but now in unison these attractions feel out of place. The fact that Disney didn’t even try to justify the positioning of Mickey’s Philharmagic in the land says that they are not currently concerned with fitting a preset theme. This is in stark contrast to Galaxy’s Edge in the American parks where every effort has been made to make that land totally immersive, even going as far as designing specialised coke bottles.
So what would the best solution be for the Paris park? How far could Disney push the boundaries in Discoveryland? How about Autopia but with Lightning McQueen and friends. Perhaps the Rockets on Orbitron could be replaced with Ships from Guardians of the Galaxy and the Nautilus being converted into an Avengers underwater base.
Although these may seem ridiculous or fanciful to some, it is true that these movie franchises are safe bets for use by Disney. It is hard to recall the last time Disney invested in a new ride without relying on some form of IP. So with this in mind, what can be done to reclaim Discoveryland and restore the original imagined vision for this land? Fans would tell you that Disneyland Paris should look to returns to its roots and restore many of the original rides. Mission One would be a popular option for Space Mountain and would mark a return to the original spirit of Discoveryland. In this restored land, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast would need to find a new home in the Studios park and this show building could become a new Space themed restaurant similar to the one expected to open in Epcot this year. The requirement for IP leads me to suggest converting Star Tours into the Iron Man experience. Only this one Avenger could try to justify a place in Discoveryland and hidden at the back of the land this would be a better fit than Star Tours. With the expansion of the studios park including a star wars themed zone, perhaps this ride should be relocated to where it would fit in. The lake outside Space Mountain is calling out for an Aquatopia style ride like the one found at Tokyo Disneysea. This would add more Kinetic energy to the land and has proven to be a real success with fans. Finally, Disney needs to be brave and realise that a 3D cinema is not what guests expect these days. The Discoveryland Theatre was an expensive addition a long time ago but this space would be better served being used for a new attraction. Even a meet and greet area in the vain of Star Wars Launch Bay would be an improvement. Meeting Mickey, Minnie, Donald and friends in their Steampunk Parade outfits would be a real draw for many fans.
One thing I love about Disney is that they are always planning to improve their parks. I would love to see what their future plans are for Discoveryland. Until then I will continue to blast my lasers with Buzz, race past First Order ships and wonder why Mickeys Philharmagic actually stars Donald!