The Walt Disney Studios’ Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic A FINAL Review.
The Studio Tram Tour is closing down…a little history may help us understand why it will not be missed.
Since opening in 2002, the Walt Disney Studios Park at the Disneyland Paris Resort has struggled (even after refurbishments). The park was open in the latter part of the Eisner era where Disney brass believed they could churn out anything with the Disney name and its base of rabid fans would make it a success. The strategy was to start small – open something good enough to get the public’s attention and then expand it over the years to keep them coming back for more.
In addition to the Walt Disney Studios Park, this happened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (it opened without the ever-popular Asia section) in 1998, Disney California Adventure in 2001, and Hong Kong Disneyland in 2005 (the smallest castle park could hardly keep guests busy for a day). Thankfully, the Iger era saw a reversal with the successful launch of Shanghai Disneyland in 2016, but we Nerds digress.
Walt Disney Studios Park remains the least visited of Disney’s 12 theme parks around the world; though this will change as a Cars area and Avengers area are added in the coming years. When it opened, the centerpiece of the park was the Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic. The attraction was modeled after the Tram Tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, though it was a much simpler version (again, an Eisner era mainstay…take a successful attraction and scale it back to save money when expanding it to another park) and tried unsuccessfully to tie in European-based movies.
The Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic attraction did contain the popular Catastrophe Canyon – a special effects-laden “set” where tram-goers experience a flash flood, gas leak and subsequent fire, exploding big rig, and more…only to watch the set put itself back together for the next tram.
The Final Take
As you know, we are Disney Park Nerds and part of our DNA includes seeing older attractions as they prepare to ride off into the sunset. In the case of the Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic, this Disneyland Paris Resort attraction overstayed its welcome by at least a decade and probably longer. So, in typical Nerd fashion, we rode it three times on our final visit.
I’d like to say it was one of those “so bad, it’s good” experiences, but it wasn’t. If I’m being honest, I was mostly just being a punk and trying to annoy my wife with the last two “tours”.
The Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic was wildly outdated by the time it wrapped. It was bad enough that the video narration was poorly conceived and the two “stars” – Jeremy Irons (the voice of Scar in Disney’s The Lion King) and Irene Jacob (a French-Swiss actress with roles in The Secret Garden and U.S. Marshalls) – lacked any real chemistry.
The Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic did not improve from there. Instead, guests were treated to props from live-action Disney movies and some Disney-produced television…but remember, the Disney live-action library by 2002 was very slim. There is an over-focus on the live-action 101 Dalmatians movie complete with cars used in the movie, a huge swath of space dedicated to the made-for-TV movie/limited series Dinotopia (what? You don’t remember that one? Exactly.) and the biggest disappointment of them all…a set of London from Reign of Fire (again…not ringing a lot of bells here).
As the tram rolls onto the Reign of Fire set, the music and the wreckage put you in the mood for something spectacular. You’ve been made aware that a dragon is nearby and you can see undeniable evidence of its destruction. There is a big hole in the ground with smoke billowing from it. What special effect does Disney have in store? What will folks aboard the Studio Tram Tour see next? Will we see the dragon? Face walls of fire? See more destruction? The music intensifies, hearts pound and as the tram starts to pull forward, it just keeps going to the next area. The End. Fin.
What???? We know! It’s bizarre. And this sums up the “so bad, it’s not good” Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic. It was time to bid adieu 15 years ago, and we’re glad we got to say goodbye.