A few months ago, I spent the day at Disneyland Hong Kong. I love all things Disney, and I was excited to visit one of the parks after a decades long absence. I was nervous, though, about engaging with the park as a super fat person. You can read about my experience here.
One thing I picked up during my time at Disneyland Hong Kong is that each Disney park has an app and website that detail each attraction/store/experience in the park, including accessibility information and an accessibility map of the park. You can even filter through things to do based on your needs. At first, I thought the “expectant mothers may not ride” would be useful, assuming it was related to their protruding stomach. ‘Cause I have a protruding stomach too! But no, I quickly realised this was a note about the shock/awe factor of the ride, not the size you need to be to fit into the rides.
Under the information for each individual ride, there is accessibility information and “Physical considerations”, which may note that you need to be in “good health” to ride. “Good health”. What a bullshit phrase. It goes on to elaborate that you shouldn’t ride if you have a heart condition, or high blood pressure, or motion sickness, or back or neck injuries. This particular warning is usually attached to the roller coasters. I wonder if they’ve ever considered adding a section about body size in the “Physical considerations” or a filter for physical size/fatness, but it could be tricky to determine how to evaluate the rides based on that in an uniform way. Fat bodies, especially super fat bodies, are not homogenous.
My day at Disneyland Paris couldn’t have been more different than my day at Disneyland Hong Kong. The weather, rather than being above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and humid, was a cool 75 degrees or so, with scattered showers throughout the day. The difference in the weather alone changed my entire mood as I began the day. It’s raining, so the park is quieter than expected. I always enter through the Castle (Sleeping Beauty!), and the first ride I encounter is Snow White. I look long and hard at the ride – there’s barely a line, so I can see the carriages from outside the ride. They seem to leave quite a bit of space and I find myself wondering if perhaps I could ride. I love the Storybook rides; they’ve always been a favourite.
I ask myself if my whole trip will be ruined – or even dampened – if I try and fail to fit into the ride. It isn’t worth it to start my trip if it might spoil it. But then I decide, nope, I’m going to give it a try and I’m pretty sure I’ll be ok and happy to continue along if it doesn’t work out.
So I get in the line and in less than 90 seconds, it’s my turn. As I step closer to board the carriage, I think, whoops – this isn’t going to work. I have to squeeze myself into the carriage and as I sit I see that the bar has almost nowhere to go. I give a smile to the attendant (to whom I said as I was waiting, “I’m not sure if I’ll fit, but I want to give it a try”) and prepare to exit. But then the bar barely comes down and locks into place. The attendant checks each carriage, and the ride is off!
I am in such shock I miss the first part of the ride – I’m too focused on the bar, which rests right against my upper belly/boobs, the fact that it’s not uncomfortable, and the reality that is slowly sinking in – I’m riding a ride with a bar at Disney. Whoa. When the ride is over, I get back into line. I wanna do it again. And this time I’m able to pay attention to all the cool details from the start, because I can take it for granted – like almost everyone else there – that I fit.
Next door is Pinocchio – never a story I enjoyed, but it looks like it might be the same as Snow White so I decide to give it a try. This one has a line; it takes almost 20 minutes before I’m at the front of the queue. Enough time to get equal parts nervous and excited; excited because I’m pretty sure these are the same carriages as Snow White so I should be right, but nervous because I can’t be sure and it’ll be a bit more of a spectacle to disembark and leave through this much larger crowd. Again, my fat ass fits! But yeah, dumb movie and a dumb ride too.
My excitement about fitting into the Storybook rides stay with me throughout the rest of the day. I rode the Carousel (Le Carrousel de Lancelot), and it’s a small world and Pirates of the Caribbean (I tried these at Disneyland Hong Kong and found them to not be an issue, although you do have to be able to hoist yourself up onto your carousel horse and out of the boats for iasw and Pirates). I also took a cruise on the Molly Brown, a steamboat that makes a short circuit around the inside of the park.
The last ride I tried was the Haunted Mansion, which was a favourite when I was a kid (in Paris it’s called the Phantom Manor). The first part of this ride is a giant elevator you share with a group of people, and then you go two-by-two (or by yourself in my case) into carriages for the rest of the ride. While these carriages were different from the Storybook rides, I was still able to nudge my way into the carriage and the bar didn’t come down very far before the ride began. So again, I fit!
I didn’t try my other favourite ride, which is Thunder Mountain Railroad. It’s one of the roller coasters, and from what I could see of the carriages from outside the ride, the bars on that ride go much lower than the Storybook rides. Those bars look to be sitting directly on people’s hips. I was having such a fun day, I decided not to risk dampening it by trying and failing – why push my luck on this trip? Maybe next time… (if anyone out there is super fat like me – a size 36 pants, double belly, super wide hips – who has ridden the roller coasters at Disney, or any amusement park, I’d love to hear about it!)
Across the day, I explored the entire park. I’ve never done that before – my time or energy have always exhausted themselves before seeing the entire park, so I assume that Disneyland Paris is smaller than the other parks I’ve been to in the past. It was an incredible day, filled with laughter and smiles and the music of my childhood. Knowing that I could come to the happiest place on Earth and enjoy most of it unencumbered is such a delight. I’ve got my eye on Disneyland Shanghai for my next adventure, as I’ll be travelling through Shanghai on my way home from my Europe sabbatical. Until then, I’ve got great memories of the other parks to keep me smiling.