Efteling Amusement Park in the Netherlands is Everything Disney Used to Be
Regular readers know I love amusement parks. But they also know I’ve come to hate Disney, creator of the world’s most popular amusement parks, with the passion of a thousand suns.
The thing I find least interesting about Disney, by far, is the company’s penchant for having a hit — and then exploiting it over and over and over, in a zillion different incarnations, until whatever was enjoyable or interesting about the hit has long since been obliterated.
I also wrote:
[With their new ticket prices and app add-ons, Disney has created] two different park experiences: one for the rich, who can pay to bypass the endless, soul-crushing lines, and a different, much worse experience for everyone else.
While in the Netherlands recently, Michael and I visited Efteling, which is the second most-visited theme park in Europe, after Disneyland Paris.
It turned out to be everything Disney used to be.
In fact, Efteling has a bit of a relationship with the Disney company. There’s a rumor that Walt Disney visited Efteling, which opened in 1952, while he was planning the original Disneyland, which opened in 1955.
That rumor probably isn’t true, but when the Disney corporation was planning Disneyland Paris, which opened in 1992, they definitely consulted with the folks at Efteling for tips on how to appeal to European audiences.
And when Efteling began introducing higher-tech rides like Symbolica, which opened in 2017 at a cost of €35 million, they consulted with the experts at Disney. I don’t speak Dutch, and I didn’t know the story that Symbolica is based on, so the ride made absolutely no sense whatsoever to me. But it looks fantastic.
(I’ve since learned the story involves a visit to the king’s palace, and a jester named Pardoes — Efteling’s mascot — shows you all the hidden parts of the castle.)
Whatever the truth about Efteling’s former relationship with Disney, it’s past time for the folks at Disney to consult with Efteling again, because they could learn a lot.
These days, the Disney parks are crazy-expensive, and most of their future plans involve leaning hard into wildly over-exposed franchises like Frozen and the Marvel properties. As for the crowds, well, the new-ish Flight of Passage ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom was built to accommodate lines of up to six hours.
Meanwhile, Efteling is still, well, fun.
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