Before Disneyland Paris, Mirapolis tried too much for less than glorious results

HOBBIES – Mickey, Peter Pan and Snow White now have new companions. Their names? Captain America, Spiderman and Thor. This Wednesday, July 20, Disneyland Paris inaugurated, as part of its 30th anniversary celebration, a new chapter in its history with the opening of its thematic area dedicated to the world of superheroes .

Shops, restaurants, but also hotels and two additional attractions can be seen in the plan of the said Marvel Avengers Campus. A way for the largest French amusement park to attract more visitors. It took them almost 15 million to open its doors before the Covid-19 epidemic.

Since it opened in 1992, Disneyland Paris has marked the minds of many generations of children, but it is not the only one. Many remember Parc Astérix, Nigloland, Mer de Sable, Walibi, Ok Corral or even… the huge Mirapolis.

Mirapolis is 55 hectares of entertainment and around fifty rides, a few kilometers from Cergy, in Courdimanche in the Val d’Oise. At least it is. Known to a section of the population of Ile-de-France, Mirapolis does not have the most widespread reputation, despite its uneven area. And for good reason, he had a short life, five years between 1987 and 1992. However, his crazy (and tragic) story is worth telling.

An “interesting” place

Promised a great future, Mirapolis presents a very special context in the development of the entertainment industry in France. We are in the last half of the 1980s and the project rivals the ambition of the largest parks in America. And this, from its name. “Mira” refers to the idea of ​​a mirror and infinity, while “polis” refers to ancient kingdoms.

The project was born under the impetus of French architect Anne Fourcade and a Saudi billionaire named Ghaith Pharaon. It does not envy other theme parks at the time: Mirapolis is believed to welcome 2.5 million visitors every year.

When it was inaugurated on May 20, 1987 (in the presence of Jacques Chirac, then Prime Minister), there were almost 30 attractions. It will double five years later. Not to mention ten stores, eight restaurants and twelve fast food outlets.

The highlight of the show: a huge Gargantua 33 meters high, which is said to be visible from the A15 motorway. The mascot is not small, it is linked to the theme of the park: French literature, its stories and great novels. It is divided into eight large areas with magical names, such as Les Impressionnistes or Forest of Brocéliande.

Mirapolis represents a childhood dream. The theme of the park around stories and legends is particularly characteristic of our generation. All the characters from our favorite books are grouped in one charming place,” said David Fremery, president of the Mirapolis association, the friends of the park, in the Cergy-Pontoise web magazine.

Rivalry and adversity

The problem is that this “childhood dream”, financed by bank loans, is a dream for its managers. The disturbances started on the first day when, angry, the showmen under the instigation of Marcel Campion entered armed with iron bars to demonstrate against this place which they accused of unfair competition. The facilities were ransacked. We broke up. Sand and washing powder are thrown into the mechanisms of attractions to damage them.

Two days later, fake free entries were distributed to neighboring departments. Result: 1500 people claimed it the next day. Once again, it was a blow to the showmen who, on the same day, came to scatter nails at the exit of the motorway leading to the park.

The press is bad. Accounts too. The public was not there. At the end of the first season, there were 600,000 visitors. It is still less than a third of what was expected. The descent into hell continues, like a wagon on a ghost train. The park passes from hand to hand. The management team of the first year was replaced by Club Med, itself replaced by a group of showmen.

Mirapolis closed its doors

Initially against Mirapolis, they invested 30 million francs. The former owners filed for bankruptcy in 1990. The showmen thus gained complete control. They got their revenge, but not for long. In addition to many administrative and legal problems, including a defamation case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, they were never able to break even financially. The 1991 season was a failure. It has been decided. The doors wouldn’t open again until 1992, the year Disneyland Paris was inaugurated. Gargantua had to pack his bags.

“It should be an envelope of another 100 million francs to be able to respond to the competition, which is to bring new attractions of public interest”, breathed Marcel Campion, end of buyers, in an interview for FR3.

A little more than three million visitors pass through the doors of Mirapolis. The “King of the Fairgrounds” believes that “this space is huge.” “This is a regional park that can only accommodate a regional clientele, but it was designed as a European park, he agreed. It was a mistake. It was designed by American studies for a crowd which operates throughout the year. However, you should know that in the Paris region, a park like this can only operate for 160 days.

Traveling passengers are once again on the roads of France and Navarre. The attractions are dismantled. Some of them were resold in Germany, and especially in Berlin’s Spreepark (which was also closed later, in 2002). The permit to demolish the last buildings was issued in 1993. That was the end of Mirapolis.

An abandoned wasteland

Since its destruction, nature has regained its rights. Vegetation has invaded the park and the areas are mostly occupied by travelers. While in 2003 a large clandestine party was organized there, the urban wasteland is often used for mobile gendarmerie maneuvers or for motorcycle school lessons. It is also a favorite land for Urbex enthusiasts.

“The park only operates for five years but it marks the memories of a whole generation of residents of Cergypontains and Ile-de-France”, welcomes David Fremery, still in the columns of 13 Like One. He founded the Mirapolis association in 2013 with the aim of buying elements of the park, to restore it and organize an exhibition. It happened in 2017.

What about the 55 acres left? In 2017, too, we say, in The echoes, that a conversion project into an “eco-friendly” leisure park should be launched. The idea: to build an artificial lake in the ruins to put cabins on stilts and develop new activities. A few years later, still nothing. The project, with outlines that were “too ambitious” for some, was scrapped.

Since then, a new buyer specializing in property development, leisure accommodations and business tourism has arrived. It was in 2019. There, nothing has changed. Does Gargantua bring with him the hope of reviving Mirapolis?

See also at The HuffPost: The Palais Bulles became an Instagrammer’s paradise during the Cannes Film Festival

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