Damon Smith releases his inner child as Disneyland Paris celebrates its 25th anniversary

AT the age of six-and-a-half - the half was spoken with chest-puffing pride back then - Disney became my recreational drug. My parents were my dealers, kick-starting my habit one Saturday afternoon in the stalls of Watford Odeon, as an animated bear in an ill-fitting red T-shirt shimmied up a tree, rhapsodizing the growl in his furry belly.

That same feeling of unabashed glee bedevils me whenever I make a pilgrimage to Disneyland Paris.

I visited last year and the fizz of childhood wonder was diluted by a sombre realisation that Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park were looking tired, like a beloved soft toy that has been hugged and snuffled until its colours are bleached and seams distressed.

A few months later, as I walk out of Marne-la-Vallee/Chessy station, I find my little patch of heaven has been extensively replanted and repolished to a lustre for the 25th anniversary celebrations.

The Newport Bay Club, which exudes the sprawling grandeur of a 1920s Cape Cod mansion, has been completely renovated with nautical but nice flourishes, including knotted profiles of a certain anthropomorphized mouse in carpets and animated characters peeking through portholes above the beds. Anchored within a leisurely 10-minute walk of both parks, it’s a convenient if disconcertingly labyrinthine base of operations for the weekend.

I pack the bare necessities, including a portable mobile phone charger. The official app is invaluable to discern where you are and delivers real-time updates on queues for rides and shows. Be prepared, however, to rack up data roaming charges as you zig-zag between two worlds of wonder, taking full advantage of the Fast Pass system that permits queue-jumping on major attractions, except the topsy-turvy Crush’s Coaster.

Kitsch and wistful nostalgia have always been the best of friends at the resort and that’s evident during the silver anniversary. Main Street Station, iconic gateway to Disneyland Park, now conceals its stained glass windows behind a shimmering overlay, framing a cameo containing two silhouettes in digitized fairy dust of the Sleeping Beauty castle and a curlicued 25.

Following a year-long refurbishment, the Big Thunder Mountain runaway train in Frontierland chugs past rainbow-coloured pools of water, encircled by glistening stalagmites. A falling oil lamp ignites a simulated explosion on the final ascent of the journey, replete with lit fuses skittering over jagged rocks and a theatrical blast of TNT smoke.

I dig a little deeper and discover night time scenes in Peter Pan’s Flight have been meticulously recoloured, so they sear my retinas under the ultraviolet glow of the second star to the right. Meanwhile, the It’s A Small World boat ride has been given a welcome lick of pastel paint, delivering a whistle-stop tour of a perfect world, where mechanical children greet visitors with a smile and a song.

Sadly two major attractions are closed. The transformation of the Space Mountain: Mission 2 futuristic rollercoaster into Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain won’t achieve light speed to the strains of John Williams’ score until May 7. A revitalised Pirates Of The Caribbean galleon ride is also just around the riverbend.

From July, animatronic Captain Jack Sparrow and swashbuckling special effects will enhance rum-soaked scenes from a pirate’s life awash with boisterous buccaneers barking at the moon, and poor unfortunate souls trapped in a dungeon jail.

Back above ground, I see the light refracted in 250,000 hand-glued Swarovski crystals, which adorn the Royal Castle Stage, situated to the right of the moat. Several times a day, weather permitting, the stage hosts bilingual anniversary spectaculars.

At 5.30pm, we gather - a dozen deep - to witness eight gargantuan floats snake through the park, steady as the beating drum, on the inaugural Disney Stars On Parade.

At nightfall, millions of LEDS that frame Main Street are dimmed for the premiere of Disney Illuminations. State-of-the-art projection mapping brings to life scenes from animated classics on the castle ramparts, enhanced with lasers, fireworks and choreographed water jets.

For the first time, live action elements from Pirates Of The Caribbean and Star Wars have been incorporated, building to a pyrotechnic-laden crescendo infused with heartwarming sisterly solidarity and love courtesy of Frozen.

I may have disappointed on my previous visit but now as it celebrates its 25th birthday, Disneyland Paris is back on form.

Damon Smith was a guest of Disneyland Paris (www.disneylandparis.co.uk, 0844 800 8111). A two-night/three-day stay at Disney’s Newport Bay Club, including return travel on Eurostar from London St Pancras (indirect via Lille) to Disneyland Paris starts from £1,203.14 for two adults and two children including park tickets and half-board meal plan. Price based on a May 2017 departure