Ride Review: Ratatouille: L'Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy at Walt Disney Studios Paris

June 22, 2014, 11:47 PM · PARIS — Some six years in the making, and at a reported investment of €150 million, Ratatouille: L'Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy (“Remy's Totally Zany Adventure” - yes, really) officially opens to the public on 10 July 2014. Taking the 2007 Pixar film Ratatouille as its inspiration – and drawing on the Pixar team to create the huge animated sequences at its heart – the attraction seeks to expand the family offerings and add some much-needed ambience to the resort's second park, Walt Disney Studios.

La Place de Remy

We'll cover the exterior and La Place de Remy – where the attraction is situated – fully in a future piece. But even on the approach, it's a palpable gear-shift from the rest of the park, rich in detail, colour, texture – it's simply a pleasure to amble around, taking in the detailing and the references to the film. This is Paris, sure – and we are only 40km away from the City of Lights itself – but it's a heightened, romantic interpretation. As the attraction's Art Director Beth Clapperton put it – it's “Pixar's Paris.”

Stepping into the entrance for the attraction itself – an homage to the arched entrances of Paris' historic theatres – we're quickly swept into the quiet, romantic charm of Paris at night. We walk between rooftops, taking a moment while admiring the skyline to watch the Gusteau's sign magically come to life, just as it did in the film. It's a clever piece of projection that begins to blur the lines for us between physical sets and animated film, and serves to deliver what little exposition we need to know: we're on our way to Remy's restaurant.

The interior queue is otherwise relatively simple but atmospheric. As we wind through a series of corridors – not elaborate in their detail, but charming in design and coherent to the world of the story – we pick up our 3D glasses and emerge onto the loading platform for the ride. It's a wide open space, surrounded by the same rooftop sets we've passed by earlier in the queue but on a much bigger scale...

We've shrunk to the size of rats, and ahead of us are the specially designed “Ratmobiles” that will take us on – two rows of three seats in mouse shapes units, positioned on what can best be described as large black hockey pucks. The mice are far from intricate in design, and the “pucks” (that control the travel of the vehicles) are somewhat incongruous to the otherwise faultless mise-en-scene – but once you're in, you'll not have much chance to be distracted by this.

In a presentation this morning, Show Designer & Production Manager Bjorn Heerwagen explained that the Ratmobiles were built at the same time as the vehicles for Mystic Manor – they use the same trackless ride system, guided by GPS. But they have an extra couple movements in their repertoire that you won't find in Disney's other rides with similar systems, allowing for tilting and vibrating controls to more accurately mimic the movement of the rodents.

Once we're seated, the Ratmobiles take off with a balletic flourish. Grouped in the teams of three Ratmobiles that we'll stay with throughout the attraction, we spin and glide away from the platform – and its a real surprise just how smooth the ride is. The physical sensation of moving in these vehicles is a pleasure in itself, and establishes an important principle: far from being a white-knuckle endurance test, this is an experience to enjoy.

Our first stop is a vision of the ghost of Gusteau, as per the film, who floats above the roofs and bids us to enter – Remy is preparing for our meal. We pass into the first of the ride's large projection domes, where Remy and Gusteau decide what he should cook, with the Parisian skyline as a wrapped-around backdrop. It's a similar principle to the domes used in Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, but on a bigger scale - we feel truly immersed in the animation.

The dual languages here – and throughout the attraction – are handled well, the characters switching seamlessly between French and English. There's little in the way of exposition; true to form for a Pixar animation, the visuals deliver the most important information.

Just as Remy has the idea to cook Ratatouille, the rooftop window he's precariously balanced on tips open (a canny nod to the original Star Tours, an attraction with which Ratatouille shares some DNA) so he – and, of course, we – drop through an open window into Skinner's kitchen...

And the chase begins. So far, so familiar to those familiar with the source material, and throwing us into the action of the story is of course necessary – while Pixar had nearly two hours, our adventure lasts under five minutes. The story here is comparable to Islands of Adventure's Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in that it delivers a “highlights narrative,” with plot points and set pieces from the film compressed into what could serve as an alternate story.

If you know the film, you'll notice the blurred chronology in retrospect – but it serves its purpose as an effective way to set up a chase scenario. While Forbidden Journey suffers from the lack of a clear villain, instead confronting riders with a series of threats in the style of a ghost train, Ratatouille's antagonist is clear – Skinner is front and centre throughout, pursuing us through rooms and floorboards. Pixar's knack for character design is a gift here – his sinister, bulging face looks like it's been designed for exactly this type of attraction.

As we scurry from room to room, the 3D screens are well-integrated with the physical sets. As we “ride along” on a dining cart, over-sized wheels at the side of the screen spin along. And in a next scene, where Remy and Emil are raiding the fridges for food, their silhouettes appear to interact with physical props. (Scents of the food particularly come into play here – not overused, but enough to further convince us of the reality of the setting.)

It's worth pointing out that the ride is certainly tamer than you might expect. There are jolts, bumps and spins, but the thrills – and be sure, there are many – arise from the integration of on-screen action and ride vehicle. Perhaps the biggest shock of the journey comes in a moment of animation as Skinner bursts through the wooden grating, his hand lunging straight at our car. The movement backward in response to this is pretty gently in isolation – it's the large-scale 3D that makes the moment.

Of course, we do eventually manage our escape. The final scene of the attraction sees us find safety in Remy's kitchen, and the unload station is perfectly framed as a view from the park's new restaurant – which just happens to be Bistro De Remy. A shrewd sales pitch, perhaps, but it's also a welcome extension of storytelling, allowing us to continue our immersion in Remy's world. (But more on the Bistro in a later piece.)

There are some technical imperfections – some inevitable distortion of the 3D effect as a result of having three vehicles in play, and some film clips stop and reset before being out of view of all vehicles. In an attraction where your attention is very specifically directed to one spot, this wouldn't be so much of an issue – but Ratatouille is full of richly detailed environments, and the film elements are full of details to discover. When the designers have gone to so much effort to create such scenes, it becomes an issue for imperfections like these to slip through.

These are minor quibbles, of course, particularly in the face of the scale of the accomplishment. But as the last week has demonstrated, Disney can't afford to deliver any less than the rich, immersive storytelling on which they once had the monopoly – and Ratatouille, on the whole, pulls off a remarkable achievement in creative scope and technical innovation to achieve this.

Those expecting Disney's response to The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man will be disappointed. With no height restriction whatsoever, this is definitely not a thrill ride. Think of it instead as an opportunity to further immersive yourself in the film. With its huge, wrap-around projection domes, Michael Giacchino-composed score and animation as full of detail and imagination as you would expect from Pixar, the Ratatouille attraction takes you that bit further into the film.


Replies (6)

June 23, 2014 at 1:36 AM

Thanks for this wonderful review of the attraction. The ride sounds really nice and well done and finally brings some Disney magic in this awful park.

Did I just write awful? Yes I did. WDS has gotten some TLC with the Toy Story Playland, Crushes Coaster and of course Tower of Terror, but they all remain isolated attractions, not integral part of a thought out themepark. It has been build on the cheap, there are no vistas, no trees, there is no coherency, no atmosphere and most of all: no magic. 

The question for Disney to make further large scale investments like with Ratatouille depends largely, I imagine on the increase of visitors to this half day park. And I am afraid that this increase might not be as large as hoped for.

Visiting Disneyland Paris for Europeans can be compared with going to Walt Disney World in the States. It's a major investment, it involves longer (air) travel, hotel nights etc. Not something a family would do on a whim. Nor would I, although I don't have kids, but am a huge Disney fan. When I lived in the Netherlands, I would visit the Dutch themepark Efteling almost yearly and even in the first ten years since its opening, I visited Euro Disneyland every three years or so. But that is not the case anymore. We've visited DLP five years ago and went to the Disney Studios for the first time, really disliked it and after we had done all the attractions in the morning we went straight to  Disneyland Park only to find hardly anything new compared to the last time we visited ten years ago.

So for me, although I am really thrilled by what I am seeing and reading about the Ratatouille area, I do not feel the need to visit Disneyland Paris. Why spend so much money only for one new E-ticket? The rest of the Studios is not a place you'd like to spend time and Disneyland Park hasn't changed in 15 years. I think the only thing that could save the WDS park is to completely rebuild it, give it a coherent theme and please: bring in some green and magic!

Hard to acknowledge, but although we went to Florida two years ago, I'd rather go to the Universal Studios to see Transformers, the Simpsons area and Diagon Alley first than confirm my disappointment by going to Disneyland Paris.

June 23, 2014 at 8:02 AM

Thanks for the review, Ben. You did a fine job of bringing this immersive new area to life. And you're right, "Pixar's Paris" looks amazing.

As for the attraction itself, watching your video and some of the other videos that have appeared online, I enjoyed what I saw. Ratatouille has smooth travel, great sets, and well executed 3D images throughout the adventure. I especially enjoyed the music - breezy and flowing in perfect step with the "dance" of the ride vehicles. And unlike many other moving 3D rides, Ratatouille offers something fun for everyone who visits, not just the thrill seekers - which is a rare find at theme parks these days - and is something this much maligned overseas park desperately needs. Overall it looks like Disney has another winner on their hands. Yes, the inevitable (and largely unfair) comparisons with Spider-Man and Transformers are sure to arise, but as a whole-family dark ride, Ratatouille looks like a tremendous achievement.

Sadly, I will probably never get over to Paris to experience Ratatouille: L'Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy, but this attraction would be a welcomed addition the the French pavilion at Epcot - if the Orlando brass would ever get off their butts and green light anything for that seemingly forgotten park.

June 23, 2014 at 8:23 AM

Seems like a well done attraction and it surely matches the video effects of Universal's Spider-Man or Transformers without surpassing them. I guess this is Disney's counter-strike. It isn't bad, but it doesn't seem to have much practical effects, which is Disney's expertise. Now, there are two such attractions that should arrive to the USA. Disney World or Disneyland needs to split the difference and get one each.

June 23, 2014 at 11:05 AM

Whilst this looks like a terrific new addition to WDS, (and PLEASE clone it and send it to EPCOT), I have to add my voices to those saying that it probably won't entice my wife and I to visit Disneyland Paris.

Our very first Disney experience was at Paris and it confused the hell out of us. When it was good, (Thunder Mountain, Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain), it was very, very good, but when it was bad... oh my! I've come to the later conclusion that the French overlay just doesn't work with Disney's brand of magic. The staff were, well, typically French, and to be honest it just felt like Alton Towers but with a bigger budget. Some years later we went to Florida and suddenly thought, 'so this is how it was supposed to be!'.

To be fair I know many people rate Disneyland Paris but we have never been tempted back, and partly because it's not cheap. I've just costed a package of 3 nights in a mid-range hotel on site in September, (out of the holiday season but still half a chance of decent weather - not one of Paris's strong points), and it's coming out at £1042.00 for my wife and I, and that's without the cost of getting there! Just to give you a better perspective that's currently around $1700.00!!! That's a hell of a lot for one and a half parks for two full days.....

I really hope the Ratatouille ride makes a difference - it looks great and is exactly what is needed there, but I suspect that the bottom line is that Paris should have been built in Barcelona instead!

June 24, 2014 at 4:55 PM

EPCOT, and the World Showcase, badly need new rides. Why not a clone of this one at the Franch Pavilion?

June 24, 2014 at 7:25 PM

Second that it should be fast tracked for Epcot as a ride.

I would be remiss for not mentioning that if Universal did this same ride, they would be bashed for using screens and not animatronics.

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