1 The Mickey Mindset: Review: Ratatouille Themed Area at Disneyland Paris

Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: Ratatouille Themed Area at Disneyland Paris

Davide Maugeri - Maybe not many US Disney Parks fans are aware of the fact that Disney Imagineering recently bestowed us European fans with the gift of a brand new Disney/Pixar attraction called Ratatouille - L'aventure totalement toquée de Remy (Ratatouille - Remy's totally nutty adventure). Located in Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Resort Paris, the brand-new dark ride is an instant masterpiece which succeeds in delivering a very fast-paced and whacky journey through Gusteau's kitchen and Remy's climb towards success, much to Chef Skinner's disbelief.

Walt Disney Studios is a park that has always suffered a way lower attendance than its neighbor park, Disneyland. Why? Simple. While Disney Parks all around the globe are renown for their attention to details, immersive landscapes and stunning dark rides, here you'll find none of those. Walt Disney Studios began as a very tiny park that tried hard to hit off its American big brother, Disney's Hollywood Studios. Sadly, Walt Disney studios is way way smaller than its counterpart and much less interesting. At first I was quite impressed by the park's entrance: guests enter a huge movie lot which houses a superb recreation of a Hollywood Boulevard glowing and glittering through the night with all its signs and banners, only to lead them to the classic Disney Bros Plaza, which is almost identical to Hollywood Studios' with the only difference that you actually feel like you're walking towards the famous Hollywood Hill, and the famous Walt and Mickey statue can be found in the middle. But after a while, you feel the disappointment growing as you can't help but notice that all of those majestic skyscrapers and breathtaking sights of the Hollywood Sign on the hill are nothing but mere panels, disposed on a fake perspective, and most of the surrounding "real" buildings hide a horrifying scaffolding on their back. Sadly, most of the rides have the same problem (I won't even tell you what you see on the back of Flying Carpets over Agrabah while queueing Crush's Coaster). So it's no wonder that most of the guests (including me) leave the park and move to Disneyland, where they spend the rest of their day. But after visiting the Ratatouille area, I do feel like Walt Disney Studios park is finally starting to slowly get the California Adventure treatment. So this means Walt Disney Studios park is finally worth spending a whole day in it? Absolutely not. But still, Ratatouille - L'aventure totalement toquée de Remy is a great addition to it, and we're about to find what makes it special... and what doesn't.
We enter the park relatively early in the morning and as we try to head to the Ratatouille area we're promptly blocked by some Cast Members who force us to turn back and enter the area by another path, which took way longer to get us there. Once we arrive, we're instantly stunned by the impressive amount of detail present in the whole area (Remy is literally everywhere, in the fountain, in the buildings, even in the sewer covers!), the Parisian architecture is reproduced at its finest, including cracks on the walls, those typical French funnels and more. We start to get in line, even though we know we won't be riding before 80 minutes, but after a while we can't help but notice the line isn't proceeding at all. Many guests give up and decide to leave, plus the weather gets worse and it starts to rain. Frustrated, we ask Cast Members for an explanation, and all they say to us is that they're experiencing technical problems and are unsure on when the attraction will be fully functional again. Wow. What a great start for a ride that has been operating for even less than a month.

We try again one hour later and it appears that someone had intervened to fix the breakdown. We get in line and prepare to wait longer than an hour.
Although the Parisian Disney Resort doesn't have interactive queues yet like its cousins in Florida, I still enjoyed myself waiting in line for Ratatouille. The outside queue articulates on the right side of the building, right next to what it seems to be the restaurant's restock area (it can be seen in the movie as well), complete with delievery schedules posted on doors. There were several brilliantly themed spots on the sides of the walls that allowed me to plunge even deeper in the Ratatouille atmosphere, such as a poster featuring Anton Ego's weekly magazine, an intentionally closed wine bar, many Gusteau's junk food placards (the ones he used to fear so much in the movie) and more. 
Then, we finally enter the majestic building and find ourself on the Parisian roofs we had admired from the top before, with the only difference that now it's night time and Gusteau's sign comes to life to say hello and inform us that «Remy will prepare a culinary masterpiece, for anyone can cook but no one cooks like Remy». -Um, what's that supposed to mean? Someting like «If your dream is to become a great chef, then don't even bother trying because Remy will always be better than you»...?- However, as Gusteau turns silent and freezes, we suddenly hear a dog barking, followed by many others a few seconds after. The dog jamboree comes to an end when the dogs' masters start to yell "SILENCE, TAIS TOI!" (Shut up!). Then Le Festin starts playing. 
Overall, a very nice idea to keep guests entertained while waiting to board. Plus. the moving Gusteau effigy adds a great touch to it. We move on and we find a cutlery container filled with 3D glasses. We help ourselves and prepare to move on to the loading area, where Emile and Colette (weird duo, huh?) provide a safety spiel, respectively in English and French. The loading area is absolutely stunning. We've been magically shrunk down to the size of a rat and now everything is huge. Huge rooftops, huge windows... huge woman silhouette behind the windows. The ratmobiles busily move around the whole area as if they were alive -I had seen many POVs of rides such as Mystic Manor and Pooh's Hunny Hunt, but seeing a real life trackless wagon in front of me was an experience no POV could prepare me for. A ratmobile parks gently in front of us as we are invited to board.

At last, we're riding. Our ratmobile starts to randomly wander across the Parisian rooftops on the sublime notes of Michael Giacchino's score, when all of a sudden, Gusteau's ghost appears and talks to US (wow, I suppose the fact that Remy had never pretended is true after all. Geez! That's some paranormal activity right there!), cheerfully encouraging to follow along. We turn the corner and find the first 3D projection in the whole ride, which is incredibly well blended with the motion of the cars and the theming all around. Remy welcomes us, but he's still uncertain about what to cook. When it finally hits him, he loses his balance and falls into the kitchen, where all the chefs are hard at work. We almost get trampled by a dozen feet, almost crushed by some free falling fruit and later drenched by a mop, while Linguini tries desperately to help, not realizing the best way he could help us out is getting out of the way. And all of that in one single projection.
Now, I have to say that for me, there's nothing better than a traditional dark ride filled with animatronics and solid theming all around. I've never had a soft spot for any projection longer than ten seconds, yet in this case, I understand that building an immense restaurant with 30 feet animatronic waiters and chefs walking around is pretty much unthinkable. Plus, the projections are unbelievably immersive, so I slowly started to forget about it and enjoyed the experience for what it was. We enter the refrigerating room, where Emile and the other mice are greedily eating pretty much everything (still no animatronics so far). Our ratmobile keeps sneaking around the kitchen and we're almost grilled by some stove burners (including a pretty awesome heat effect). After hiding under a dining cart (I LOVED watching the wheels on both sides moving onwards and backwards depending on the direction we were going), we eventually get busted by Chef Skinner, and a rat in a restaurant means WAR! He tracks us down no matter where we hide and repeatedly tries to grab us -nope, no animatronics to be seen yet- as we try to reach for safety in the kitchen, where Remy is now leading the other rats, each one of them working hard to deliever us the best Ratatouille ever cooked. I won't spoil you the attraction finale, but I really have to say, I couldn't have been any better. It was the perfect ending for such a wild ride, and it sure does know how to keep an European audience hooked. We reach for the unload area (right in front of Bistrot Chez Remy, gotta love Disney's subtle ways to persuade you to spend more money) and reclutantly step off our beloved ratmobile, helplessly watching it as it disappears into the darkness without us.

Ratatouille - L'Aventure Totalement Toquée de Remy is a wacky dark ride complete with larger-than-life theming, astounding projections and great pacing and timing. Due to the large number of cars moving around at the same time the experience is never the same, depending on which car you're riding -some events may go differently or some characters may take longer to do something, etc.- which adds extra mojo to it. Yet, the large use of projections at every corner and not even one animatronic figure to be found makes it feel like it has just popped out of some Universal theme park, only with a pinch of extra pixie dust that makes Disney rides special all around the world. I absolutely enjoyed this crazy journey through Parisian alleys and Gusteau's Restaurant, but from Disney I expected more than this. If the main goal is to make Walt Disney Studios Park a better place for guests, this is definitely a great start, but we're still miles away from the finish line.

My vote: 7.5/10 

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