By Martin Walker
When I heard a few weeks ago on the podcast that the guys from DisneyBrit had been invited to be part of a special preview weekend in June of a brand new attraction at Disneyland Paris, I must admit, I was a little jealous. You see, DLP is what I would consider to be my home away from home. My wife and I love taking our son there regularly and have been closely following the progress of a brand new area of the Walt Disney Studios that has been after under development for some time and is based on the 2007 Pixar film: Ratatouille.
Adam, Chris and Alan have of course been a great source for updating us with news of its progress and I was excited for the fact that one of them would be heading over to see it for himself and report back on what it is REALLY like. So I was saddened to hear in that very same 3×3 news segment, that due to other commitments, they were unable to attend the weekend themselves. I contacted Adam shortly after hearing this and was delighted when he asked me to represent DisneyBrit at this special event.
The official inauguration of Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy (“Remy’s Totally Zany Adventure”) to give it its full name, took place on Saturday 21st June. With a selection of the world’s press in attendance, Bob Iger – the big cheese of the Walt Disney Company (I couldn’t resist that pun) was the one to ‘cut the ribbon‘, with Tom Staggs (Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts) and Philippe Gas (President of Euro Disney S.A.S. ) beside him. After this, Place de Remy was turned into a little festival with live music, wine and food into the night – long after the Studios Park had closed to the public.
The following day it was our turn! After registration which included us being given a press information pack, lanyard and a limited edition 3D Park Entrance Ticket, there was just enough time to meet some of the others attending before sitting down for a presentation on “The Making of Ratatouille”. This was led by two Walt Disney Imagineers: Beth Clapperton (Art Director) and Bjorn Heerwagen (Show Designer and Production Manager).
The presentation was extremely detailed, giving lots of information about the €150m project. So many in fact, that over the next week, I am going to write an article specifically on what we were told was involved from concept to creation. The talk was swiftly followed by a Q&A session where we were told that there are several ‘Ester Eggs’ including two Hidden Mickey’s in the queue and a Pizza Planet truck within the ride itself. Though exactly where, they wouldn’t reveal to us. So we have to find them for ourselves! After the Q&A, we made our way as a group to the Walt Disney Studios to experience everything for ourselves.
Upon arriving at the Studios, we walked through the turnstiles and made our way through Studio 1, turning right at the Partners Statue and into the back Toon Studio where a huge statue of Buzz Lightyear marks the entrance to the last addition to the Studios back in August 2010 – Toy Story Playland – Home of the Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, Slinky Dog and RC Racer. As you approach the statue, just to the right hand side was a rope barrier with several very smiley cast members very strictly controlling access to what looked like a Parisian style cobbled street. Only a few yards beyond were two rows of planters containing large conifers being used as a screen to stop prying eyes seeing what was beyond.
After showing the CMs our special passes, we were allowed to go beyond the rope, between the said planters and into: Place de Rémy. As we walked around, you could hear an intake of breath by many because they, like me, were taken aback by just how well themed this whole area is.
Now, if you’re anything like me, and for the past 2 years have been following the progress of the Ratatouille from construction photos taken over walls, through fences and from attractions overlooking the project, you will have an idea of what to expect. Well, that’s what I thought anyway. But I had no idea. All photos I had seen prior to this day did not do it justice. In fact, even the ones I have taken here only show small parts of a much bigger picture. Walking onto that street was like you were being transported into another world – “Pixar’s Paris” as had been said by the Imagineers not an hour before.
The level of detail in this new land is phenomenal. From the bikes leaning against the railings to the lampposts, the facades of the shops and houses to the centrepiece of the square: a beautiful three tiered fountain standing some 30 or so feet high, with bottles of champagne spilling water into the second tier, water pouring from mouths of carved rats into the basin crowned by a metal effigy of Rémy sat on a dinner plate, holding a spoon and wearing a chef’s hat.
To the left of the fountain is a huge archway (with a familiar face just above) that leads out of Place de Rémy and to the back of Toy Story Playland. Turn 180 degrees though and you can see some wonderfully authentic Parisian architecture. To the left hand side is a quaint cafe called “Bistrot Chez Rémy”. On the right, a charming shop called Chez Marianne offering ‘Souvenirs de Paris’. Directly in front is a theatre, complete with ‘ticket booths’ at the entrance. This is where the main attraction is.
After queuing outside, and when you enter the theatre, you are ‘shrunk’ down to the size of a rat and soon find yourselves walking along the rooftops of Paris. Just before riding, you collect some 3D glasses and then are loaded into the rats (6 people in total, 2 rows of 3) at which point you are asked by the CM to put on the glasses you have just been given.
The rat vehicles then set off, three at a time, and scurry around the attraction. There are no tracks as with conventional rides, so each time you ride the attraction, you can see a different viewpoint. The vehicles all move at the same speed as each other, but speed up, slow down, tilt and even vibrate to give the sensation of being a rat scurrying along the floor.
NB: For those of you that are geeky enough like me, you may be interested to know that these vehicles are the next generation to those installed in Mystic Manor, Hong Kong Disneyland.
Not only does the ride use 3D, and oversized scenery to give you the true sensation of having been shrunk, but there are smells and sounds too that all add to the experience as you join Rémy on his adventures around the kitchen. I’m not going to say what happens on the way around – you’ll have to try it for yourself! It’s definitely one for kids of all ages as the attraction has no height restrictions making it truly ‘Family Friendly’.
After managing to ride it on a few occasions, each one different but equally enjoyable, it was time for a champagne reception before lunch at “Bistrot Chez Rémy” – a table service restaurant wonderfully themed around Rémy’s own as seen at the end of the film where his ‘rat family’ dine.
Once again, the theming is to be applauded. They have stools that look like champagne corks, parasols that look like those ‘tacky little wooden umbrellas’ you get during happy hour on the Costa Brava and the lights are giant versions of fairy lights that you would hang on a Christmas tree.
We were shown to our table and presented with the special menu for that day which included some of the dishes which will be served when it opens to the public next month. Below is what we had:
Vegetable seasonal salad, croutons of breaded Brie of Meaux cheese
Beef Fillet, “Pont-Neuf” potatoes and ratatouille
Choice of sauces: pepper sauce, sauce beurre Café de Paris or sauce du Bistrot
Brie de Meaux
Giant profiterole, vanilla ice cream
Personally, I really enjoyed the meal overall. The steak was a beautiful cut, cooked medium rare just as I had requested. The ratatouille was delicious although aesthetically it was nothing like it is shown in the film and thus was a little disappointing. Whilst I understand that to create a dish like that, especially on a large scale would be challenging, it does after all play a large part of the film and I would have therefore expected the same in the restaurant.
The cheese course (which will be available as a dessert when the restaurant launches in July) was delicious however the best was certainly saved until last. The giant profiterole, filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce was to die for. It’s one of my favourite desserts whenever we eat out anyway so I have many to compare it to – and this was by far the best. I really loved the little edible icing figures that decorated the dish. It added that extra little nod to the whole thing.
If there was one bad thing I would say about the food, it would be about the salad. Over the past few months (and probably for many more to come) thanks to the likes of Weight Watchers and Slimming World I have eaten many a salad and become somewhat of a connoisseur. This, although it looked okay, tasted very plain. Perhaps it had been prepared too early and stood for too long, but the croutons weren’t anything to shout about either and it would have certainly benefitted from a dressing of some sorts. However I’m sure that DLP will be reading this and will use it to revisit the salad idea – hopefully prior to launch.
Although I didn’t try it, there were children seated at the table next to us who seemed to be enjoying their “Beef meatball skewer and tomato sauce linguini”. Especially because by the end of it there were clean plates!
Overall, the meal was very good and worth the price of €29.90 for a starter and main course, and value for money at €39.90 for starter, main, dessert and a drink. During my time there, I was speaking to the concierge of my hotel. They told me that the Restaurant Reservations have been asked to inform guests as they are making reservations (if they are visiting after it opens) that there is a new restaurant opening and suggesting that they may like to try it. As a result, it is booking up pretty fast and so if you are heading that way over the summer, I would certainly recommend it. In fact, I’m looking to return in the near future with my wife and son and will be booking it for us.
After we ate, we had a little more opportunity to take photos outside and experience the attraction – which of course we did.
The gift shop is still being constructed internally and is due to open later this year. As a result, we did not get to see inside and cannot give an opinion other than if it continues with the same level of detail as the rest of the land, then it won’t disappoint. It would also be really good if they could offer some merchandise unique to the Ratatouille Attraction and the rest of the park, perhaps inspired by some local designs or those from the film.
I think that the 6 years spent on developing Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy have been worth it. It brings with it exactly what the Walt Disney Studios at Disneyland Paris needs: A Family Attraction and a good quality table service restaurant all contained in a wonderfully themed, fully immersive part of the park which will have you thinking you’re in a true Parisian Street 40 miles away.
Disney has managed to work its magic in a way that has not been seen before in the Walt Disney Studios, Paris. Using all of the senses, a mixture of new and existing technology, this could potentially be the turning point for the Resort as a whole, increasing attendance and with it, reinvestment in the parks.
I had a fabulous weekend and would like to sincerely thank Adam, Alan & Chris for allowing me the opportunity and privilege of representing DisneyBrit at this event. I would also like to thank Disneyland Paris for the wonderful hospitality shown throughout my stay.
I have tried to be as thorough as possible for this review, without giving too much in the way of Spoilers. Should anyone have any questions, please leave them in the comments below or on the DisneyBrit FaceBook page and I will be happy to answer them if and as soon as I can.