Despite clearance beginning on the site during the construction of Toy Story Playland in 2010, a large patch of trees were left in place. As the photo above now shows, this was likely to prevent opening up unwanted sight lines before absolutely necessary. As well as a perfect view of the construction site (thank you, Imagineers!) riders on the Parachute Drop now have a clear view right along the route of Studio Tram Tour (which is currently closed) towards the main backstage area of the resort.
Meanwhile, the rumoured project title of this long-awaited dark ride has just come to light: Ratatouille Kitchen Calamity!, or Ratatouille: Désastre en Cuisine in French. It’s not quite the tongue twister of Crush’s Turtle Twister, the project title for Crush’s Coaster, but it will still be very much open to change before Rémy finally throws open the restaurant doors sometime in 2014. Until then, Parachute Drop just became our favourite ride…
The permit also reveals that the new showbuilding will stand 17.8 m tall with the surface area of construction totalling 5719 m2. For comparison, RC Racer reaches a height of 24.8 m, while the vast “it’s a small world” showbuilding covers around 4000m2. The date of 13th April 2011 coincides well with the publication of concept art and planning documents last May (above), which gave a very detailed look at the exterior of this new “Parisian quarter” but very little clues as to the attraction which will lie inside its walls. Rumours continue to point to a primarily projection-based experience, likely in 3D, likely utilising a “trackless” ride system first used at Pooh’s Hunny Hunt in Tokyo in 2000 and conveniently due to be used for Hong Kong Disneyland’s new Mystic Manor dark ride, due to open late 2013.
Almost more important than the dark ride, for a park so starved of facilities as Walt Disney Studios, will be the restaurant incorporated into the showbuilding itself. As we’ve hinted in the past, this probably won’t be the stuffy Gusteau’s dining experience you might have expected, but a rather more informal and fun “rat-sized” restaurant as imagined at the end of the film itself. Despite much investment in attractions, a short-sighted lack of dining provision is one of the key reasons why the Studios’ opening hours remain cut short even in peak seasons.
Euro Disney S.C.A.’s first quarter revenues announcement on 7th February could be a good moment for the company to confirm the project. Though given past experience, don’t expect anything more than a black and white footnote to trumpet what may well be the most exciting development for the Studios in all its beleaguered ten years. Something unique to the park, technologically advanced, classically Disney and inclusive to all ages. Come on Rémy, surprise us!
The Walt Disney Company has begun 2012 with a €150 million boost for Disneyland Paris’ investment funds. Providing the loan agreement as an “additional standby revolving credit facility” to Euro Disney S.C.A., the operator of the resort which is 39.8% owned by Disney, it comes on top of an existing credit facility worth €100 million, giving a neat €250 million for future investments.
Just right for a modest expansion of Walt Disney Studios Park, you’re thinking? Right! The press release published this morning specifically states:
“These investments correspond to the annual recurring investment budget for fiscal year 2012 and a multi-year expansion of the Walt Disney Studios Park, which includes a new attraction.”
That “new attraction” would almost certainly be the Ratatouille dark ride for which we eventually saw concept art and detailed plans last year. With its rumoured trackless ride system, 3D projection effects and adjoining restaurant, this grand-scale E-Ticket would certainly eat a large chunk out of 250 million Euros. However, the precise wording of a “multi-year expansion” suggests that the park could see expansion or improvements beyond this single corner of Toon Studio. In recent “round table” discussions with shareholders, Philippe Gas, CEO has placed the expansion of Walt Disney Studios Park into a “complete destination for a whole days’ visit” as a top priority. With this very happy New Year investment from the Mouse, that long-held priority takes a big step closer to reality.
While the existing credit facility is available until 30th September 2014, this additional facility is available until 2018. With construction taking around two years, the opening of a major new attraction at the Studios from 2014 onwards would be a good promotion tool after the end of the 20th Anniversary. The previous multi-year expansion from 2006 to 2008 overlapped with the 15th Anniversary, leaving a gap in investments from 2009 onwards which the resort has been forced to fill with entertainment “theme years”. Since an anniversary will always attract visits, it should work in the resort’s favour to hold off more permanent investments for the years in-between.
Yeah sure, John. During his European publicity tour for Cars 2, which included hosting a special showing of the film for fans in Paris, John Lasseter also dropped into Disneyland Park on Wednesday. Stopping for this photo at around 2pm with the 2011-12 Disneyland Paris Ambassadors Régis Alart and Osvaldo del Mistero, Pixar’s creative chief had the pleasure of seeing Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant nearing the end of its lengthy restoration, complete with newly-returned golden spires.
We might have expected to see John Lasseter in Disneyland Paris this month, with Cars 2 opening across Europe. After all, he’s dropped by the Parisian resort several times in recent years since becoming Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering. But yesterday, the Pixar creative chief wasn’t just spotted anywhere in the parks — he was spied on the new Ratatouille road, alongside Toy Story Playland, site of that proposed dark ride. Mr. Freddy of Disney Central Plaza provides the proof, above, showing that John didn’t just stumble into the area by accident, like most people passing through the Playland. He’s joined either side by Tom Fitzgerald, Executive Vice President and Senior Creative Executive, and Chrissie Allen, Senior Show Producer, both of whom were present on the opening day of Toy Story Playland and have been key figures in the development of Walt Disney Studios Park.
From above, new activity can even be seen on the construction site behind the Costuming building. The huge trees in the centre of the site will at some point be removed, to be replaced by greenery in a more fitting scale around the Parisian façades.
So, are we looking good for go? Just last weekend, (unconfirmed) word began spreading that funding for the ride had finally been secured. As far as Imagineering and the resort’s management are concerned, the ride seems to have been green-lit for quite some time but as with all major projects, Euro Disney SCA has to agree funding with investors. Back in May, highly detailed concepts were found at the local town planning office in Chessy. The latest is that construction should start this year and take 18 months, with interior elements (such as props, décor) possibly even already being built!
Let’s hope John has a suitably cheesy Hawaiian shirt ready for 2013 — and meanwhile, we’ll see you in the Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop queue…
What do you do when you’re desperately waiting for details of a greatly-anticipated dark ride that Disneyland Paris are unwilling to divulge yet? Pay a visit to the local town planning office in Chessy! That’s exactly what our friends at Disney Central Plaza forum did, returning with a fantastic reward: The very first concept art for the mythical Ratatouille dark ride of Walt Disney Studios Park. Mythical no more. And the word “art” for this concept couldn’t be more apt. It’s a real artwork — colourful, stylised, evocative and very, very classy. Perhaps the first “art” we’ve seen of this quality for Disneyland Paris in almost a decade. It depicts three main Parisian façades in slightly different styles grouped around a traditional cobblestone courtyard. A huge fountain splashes to one side, the signage of Gusteau’s restaurant is high up on the rooftops, the streetlamps glow yellow, the leaves on the trees are a beautiful autumnal ochre. After almost three yearsof anticipationfor this attraction, here it is.
But even better, this is backed up by some cold, harsh technical drawings. Because you know that old adage — “It’ll never look as good as the concept art…” — well, this might.
The first plan above shows the layout of the new attraction building, which is rather different to what we saw back in 2009 (and have been poring over ever since). Now, the new building is not joined directly onto the existing costuming building (officially known as the Imaginations building, and marked as “Batiment Imaginations” on the plan), but sited right next door with a few metres gap between the two. The new building will host the dark ride, obviously, but also a new restaurant connected to the attraction. Will the grey Imaginations building still be sitting there with only a “Studio 4” placard for theming, then? Certainly not — this corner at least will be dressed up in matching Parisian facades to create a complete courtyard around the centrepiece fountain. Real façades, too — the same quality as the buildings of Hollywood Boulevard, not flat backdrops. The existing costuming workshop here, which we used to get a view of from Studio Tram Tour, will relocate and the space will be used for the ride’s all-important shop and something even more pressing for this area of the park: toilets.
Put into three dimensions, the layout of the new building becomes even clearer.
We’ll be entering the ride on the right, under the large archway of the third main façade, where a Ratatouille logo can be seen in the artwork. An extended (fully covered!) outdoor queue stretches along the side of the building before heading inside. The centre section seems to be the restaurant, with a covered terrace projecting into the courtyard, whilst the façade on the far left appears to be Gusteau’s restaurant, which may or may not be the entrance to the real restaurant located here. Because here’s one final morsel: we won’t necessarily be dining at Gusteau’s as humans!
Planning permission for the above plans was granted by Chessy town hall on 20th April, although the project still crucially requires the agreement of lending banks to finance construction. In their financial position, Disneyland Paris require these “cash injections” for all major expansion projects, such as the €240 million investment programme from 2005 to 2008 (for Buzz, Crush, Cars, Tower). The cost of this single dark ride, with all its flashy technology? Somewhere around a cool €150 million. If the lenders agree that this would significantly improve the offering of Walt Disney Studios Park, pulling in more guests and money (it would), then we could still be looking at an opening sometime in 2013.
Never ones to tease too far into the future, as expected the operating company of Disneyland Paris spent last week’s Annual General Meeting mostly talking up this year’s new additions and projects. Euro Disney SCA didn’t even announce the huge World of Disney store, currently rising right in the middle of the resort. But the assembled shareholders did manage to get one piece of crucial information from Philippe Gas, CEO: The Ratatouille ride project is real and is well advanced. Yes, yes — tell us something we didn’t know — but it’s very reassuring to hear after the land for the project was cleared during Toy Story Playland construction only to lay completely untouched ever since.
Even rumours about the proposed dark ride have gone quiet. At one time we were hearing the attraction would feature everything from a trackless ride system to 3D glasses and ride-in projection screens, whilst it’s impossible to count how many times the ride has been “green lit”, according to various sources, when in fact Euro Disney SCA have apparently still yet to agree its financing. Nevertheless, we already have our Ratatouille “rue” and a ready-and-waiting patch of former forest. In December, skyam on Disney Central Plaza snapped the photo above of the cleared area of forest from Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, whilst the aerial view below, from last Summer, shows the site from the reverse angle, over Frontierland.
What you immediately notice from both angles are the trees which haven’t been removed, sitting right in the middle of the site. The first photo gives a good idea why — if they were to be removed, the previously secluded area become horribly barren, with guests able to see right through from Parachute Drop to the industrial backstage buildings in the distance. The plan submitted to Chessy town planning office suggested a large area of greenery in front of the attraction and other proposals for the area have all tried to create the same, something resembling a city square park. Paris certainly has plenty of those, and the Studios still needs more secluded, green areas. But when will we finally be able to explore this true Parisian quarter?
The expectation that the ride would open during the 2013 financial year (so, any time from October 2012 onwards) still seems to stand, allowing the resort to extend the 2012 anniversary year in a similar style to the 15th’s “Celebration Continues” campaign. But given we’re already in March 2011 and the extended time-scale needed for a complex dark ride, it’s looking less likely that the ride could match, for example, the December opening date of Tower of Terror. A few months after a two year wait is a minor detail, however — simply getting the funding in place and signatures on dotted lines is what matters now. And judging by an interview Philippe Gas gave to the Telegraph newspaper last October, we’re not the only ones anxious to see Rémy receive his very own attraction at Walt Disney Studios. “High on Mr Gas’s agenda are the development of the Disney Studios, where he plans more attractions and restaurants with the intention of turning it into a ‘one-day experience’ […] ‘Ratatouille is perfect, as it is set in Paris,’ he said, pointing to a large wall poster of the film in his office.”
There’s a grand “Happy Birthday” and many congratulations in order today — for Disney California Adventure, the problematic second park at Disneyland Resort in California which opened back on 8th February 2001 and is currently nearing the end of an enormous $1 billion makeover project that will transform the original, mediocre gate into a park worthy of the Disney name. If you’ve not been following progress, you’re missing out — be sure to check the official site, Yesterland, MiceAge, this fantastic infographic and all the other great Californian fan sites — it’s a fascinating look at what can happen when Disney really, truly puts its money — and more importantly, its heart — into making something work. Those three beautiful new attraction posters above, a Disney tradition brought forward for a new generation, are the final signature of intent.
What’s the relevance to Disneyland Paris? Well, it’s looking more and more like our own second gate, a similar project of early 2000s misguidedness, has just lost its running partner; been left behind at the starting block. Whatever analogy you want to use, Disney California Adventure is finally getting really good, really fast — and Walt Disney Studios Park, well, it’s still ambling along like all is well. Of course, though they’ve been lumped together for years as Disney’s follies, the two parks were very different. Where California Adventure had in many of its original areas and attractions a disheartening sheen of “hip” tackiness that Imagineering are now having to steam-clean out of the place, Walt Disney Studios was (and still is) simply massively under-built. And not under-built in the rather charming “there’s plenty of room to expand” style of 2005’s Hong Kong Disneyland, either. As a member on our forum succinctly put it, it’s like “a place filled with nice Disney attractions still in their boxes, waiting to be put in a Disney park.” Ironic, then, that Toy Story Playland, probably the best (at least, most fully-realised) themed area in the park is based around toys being unpacked from their boxes.
Even that expensive new land has almost entirely failed to be integrated into the park around it, as seen above. When Walt Disney Studios doesn’t even get a themed path leading to its new land, what hope is there for going back and readdressing the original, lacking areas, like California is doing? What for the original portion of Toon Studio — the barren, soulless area in front of Animagique — do Euro Disney SCA really consider that to be Disney quality? Will Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic ever be given a raison-d’être beyond being an extended drive out to Catastrophe Canyon? Whatever happened to those plans Imagineering dreamed up to turn the depressing and utterly theme-less corner of Production Courtyard into a buzzing Theater District to match Hollywood Boulevard, complete with Soarin’, a new period-specific façade for CinéMagique and new dining and retail? At one time, we we seemed sure to see the terrible, emotionless “Production Courtyard” name become “Hollywood Studio”, to match its “Toon” neighbour, with Backlot following suit. Where Disneyland has “lands”, the Studio would have a collection of different theme “studios”, and finally some vision.
Yes, Walt Disney Studios has been given Toy Story Playland whilst California Adventure will get an expensive Little Mermaid dark ride and an enormous Cars Land, but right now this isn’t about size or scale, it’s about vision and intent. Disneyland Paris doesn’t have the money for a Cars Land, but it probably doesn’t need it. The best part of the California makeover isn’t the new attractions but the sensible and thoughtful re-touching of the original park — adding detail, atmosphere, charm and soul. Paris could spend as much as it likes on that mythical Ratatouille dark ride to be nestled at the back of Toon Studio, but it will just be another self-contained patch of quality. The park as a whole still won’t work if the original areas remain unfinished. Luckily, these corners of the park are so devoid of anything that they’re practically a blank canvas. There’s no giant tile mural needs knocking down here. The attractions are top quality, they just need to be unpacked from their boxes, wrapped in a cohesive theme. So where is the vision for Walt Disney Studios, the intent? Maybe it’s still to come. We’ve heard rumblings of a “30-year plan” — but that means if you’re in your 30s today, you’ll be just about retiring by the time the park has moved forward. Today, to the eyes of a visitor, the Studios isn’t going anywhere — and the worst thing a Disney park can ever be is static.
Twenty-four hours later, we have our answers courtesy of the manufacturer themselves, constructor of the drywall dome known until now only as ‘Ratatouille Ride Element’. As they say themselves, it’s all about what the individual sees. Luckily, they’ve also provided some exciting specifics…
The extensive work to construct the metal stud framing we’ve all been looking at has since been covered in multiple layers of 3/8″ drywall. After that drywall was installed on top, the absolute highest level of drywall finish was applied — the smoothest possible. A complete “skim coat” to cover ALL the surface visible to the eye.
The reason for this extreme finish? It’s going to be a movie screen. Yes, it isn’t intended to sit on top of the building, but inside the building — as part of the ride. This dome is intended as a projection surface, to show specially-created footage as part of the attraction. Yes, really.
In fact, the ride vehicles of the Ratatouille dark ride are apparently intended to “travel directly at” this dome/screen, making it seem as if the vehicles are travelling with the film footage being projected, “in 3D”.
The constructor knows no other details of the footage or the ride, but confirmed the dome is a huge 26ft in height with a 30ft radius. The photo we saw is just the prototype, the first dome created for the ride, which would explain why it’s been created so far ahead of the ride’s green-lighting or construction. When — or dare we say — if the ride is green-lit, Walt Disney Imagineering will want to know that the technology and effects they’re planning will truly work. This could involve setting the “dome” up at their own research & development facility in California, running test projections to ensure that whatever effect they’re going for is as realistic as possible.
Imagine the possibilities — if the story sees us at rat size, being chased around a kitchen, picture this dome presenting Pixar-animated footage of humans towering around you. The concave of a dome could create some classic Disney forced perspective. Or, taking that very first colander guess, we could ride toward this dome projection screen, be trapped and then “carried” (through projections) to a different area in the kitchen, only able to see through those tiny holes, just like Remy during the chase scenes in the film. An altogether very different dark ride experience.
…But now we’re into more speculation. And based on the last 24 hours, WDI have some tricks up their sleeve that we weren’t quite expecting and as yet probably can’t fully imagine ourselves.
STOP PRESS! The mystery has been solved — click here.
When was the last time you got excited about a steel cage sitting in a warehouse? Well that’s exactly what we’re all doing, folks. Found on this vague website about drywall construction based in Burbank, California, the image sits inconspicuously in the sidebar, labelled “Disney Radius Dome Construction” and then… “Ratatouille Ride Element”.
Follow a few links around that website, and you can stumble upon a photo of drywall construction for a “Disney Sound Booth”. Both short-lived blogs were last updated in December 2009, though it’s impossible to tell exactly when the photo was posted.
But what is it? A cage? A giant colander?
Maybe we shouldn’t think about it sitting there on the ground. Imagine it higher up, and suddenly…
Those domes on Tower of Terror arrived pretty much complete at the resort and were only lifted into place a year before it opened. If they were already preparing this “element” as early as November or December 2009, that’s some head-start they’ve got. Not to mention a little presumptuous since, as far as we know, the ride hasn’t been fully green-lit just yet.
But could Rémy really be bringing another dome to the Walt Disney Studios collection, as part of his Parisian attraction façade? Well, there are plenty to inspire in the city itself…
Tip of the (chef’s) hat to fcoyote on Disney Central Plaza, RnRCj on magicforum Images: Davidmackeydrywall.com, DLRP Today.com
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