Friday, 22nd January 2010

Two-tier Ratatouille with a side of shopping, please

Since the footprint of the Imagineers’ proposed addition to the Studios was published via the “mairie” of Chessy, the town just behind Disneyland Paris, we can finally just about picture what this ride could look like if it gets the green light within the next few months.

On the left, the outcrop with angled sides matches perfectly with the corner of Gusteau’s restaurant as seen in the film Ratatouille itself. Just behind, the walls of the proposed building jut inwards to create a small square courtyard — surely the back alley and entrance to the kitchens, where we saw Linguini park his scooter and Rémy’s friends come scavenging for food.

Ratatouille dark ride
Plan (thanks to Mouetto) compared to Tokyo’s existing trackless ride.

An even more exciting match-up can be found with the shape of the rectangular building behind. Since the rumours have persisted almost since the outset that this ride could use the trackless (or “GPS”) technology of Pooh’s Hunny Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland, it’s incredibly satisfying to see that the showbuildings of both this existing ride — and the possible future ride for Paris… are the exact same dimensions.

We don’t know that this plan submitted for approval by the local town hall will be the final design — after all, the plan of Toy Story Playland to come from the Chessy mairie showed two RC Racer halfpipes, side by side — but we can now see for certain that Walt Disney Imagineering have really, truly been using Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, that roaring success of a dark ride, as the template for a ride at our humble Walt Disney Studios Paris.

And so, those new details to spill: In responding to questions about the plan on the Disney Central Plaza message board, member La Rouquine confirmed several suspicions — and raised expectations higher.

Ratatouille dark ride
Artwork from Ratatouille.

Positioned right up against the existing costuming (ImagiNations) building, the planned attraction wouldn’t extend properly into the adjoining space but the costuming workshop itself, as previously seen from Studio Tram Tour, is intended to be moved. This freed-up space would then make true a rumour heard many months ago — that the building could house a Ratatouille boutique.

The workshop is the perfect size for a connecting store, and would finally bring the building at least partially within park use. As the main building for Cast Members, providing their costumes among other services, the building is ideally placed right between the two parks. Though it presents a difficult barrier for future Toon Studio expansion, there are apparently no plans for the rest of the space to be absorbed into the park for a long time to come, it only being opened back in 2001.

So, point number two — the size of the new building. Though the rectangular showbuilding at the rear matches perfectly with Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, the total floorspace appears much lower. How could this new development really fit in everything that’s rumoured — the dark ride, the shop, the restaurant – perhaps toilets? By going up.

Ratatouille dark ride
Ratatouille: Going up?

Oh yes, it appears WDI really do want to give this “parking lot theme park” of flat, single-level attractions the depth (or perhaps height) it needs by building Ratatouille on “several” floors — explaining its modest size in the plan seen. Think of the stretch room in Phantom Manor; the multi levels of Pirates of the Caribbean. This kind of design adds a lot to the experience.

Though, this isn’t to say that your trackless ride vehicle could also climb to a second storey — more likely, that the queue line or restaurant (if it really hasn’t been cancelled) could be located above one another. Perhaps imagine queueing through the elevated rat restaurant seen at the end of the film as real-life diners enjoy a meal in Linguini’s real restaurant below.

What now?

Rumour has it, John Lassetter has been involved in the planning, and a model of the proposed attraction already exists. Many people are now getting twitchy — if this is to be the main 20th Anniversary addition, doesn’t construction need to start soon? Two years is about as quickly as a ride like this can be developed, after all.

In fact, we’ve heard that the attraction plans have now been signed off by Imagineering and the powers that be. It’s a go! — well, almost. Those plans are now lying in the hands of the resort’s financial backers, waiting nervously for that green light to be lit.

Let’s hope they do just that, since the cost-to-benefit ratio of this addition must be off the scale. A dark ride in any sense — even the quaint Snow White/Pinocchio style — would transform perceptions of the Studios. A trackless dark ride would blow visitors away.

Then there’s the theme. Not only was Ratatouille a smash success in France, it’s oh-so-French style would be perfect for the resort’s international visitors, allowing them to experience the feeling of Paris during their trip without stepping a foot out of the resort. For the locals, it would finally put a bit of France back into the parks, an influence that has been noticeably missing since Le Visionarium and its subtle showcasing of the country closed up in 2004. What better way to celebrate the 20th Anniversary in 2010 than with an expansion truly celebrating the country’s great capital city.

Ratatouille dark ride
The moment of realisation.

It almost goes without saying: the ride would be a must-do for every age, it’s trackless technology setting up a kitchen chase that could be moderately thrilling yet family friendly. The overwhelming success of the Japanese cousin is there to see. No other ride in the entire park would have such a wide age spectrum of satisfaction.

Clever use of projections in place of expensive sets and only more simple Animatronic figures, as at Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, would help bring the overall costs down. Since the technology is already developed and is currently being used for the Mystic Point addition to Hong Kong Disneyland, further cost savings are there for the taking. Having the construction crews “retreat” and start work on this site as soon as Toy Story Playland nears completion makes further sense. The resort already has a permit to remove the trees currently covering the site.

But now, we must wait. Not even able to watch through the kitchen doors. Just cross our fingers and hope beyond hope that they too have a fork-hitting-the-floor moment — where it all makes sense that this absolutely, positively, has to happen.

Images: Via Mouetto, DCP; Disney/Pixar; Google Earth.

Monday, 28th December 2009

Chessy town planning office infested by a… Rat!

This plan from the Chessy town hall, another great scoop from Mouetto and the Disney Central Plaza team, could be a real vision of the future. Slotted in at the back of Toon Studio, beyond Toy Story Playland and the ImagiNations costuming building, a show building… for a dark ride and restaurant.

Ratatouille dark ride at Walt Disney Studios Park

Shown in red is the new showbuilding, whilst green shows area development / placemaking in front of the attraction.

There’s no explicit mention of Ratatouille, of course, but everything aligns. For over two years, a dark ride — possibly a trackless dark ride, a la Tokyo’s Winnie the Pooh — dedicated to Rémy and friends has been firmly placed on the horizon. From early mentions by MiceAge and slips from Disney themselves on CNBC to near constant rumours from Cast Members, the plans for Toy Story Playland — with that large extra path outside the land, next to the costuming building — seemed to seal the fact that Toon Studio still had another trick to come.

It’s important to note, though: Nothing is being announced. Nothing is confirmed. This new plan, published by DCP on 25th December, is apparently around a year old — as proved by the abandoned concept of two RC Racer halfpipes — but it’s our first look at what could be.

The huddle of a façade, with sticky-out bits and sticky-in bits, to use the technical terms, matches perfectly the Parisian street setting we’ve been expecting. Perhaps the building jutting out to the left could be the corner of Gusteau’s Restaurant (below), whilst the indented middle could resemble the back alley and restaurant kitchens, where Linguini parks his scooter.

Ratatouille dark ride at Walt Disney Studios Park

Most interesting about this concept submitted to the Chessy planning office, however, is that the proposed building joins right up with the existing costuming building. For years fans have suggested that the building could become part of the park, rather than a barrier to future development, and this appears to suggest exactly that. The new building joins right up with the actual costuming workshop, which used to be visible from Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic.

Given that the Cast Members here have already had to put up with seven years of being gorped at by guests, it’s unlikely they’d be subjected to working with no windows — so would the new development “overflow” into this space? Another reason that thought springs to mind is size. For a dark ride — let alone a restaurant — this building is rather on the small side, with large spaces left on all sides.

In any case — don’t get too attached. There was word earlier this year that the very smart restaurant aspect of this development was unlikely to go ahead, in line with Euro Disney SCA’s plan to have everyone eating out of vans and kiosks, so the situation with the Rat’s floorplan and layout may have already changed quite a bit.

Even the fact that this attraction could be the resort’s big 20th Anniversary addition, seen as almost a certainty just a few months ago, has recently slipped. Back in July, Alain Littaye bravely announced:

“Forget about Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure or the Little Mermaid, the next Disneyland Paris big E-Ticket will be the Ratatouille attraction! This awaited E-Ticket which will be build at the Walt Disney Studios has been approved by the park’s management and it’s now confirmed – not officially, of course – that Ratatouille will be DLRP 20th anniversary E-Ticket.”

Before going on to enthuse with a description that seemed to tick every box:

“Of course expect on the outside some Paris decor, but also inside the building as the queue line decor will put the guests on the rooftops of Paris with breathtaking height feeling, thanks to forced perspective.

“Guests will then board in what will be probably LPS controlled vehicles – the same technology used at the TDL Winnie the Pooh attraction – and will be “reduced” at the size of Remy. No Mighty Telescope here, but a ceiling probably as high as the one inside Pirates of Caribbean as WDI imagineers will build giant decor to give us the feeling that we are as small as a rat.

Ratatouille dark ride at Walt Disney Studios Park

“The ride will begin inside Gusteau’s restaurant kitchen where we will be chased by some of the cooks and especially Skinner, the chef. I don’t want to tell you too much about the storyline to don’t spoil you the ride, but what i can tell you is that the ride itself will not follow the chronological order of the movie scenes, although WDS visitors will be pleased to find some of the key scenes from the movie.

“Of course we can expect Audio-Animatronics figures during the ride. As guests are supposed to have the size of a rat, any rat Audio-Animatronic will not be a problem (in terms of dimensions), but what about human figures which in all logic should be gigantic to respect the proportions. Well, WDI imagineers found an intelligent answer to this problem and sometime we will see – just like Remy in the movie – only the legs of a cook…”

Like Rémy, as he pored over his cook book, we can but dream for now…

Images © Disney; Plan with thanks to Mouetto, DCP.

Tuesday, 29th July 2008

Have a one-on-one with Chef Rémy, the living character from Ratatouille

Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant may well still be the highest class restaurant at Walt Disney Studios Park, and only a buffet restaurant at that, but this Summer it gained one significant selling-point that is sure to win over even the most stubborn critic — a new chef.

The Stitch Phone, Lucky the Dinosaur, Turtle Talk with Crush, Muppet Mobile Lab, Stitch Encounter and Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor… It’s funny to think that Walt Disney Imagineer’s latest creation has arrived exclusively at this humble Production Courtyard eatery, just a few metres from their last installation — Stitch Live!.

Now, since the Imagineers have stayed true to the film, Chef Rémy doesn’t talk directly to you — he merely squeaks. But, as this cute little Audio-Animatronic sways from side-to-side to the tune of “La Vie en Rose” (also note the Pixar connection to WALL-E) or even jabs his pointed nose left and right to a modern disco song, your heart will melt…

Rémy is not only the exact, perfect size he should be, the Imagineers have clearly used the actual computer models from Pixar incredibly well.

Look closely at his face, the drawn-out body and particularly his eyes, and this is almost as good as stepping inside their computers alongside the real thing.

Image Image


Image Image


Only Disney and Pixar could create a turn of events that has them pushing a rat on a trolley around the tables in a restaurant, to smiles of delight from guests…

Could it be a test for the rumoured future Ratatouille attraction in Toon Studio? Perhaps. What it does prove is that Walt Disney Imagineering can create incredibly small, life-like animatronics that hold up remarkably well to close viewing.

We aren’t zooming by this one on a mad-dash dark ride or splashing by on a boat with plenty else to distract us. Chef Rémy is there, on the platter in front of us, with kids getting as close as possible, right up to his face, and he still seems real.

Real and incredibly cute.

[Pictures & Video: DLRP]

— The video above is also available to download via the DLRP Magic! Video Podcast.

Sunday, 6th July 2008

Rémy makes exclusive ‘Living Character’ debut

Does it sound a little far-fetched? The rumours certainly did when they appeared out of nowhere just a few weeks ago.

Proving Walt Disney Imagineering really can still throw us a curveball once in a while, when member La Rouquine on Disney Central Plaza announced that you could be enjoying your meal at Rendez-Vous Stars Restaurant only for an animatronic Rémy to pop out from under a serving platter and interact with you, he wasn’t wrong.

The set-up relates to the original teaser trailer for Pixar’s Oscar-winning film Ratatouille, in which a waiter stops at a table in the classy Gusteau’s restaurant and offers the diners some cheese — only to lift the lid on the platter and reveal Rémy the rat, chomping away on a piece of Emmental.

Though the rumours for this unexpected exclusive ‘Living Character’ suggested Rémy would be making appearances at Rendez-Vous des Stars — which recently took on the name of his film to attract more guests — and more particularly the restaurants of Disneyland Hotel, it was in the streets of Walt Disney Studios Park, outside that first restaurant, that he was first spotted just yesterday.

Here it is, the first video:

Rémy wears his miniature chef’s hat just like at the end of the film, sitting on a platter with some cheese and grapes, looking upwards in a slightly hesitant way to the guests around him. The accompanying human chef plays up to the crowds, uses little words and presents the rat to his public.

Though the video cuts away after a few seconds, you get the idea. You might also have a few new questions, such as — will he speak? Well, in the world of Ratatouille as imagined by the wizards at Pixar, no humans can understand the rats. The film handles this fact beautifully through the great interactions between Linguini and Rémy, introducing a squeak for Rémy only in a single scene. But, when you’ve got Rémy right there on a platter… shouldn’t he say something?

Secondly, as Maarten on our partner website magicforum questioned straight away — is he really an animatronic? Certainly his movements and the positioning above a covered trolley could suggest that this little rat is merely a puppet controlled by a human beneath the cloth.

Either way, this is now the park’s second ‘Living Character’ after Stitch Live! and thus far a complete world-exclusive — not to mention a more accurate depiction of the furry movie star than the slightly oversized Toon Studio version, which will continue to meet and greet fans.

So, when we said you won’t meet Rémy in any way other than that oversized character until the rumoured Walt Disney Studios Park attraction opens for the resort’s 20th Anniversary in 2012, we were wrong. DLRP Today eats humble pie. Or some cheese…

[Video: Novastarbuzz, YouTube]

Thursday, 19th June 2008

Rats! Has CNBC just confirmed the Ratatouille attraction?

It’s the much anticipated grand opening of dark ride Toy Story Midway Mania at Disney’s California Adventure park and the impending US release of sure-fire Summer blockbuster WALL-E that has brought the business world’s attention back to the mouse’s relationship with that desk lamp.

Whilst it was Disneyland Resort Paris that benefited most from the rekindled Disney-Pixar relationship last year, with inspiration for the Toon Studio expansion, all this talk of big-budget films and 4D interactive dark rides certainly doesn’t leave our homeland completely in the dark.


In a post on’s Media Money blog, found by member Yesitsme on magicforum, writer Julia Boorstin investigates how Disney has used the characters of Pixar to bring a new generation to their theme parks. Hinting at projects yet to come, she name-checks the well-known ‘Carsland’ expansion at California Adventure, and then something a little less well-known, for much closer to home…

There’s no question that Pixar is an increasingly important driver of Disney parks. The last big attraction Disneyland launched was its “Finding Nemo” Submarine ride last year, it’s working on a big “Cars” attraction for Disneyland and a “Ratatouille” ride for Euro Disney outside Paris. All these rides further proof of the fact that Disney’s acquisition of Pixar was about much more than just a movie studio, it was about building brands to exploit across all its platforms, which is CEO Bob Iger’s big strategy.

That’s it, folks. A ‘Ratatouille’ ride for Disneyland Resort Paris!

More specifically, as we’ve all already guessed, for the back of Toon Studio at Walt Disney Studios Park. To repeat the rumours from DCP forum member Grandmath we shared in our last update, some current plans spotted backstage show a very large showbuilding connected onto the Costuming building and sitting across part of the current Studio Tram Tour road, which has been rerouted.

The balloon height tests appeared to suggest a building about the same height as Studio 5 — the Crush’s Coaster building. The exterior is widely suspected to be based on Gusteau’s restaurant from the film, but this fact has yet to extend beyond a guess.


What kind of timescale are we looking at? If DLRP Today sources are correct, don’t expect to meet Rémy in any way other than a meet ‘n’ greet on Toon Studio Plaza for some time yet. The good news here, though, is that this attraction will reportedly be something quite special. As in, something good enough for the 20th Anniversary…

But, thanks to CNBC, the Rat is officially out of the bag a full four years early.

Thursday, 12th June 2008

Toon Studio expansion rumours take flight

Between an indoor Little Mermaid land, an outdoor Bug’s Land and an indoor — and very Goofy — soundstage, the rumours that filled the years from the opening of Walt Disney Studios Park to its first major expansion — Crush’s Coaster and Cars Quatre Roues Rallye — seemed almost to have completely run out of the steam by the time the first piece of the park’s Phase 2 was completed.

Toon Studio instantly became the most popular area of the park, but no-one seemed to want to put their neck on the line with a suggestion for where it could go next. Until now…

Rumours have been spreading for several months about the addition of some kind of Ratatouille-themed experience in the land. Initially started by a throwaway comment from infamous MiceAge columnist Al Lutz, the suggestion seemed more of a guess (Ratatouille + Paris = Logical) than something based upon real Imagineering fact, supposing that Paris might be a more natural home for Rémy than California Adventure:

“Ratatouille has done very well in Europe however, and the merchandise and toys are selling better in France than they did in America. With that, the Ratatouille attraction concept may very well be slotted in to the Walt Disney Studios park in Paris.”

Fast forward a few weeks or months and the rumours appear again, this time from well within the boundaries of Disneyland Resort Paris itself…


A French fan claims to have spotted Imagineers in Toon Studio holding plans and discussing certain things relating to Ratatouille. Concept art showing a real-life recreation of Gusteau’s restaurant — apparently intended to go behind the Studio Tram Tour station — was even spotted. An optimistic bit of make-believe or a real in-park assessment of plans for the future?

This week, the biggest step yet to the start of a Toon Studio expansion project arrived and the rumours really “took flight” — literally. Walt Disney Studios fans will remember well the heart-pounding sight of seeing those four coloured balloons floating in the sky in 2006, showing where the four corners of Crush’s Studio 5 building would later be built and its visual impact on the rest of the park and resort.


That day has arrived again, as Grandmath, a consistently well-informed member of the Disneyland Resort Paris community, just reported today on magicforum:

“The balloon (yes, they used just one, but they moved it around at different locations) was pretty high, mm maybe as high as Crush’s Coaster main building. Seems pretty tall for a dark ride, but yet again, we don’t know what is planned there. Maybe the dark ride will be built on several levels, such as Phantom Manor or Pirates of the Caribbean.

“As for the space, in fact don’t consider that the grass area as the perimeter for the building. I saw an expansion map with this building on it, it was stuck to the Costuming building, and expanded on the current tram tour road. Therefore the Tram Tour station was relocated as well, to fit with this new building (and allowing for the extension of Hollywood Boulevard).

“I’m sure that this is some signs of larger things to come, not just a simple building on the grass area. Tram Tour is surely being involved too… but then again, we’ll see in a few months!”

Exciting, no? The recent dearth of rumours about the medium-term future of the resort has thankfully been lifted and suggestions are popping up from all angles… but where is the money coming from? And what are the real contenders?


As you’ve no doubt read recently on DLRP Today, the resort’s finances continue to climb up, up and away. Well, not quite “away” — there’s still some work to go before the resort can claim a profit, but everything is looking good. The effect of the four major new attractions at Walt Disney Studios Park — and to a lesser extent the three earlier additions to Discoveryland — simply cannot be questioned.

The resort squeezed a huge amount of investment and change out of the €240million gift card agreed in January 2005. With that now all but complete, it seems they have every intention to do the same again. If real profit will ever be found at this resort, they have no option but to continue investing sensibly and keep the ball rolling. A similar round of investments spread over several years, leading up to the 20th Anniversary in 2012, currently seems the most likely option.

So, what could the future hold for Toon Studio?

The rumours pointing to a Ratatouille dark ride of some kind now seem too strong to ignore. Indeed, the film was unsurprisingly an instant and massive success in France and picked up great box office figures all over Europe. Just one glance at the queue to meet the characters Rémy and Emile in Toon Studio — which regularly outnumbers that for even Mickey Mouse next door — shows the popularity of this film with guests here.


Another, mostly ignored, type of expansion could be something aimed at younger children. Way back at the end of 2003, then-CEO André Lacroix announced a “playground” for the Studios at the same time as The Legend of the Lion King. The new Videopolis show began the next year, but what of the playground? Currently, the park has only Flying Carpets and Cars aimed squarely at this audience, with mega-hit Crush’s Coaster taking itself out of the market — and upsetting some younger Nemo fans — with its 1.04m height restriction and reasonably intense thrill. This is definitely an area to watch.

Finally, what about an import? The Studios has an incredibly low number of “clone” attractions and its first expansion phase didn’t do much to change that, with both Crush and Cars Imagineered exclusively for the park. The most likely important would be Toy Story Midway Mania, the 4D carnival games dark ride which sees you ride past giant 3D screens armed with an interactive cannon to score points. Whilst the attraction, developed at the same time for both California and Florida, has opened well at both parks, it doesn’t seem like a strong contender for Paris.

A similar attraction, the upcoming Monsters, Inc. Ride & Seek dark ride for Tokyo Disneyland’s Tomorrowland also seems unlikely, with no rumours suggesting its consideration for Paris. Indeed, since Bob Iger took over The Walt Disney Company and executives such as John Lasseter from Pixar came over to Imagineering, the focus seems to be more on unique experiences for each park, with only attractions such as Midway Mania appearing in two locations when developed at the same time.


The reports of balloon height tests from Grandmath throws some question to all the existing rumours for Phase 3, however — even the Ratatouille attraction. A building attached to the ImagiNations Costuming building, pushing out onto the Studio Tram Tour route, almost as tall as Crush’s Coaster?

Just like the spinning Maurer Sohne coaster (with whom Disney had never worked before), the attraction themed to an almost unreleased film (Cars began construction before the film was in cinemas) and the extra little Toon Town gate of the park’s second phase, expect a few surprises… and even more Walt Disney Studios Park exclusives.

[Photos: DLRP Today; Google Maps]

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