Friday, 3rd August 2007

Ratatouille infests cinemas, nibbles on tasty tie-ins

Since around the release of Chicken Little in 2005, Disneyland Resort Paris finally got back into some good cross-promotion with Disney’s movie releases. No doubt many fans’ earliest memories of “EuroDisney” come from the countless advertisements placed before films on Disney’s VHS releases of the early ’90s, and now a whole new generation is discovering the resort at its 15th Anniversary with Pixar’s latest smash-hit CGI tale.

Ratatouille is, according to Disney, “the best reviewed film of the Summer”. That’s not just marketing talk – on reviews database Rotten Tomatoes, it currently counts 158 positive reviews against just 6 negative, giving an overall score of 96% fresh and right up there with the best of Pixar’s greats.

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“The characters are irresistible, the animation is astonishing and the film, a fantasy version of a foodie rhapsody, sustains a level of joyous invention that hasn’t been seen in family entertainment since The Incredibles,” says the Wall Street Journal.

“In this Michelin-starred confection, Brad Bird deserves an Oscar,” raves The Observer. Luckily for Disney (and the $ 7.4 billion hole in their pocket), it appears the studio may never make a bad film.

We know the two lead characters – Rémy and Émile – have been frequenting Toon Studio since late June, and now Disneyland Resort Paris have cooked up some promotion to make the most of the characters — afterall, where else on this continent can you meet the Pixar stars? No doubt the film’s location of a glowing, saccharine Paris will also play well to draw more eyes to the Disneyland just a few miles East…

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On the official website, you can now find a special page with a surprising amount of photos (something Crush’s Coaster and Cars Race Rally still lack) showing the furry pair of rats in front of their new photo location in Toon Studio. Of the international websites for the Ratatouille movie itself, the Dutch and English versions provide partner links to this page on Disneylandparis.com, as has been the case for recent releases such as Cars. The Dutch link, however, is unfortunately presenting a page error. Still, it’s an effort.

The characters themselves, despite being completely Pixar-produced, are 100% Disney. This is actually the first time Pixar have produced furry, hugable animal characters, and no doubt these two will be around for years to come…

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What other treats, beyond a hug from Rémy and Émile? Well, if you’re a Shareholder or an Annual Passport Dream holder, you’re invited to a special, free screening of the film in Walt Disney Studios Park‘s CinéMagique theatre!

As has become the norm for every big animated Disney release, the park’s Disney Studio 2 will opens its doors after-hours for a private screening of the new film. The Annual Passport Dream showing takes place on 25th August 2007, though no doubt this will come as news to almost every passholder unless they’ve stopped by the Bureau Passeport Annuel recently and spotted the form. Apparently you’re not alone if you never received any notification via email or through the post.

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Registration closes on 6th August, so if you’d like to fill one of the limited spaces available for the single screening (the theatre’s capacity is 1,100), you’d better… well, we’re not sure. They don’t seem to want anyone to go. The only spotting of the registration form is thanks to a member on Disney Central Plaza.

More successful, as always, is the Shareholders Club. Here you’ll find a proper online sign-up (click here) ready and waiting for your membership details and seat reservation for one of two screenings — Saturday 8th September 2007 or Sunday 9th September 2007, both beginning at 7pm. However, unlike several film screenings in the past, Ratatouille will be presented exclusively in French.

“We invite you to improve your French thanks to a screening in French version only (without any subtitles),” they boast. Well then, throw away your phrasebook!

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Ratatouille is now showing in cinemas across France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Austria since today. After a little time to mature, the fine French delicacy à la Pixar will arrive in Germany on 3rd October and the UK on 12th October.

Images © Disney/Pixar; by Photos Magiques and by Minnie Mouse on DCP.

Thursday, 21st June 2007

Toon Studio Press Event: Ratatouille characters preview

It’s a rare and special event in the world of Disney parks, when a brand new pair of characters joins the meet ‘n’ greet schedule for the release of a new Walt Disney animated feature. The last time we saw such an event was way back in late 2005 with the release of Disney’s own Chicken Little. All cogs in the great synergy and marketing machine of The Walt Disney Company, for sure, but nobody is going to turn down the chance to meet a new Disney star, especially a Pixar creation – even when they’re rats!

First, meet Rémy. He’s the star of Ratatouille, the budding chef who isn’t content with eating garbage like his sewer system family. He has dreams and aspirations… and, after being caught by a untalented kitchen hand Linguini, cooking up a soup which goes on to be served to a delighted food critic, he must share his knowledge to create the greatest chef in all of Paris – without anyone even knowing of his work.

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Rémy / Emile in their Pixar CG designs

The second character to be taken from CGI to reality is Emile, Rémy’s best friend and familiar from the film’s teaser trailers as the tubby brown rat who doesn’t particularly care what he eats, so long as it fills him up. No doubt when the film is released (initial US release due 29th June), we’ll find out even more about these two new furry faces.

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Rémy & Emile debut at the inauguration ceremony / Fun and games at the Toon Town gate

Since opening in 2002, all of the new Disney characters have immediately arrived in Walt Disney Studios Park, from Monsters Inc and Treasure Planet to Narnia and Chicken Little. Rémy and Emile were given their first step into the spotlight during the inauguration ceremony earlier during the press event, before arriving on-stage at the Toon Town gate later, and fighting between themselves for the waiting cameras.

The plaza around the Toon Town gate of course features two dedicated photo locations for character meets, but guests attending the press event who’d already visited the park would have been surprised to see two brand new backdrops installed just for this event. Mickey’s Toon Town House, on the right of the gate, was replaced by a Toon Studio production stage setting, whilst especially for the arrival of Rémy and Emile, The Incredibles’ rather plain logo backdrop was replaced with a stunning view over Pixar’s glowing CGI recreation of Paris.

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Emile poses in front of Pixar’s grand Paris backdrop / Up-close with Rémy, in perfect rat pose

The following day, however, guests would need to jump on the RER for 40 minutes to experience a view like this. Both backdrops had been reverted to their original designs, with no sight of Rémy or Emile making appearances, despite the heavy Ratatouille advertising introduced around the park. If you like the look of this rodent pair, however, don’t be too worried – the film isn’t due out in France for over a month, so it’s likely Rémy and Emile will be fully introduced at the next meet ‘n’ greet schedule shake-up in a couple of weeks.

The quick change of the photo location backdrops is also exciting to see for regular guests, showing that these two locations will now become frequently updated as each new Disney film hits cinemas. Perhaps, if Walt Disney Studios ever joins its neighbour in full seasonal events, we’ll see even more special backdrops created in the future.

Disney-Pixar’s Ratatouille is due for release on 1st August 2007 in France, the Netherlands and Belgium, 2nd August 2007 in Austria and 3rd August 2007 in Spain. Then, later in the year, 3rd October 2007 in Germany, 5th October 2007 in the UK and 19th October 2007 in Italy. This creates quite a spread of dates across the key markets of Disneyland Resort Paris – one which is mirrored almost in reverse by Disney’s recent CG hit ‘Meet the Robinsons’.

Already released in March to the UK and most European markets, the film won’t reach the Netherlands until 10th October 2007 and France and Belgium until as late as 17th October 2007. Three characters from this film – Lewis, Wilbur and Bowler Hat Guy are due to begin appearances at Walt Disney Studios Park in the Autumn, following a preview during the press conference of 1st April 2007. Luckily, this will then tie into the DVD release in the earlier markets.

All photos by Photos Magiques; Ratatouille character visuals © Disney-Pixar.

Thursday, 31st May 2007

Toon Studio: Radiator Springs welcomes travellers (Part 3)

Before you do, you’d better check this out –the obligatory warning sign. It’s not wordy and massive like the ones over at Crush’s Coaster, but just simple and cute. Using the same eye-pleasing style as the entrance information sign, there’s two illustrations showing how to and how not to load the vehicles.

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As soon as the vehicles were installed on their turntables back in late February, many a Disney fan eeked in horror at their diminutive size. Is this something everyone can ride? Of course! But only two adults maximum per vehicle, one per row. Otherwise, your unfortunate rookie race vehicle might keel over exactly as shown above!

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Warnings over, onto the ride itself. Moving from the queue building to underneath the canopy of Flo’s V8 Café, you reach six boarding groups with the turqoise control booth in the middle. Each “pen” has its own automatic gate to open onto the ride turntables, and you’re grouped together two car-loads in each pen. When the ride ahead of you has come to an end, the gate opens and you’re free to board…

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If the Imagineers had gone with the original idea of using characters from the film for the vehicles, now would be the time that you’d be thrown to the floor as families dashed to Lightning McQueen and you’re left with stuffy old Doc Hudson. Thankfully, the concept evolved and we’ve got cars in three different colours – red, blue and aqua. Each car style also has its own unique face and slight details which differentiate each “rookie racer” on the Radiator Springs Raceway.

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The’Raceway’ itself has even been given some nice authentic touches, such as tire marks skidding across the sandy-coloured floor. It was always going to be tough trying to recreate a dusty desert landscape with the turntable of a spinning teacups-style ride, but with some squared cracks, dusty markings and those tire tracks it appears authentic enough. Surrounded by the kind of fine ochre rockwork only Imagineering can do to form the “canyon walls” of this sunken ride area, the effect adds up rather nicely.

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Each of the Cars has its own unique licence plate number, but it appears the Imagineers didn’t add any hidden secrets like their own birthdates as we’ve come to expect. Instead, each car has a number in the form “CQR011” (CQR being Cars Quatre Roues, the film’s French title), surrounded by the words Carberetor County. One nice detail for years to come is the date of May 2007 at the top of the licence plate, for the first run of these new vehicles.

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The best thing about these being brand new vehicles rather than ones taken from the film is that the stars of ‘Cars’ can be presented properly, full-size and as close to their real design as possible. We saw Lightning arrive via the Studio Tram Tour route a few weeks ago, and now here they are – Lightning and Mater beaming uncontrollably at riders as they spin out of control around the course.

Their position here will likely cause upset for anyone who wants to get an up-close photo with the characters, but perhaps if we remember their intricate designs meeting the uncaring hands of guests… it suddenly seems like a good idea! The position also allows for a fun addition to the ride – as you spin and swirl, the pair of “best friends” will shout encouragements over to you, Mater in French and Lightning in English. Lightning McQueen at least is not the original voice of Owen Wilson, but it’s unlikely children will notice the difference.

Enough with the words! Climb into your Car…

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…And it’s onto the video, filmed in special Guest-O-Vision camera by Photos Magiques/WDS Fans:

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When the ride finishes, there are two paths to exit, snaking up through cacti and the rough, ochre desert landscape to the viewing area next to the ride. Each features automatic gates at its start and finish, so they’ve no need to be attended by a Cast Member all day.

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The view across the “canyon” towards McQueen and Mater looks like they’ve clicked “copy” on Pixar’s computers and pasted across the best bits of the film’s location into this fairly small space. The thin wire mesh fences — an usual choice for Disney — and the aged trees continue to add to the theme.

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As guests turn this corner into the new Toon Studio area, the sudden rush of theme, complete with large collections of real cacti, will be quite overwhelming compared to the rest of the current park. If they wanted to overwrite some bad memories of the past, however, they’ve done well. This barely seems the same park that brought us the wondrous presenting skills of Disney Channel’s ‘Julie’.

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“Leaving so soon?” The folks of Radiator Springs have a point. Will we ever want to leave this area on our next visit to Walt Disney Studios Park? Of course we’ll have to eventually, but even after the land is officially re-inaugurated in two weeks time there will still be things to return for…

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…Such as that point in October/November when the sun finally sets early enough for us to see Walt Disney Studios Park at its very best – under the cover of darkness! No, that’s not a sly dig at the park’s looks, but an appreciation of its wonderful lighting. And with all those neons, set lighting and the Toon Town backdrop, this should be a second launch of magic for the park’s new land.

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Until then, relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Take life a little easier on Route 66. The welcoming residents of Radiator Springs guarantee you’ll never want to leave.

All photos and video by Photos Magiques.

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