Since the first crane rose over the Ratatouille Kitchen Calamity (working title) construction site in April, a second crane has joined the effort to realise this much-anticipated dark ride and restaurant in time for 2014. With the second crane shorter, wider and less colourful than its cousin, it seems only fitting we call the pair, who now tower over both parks from several viewpoints: Rémy and Emile!
Their work so far has remained steadfastly at ground level, preparing the foundations for the vast future showbuilding. Piledriving, which steadies the ground and provides a solid foundation for the actual concrete base to rest on, has now been complete for several weeks. The latest work allows us to see the footprint of the new building at its clearest yet; each portion of the building marked out with solid concrete edges ready for the concrete base to be poured in sections.
Already in the first photo above, taken a couple of weeks ago by DLRP Today.com reader Maarten, you can see how the outline of the new building(s) will match the side of the Cast Member building opposite, creating a “Parisian” square around the future centrepiece fountain. This existing ImagiNations building, currently crudely themed as “Studio 4”, is expected to be dressed in new Parisian façades along its length, as well as possibly hosting the toilets or shop for the area.
Our last update included a video walkthrough of the construction site and pre-existing Ratatouille-themed road, which it turns out we caught just in time: days later, it was closed completely to guests. Wooden boards have been laid over the street cobbles and temporary fences and gates moved outwards to give construction crews more room inside the site itself.
This means Toy Story Playland is currently a dead-end for guests, the Barrel of Monkeys tunnel leading to nothing but an unthemed gate with no hint or tease whatsoever at what’s next.
This week, the future Ratatouille dark ride made another highly visible step forward as a second tower crane began to rise above the Toon Studio construction site. The first, of course, made its mark on 11th April — a valiant effort by the second gate to steal the thunder of its partner a day before the 20th Anniversary events on 12th April 2012. Whether this date was chosen by chance or by reason, it was a fitting way to end one chapter with the beginnings of the next.
So what does a Disneyland Paris fan do, upon arriving at the resort after a long train journey on a blustery, rainy evening like that? Rush straight over to Walt Disney Studios Park, just 15 minutes before the gates closed, and photograph our exciting new landmark from every angle, of course. And then, a month later, actually find the time to post the pictures online.
But here we go, crane fans: over 40 photos and six minutes of video featuring “La Grue Ratatouille” — from Val d’Europe, Toon Studio, Backlot, Frontierland and beyond. This first crane alone was imposing enough on the skyline: this ride may be all about rats, but it won’t be small by any standard.
Drilling for rats? The Ratatouille Kitchen Calamity construction site has seen a new arrival with the start of pile driving for the attraction’s foundations. After clearing and levelling the area, then laying and compacting loose stone, work has now moved to drive in deep foundations for the future showbuilding using a pile driver: the tall, drill-like piece of machinery seen above. This moves around the site, planting supports in the ground at intervals to provide a solid base for the new building.
Also visible on the construction site, seen in these photos by the ParisCastMember blog, are several large steel “screws”, a shipping container and large pieces of wire frame. Not quite the usual recipe for a ratatouille, then. Costuming workshop Cast Members in the “Imaginations” building to the right now have an unimpeded view over the large construction site for the dark ride, thanks to the removal of the adjoining wall and awning which used to be part of Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic.
But the views are easy to obtain for guests and fans, too: as well as aerial sightings from Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, a temporary gate, lower than the hoardings, has been installed in the blue construction walls here (below the camera), next to Toy Story Playland. Though intended to provide a temporary evacuation route, it would be more than welcome if this stayed in place throughout the construction, to allow visitors to easily catch a glimpse of the future — and a reason to return.
The article by Mathilde Visseyrias, which remains unchanged online, cites the Euro Disney group CEO as announcing that €150 million in credit agreed by lenders would be used “pour construire deux nouvelles attractions”. One likely explanation for the error could be that Mr Gas actually said a more vague corporate line of “de nouvelles attractions”, simply “new attractions”.
As Mouetto also points out, this isn’t the only error from this Figaro journalist regarding Disneyland Paris. A separate article also published on Tuesday states Philippe Gas as having been CEO since 1998, rather than 2008. Ironically, Visseyrias headlined the original interview as “Disneyland Paris ‘has learned from its mistakes'”.
So, yes… Happy birthday, Walt Disney Studios Park! While this confirmation couldn’t be timed worse, let’s try not to be too disappointed about an extra attraction which was never there to begin with. Ratatouille is still very much “on” for 2014, bringing with it the equally welcome trio of a full-size restaurant, toilets and possibly a new shop. And with the €150 million cited — which thanks to earlier announcements, we can confirm isn’t a mistake — that means one huge pot of cash to make Rémy’s world-exclusive ride something even Brad Bird calls “really cool”.
And those suggestions we shared for where the park could find a second new attraction: don’t forget those. They might just require a little more patience. It’s frustrating, because this extra-attraction-that-never-was could have been a great opportunity to tick one off the list early, improving at the same time as expanding the Studios. Investments such as Toy Story Playland have bulked up the attraction (and visitor) count but failed to add up to a more consistent, cohesive park. It largely remains a collection of top quality Disney attractions without the strong Disney glue between them. Merely sticking extra pieces on, however big-budget, won’t solve the overall production problems.
Asked as a final question “What will you do to avoid the park reaching saturation?”, he comments:
Knowing that a customer is satisfied when they can see at least six attractions in a day, we estimate our maximum capacity to be 17 million visitors annually. So we still have room for improvement, but we must grow. In January, our banks have given us 150 million euros in new funding to build two new attractions, which should open in 2014 in our second park, Walt Disney Studios. In 2010, we also obtained the agreement of the State to build a third park. We are looking at it very seriously, even if the decision won’t be made until 2020. We will also build new hotels, restaurants and shops.
Now, presuming Mr Gas doesn’t count the adjoining restaurant or those desperately needed new toilets which should be installed next to Ratatouille, this gives us an odd surplus in the new attraction count for 2014. So what are the possibilities? Again, this could depend on how you define a new attraction, but let’s throw Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic right out there straight away.
We had assumed that €150 million would only just cover Ratatouille itself, so a second attraction would likely be a smaller, less expensive project. We’re not expecting a Soarin’ here just yet. So presuming CinéMagique is safe and Aerosmith still have a few years left in them yet, the only likely replacements for existing attractions are Armageddon: Les Effets Speciaux and Animagique.
Armageddon suffers with its poor throughput and even poorer pre-show; having been the focus of a previous replacement proposal, to build a Chronicles of Narnia-based attraction in its place, could its time finally be up? Recent rumours have suggested that the licence to the 1998 Jerry Bruckheimer film itself could soon run out, further fuelling the desire for a replacement. With the more neutral Backlot location, this could be the perfect opportunity to introduce Disney’s recently-acquired Marvel characters to the parks, although the building’s small size would certainly be restrictive. It might not be the easiest way to add capacity to the park, as Philippe Gas desires.
Meanwhile, the live Animagique blacklight puppetry show in Toon Studio will be approaching its twelfth birthday in 2014. Popular though it is, that’s a long time for a live show, and considering the huge 1,100-seat capacity of Studio 3, the show provides the park with relatively little capacity. Finally going ahead with a long-mooted replacement by a certain 3-D film such as, ooh, Mickey’s Philharmagic would boost capacity in this part of the park enormously — and that’s precisely what Philippe Gas seems concerned about here, making it a very strong possibility.
Due to the live puppeteers involved, Animagique stages only around five shows per day in the vast auditorium, whereas a 12-minute projected film show such as Philharmagic is able to play continuously from park opening right to closing time; cycling through audiences every 20 minutes or so, and with lower operational costs to boot. The pair are practically cousins, conceived around the same time and both seeing Donald Duck getting lost in a series of classic musical scenes. But with 3-D films becoming passé again and Philharmagic due to be nearing 11 years old in 2014, could it still be viable as a new attraction? A belated opening at Tokyo Disneyland just last year suggests it certainly is.
As you can see, while two new attractions in one year may be a surplus, there’s still no shortage of possibilities in Walt Disney Studios Park to use that valuable credit on. Watch this space…
Most recently credited for a turn to live action with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Brad still finds the time to reply to messages from his 25,000 followers on Twitter. One of today’s replies saw him pick up a question from @CreativeAlan, who shared the photo above and asked: “Are you excited about the Ratatouille dark ride currently under construction in Paris?”
Bird’s reply? Simply: “Very. It’s going to be really cool.”
Trees have been cleared, the old Pearl Harbor hangar removed and the roof over the former Studio Tram Tour route alongside the costuming building torn down. A large rectangle where the bulk of the future showbuilding will sit in 2014 has been levelled and covered with what appears to be loose stone, to be compacted, forming the start of the building’s foundations. The large concrete-walled “soundstage” of Crush’s Coaster looked similar at the same point in its early construction.
In the distance, we can also see the redirected route of the tram tour, which has now reopened, lined by darker green construction walls. The earlier route, nearer the camera, will apparently be used for construction vehicles to access the site without disrupting normal park operations.
An unsurprising move is the removal of the awning along the side of the “Imaginations” Cast Member building, caught in this series of photos by Disney Central Plaza’s Mouetto. This was where, from 2002 to early 2009, our studio trams would drive up alongside the building allowing us to get a glimpse inside at the “real working costuming studio”. Reflecting the ethos of the original park this, of course, was not a real film studio costuming workshop but that for the entertainment Cast Members of the resort itself. Now perhaps symbolically, as the park stumbles towards a redefined identity, it is falling to make way for our new Pixar hero.
Elsewhere, changes are more unexpected. Given the effort Walt Disney Imagineering went to providing a ready-and-waiting Parisian street next to Toy Story Playland, and that they had already moved the Studio Tram Tour route for that very expansion, you might be surprised that the road is in the process of moving again. While the 2009 re-route gave plenty of room for the Ratatouille showbuilding, this new road, pushed ever further back, will allow construction vehicles easier access to the site.
A mysterious stone foundation could be seen disappearing into the trees in our previous update. Now the road looks laid and almost ready to open. The attraction is scheduled to re-open as soon as this Saturday. And yet still, the Dinotopia “set” remains…
Mouetto has also shared photos of the vacant corner in front of the Costuming building, where it is expected the attraction’s associated toilets will be built. And, from the elevated viewpoint of Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, another element of the original Tram Tour already (or, at last) taken away to Euro Souvenirland: the green Pearl Harbor aircraft hangar.
The fact that much-needed toilets could be built here without eating into the operational Costuming workshop might add meat to the rumour that the attraction’s gift shop, rumoured to go into this existing building, won’t be ready at opening. Nevertheless, all this side of the hastily-christened “Studio 4” is still to be hidden, somehow, behind a new series of Parisian façades.
Soon we’ll all be able to feel a little less guilty about visiting Paris without actually visiting Paris…
What’s the one thing Walt Disney Studios Park needs more than a dark ride? This: a new restaurant! While the initial planning notice for the Ratatouille dark ride only noted a project known as “Toon Studio D”, this new full-blown Marne-la-Vallée construction notice, spotted by Mouetto of Disney Central Plaza, confirms that both an attraction and a new restaurant are on their way to the park. For the Studios, this is a big deal: the park only has three true restaurants to its 17 attractions, even including the minuscule Café des Cascadeurs. This will also be the first real dining location in the whole of Toon Studio — the park’s largest land, taking up the whole of its right side.
Don’t let the French theme lead you to expect a traditional Bistro de Paris-type dining experience here, though. As we teased earlier this month, we’re more likely in fact to be dining in a giant-sized version of Rémy’s rat restaurant, perhaps on the first floor of the new showbuilding’s frontage. This would allow Imagineering to create something truly unique and fun with the theme — after all, if you want a traditional, stuffy Parisian restaurant, there are plenty just a short RER ride away.
Surprisingly, with the restaurant confirmed, there is now some doubt whether the plan for a boutique adjoining this “Kitchen Calamity” will see reality, or if it could be built as a later phase. This was rumoured to be built in the workshop of the existing Imaginations (Costuming) backstage building, bordering the construction site. Hopefully sense will prevail because, if there’s one thing the park needs more than a dark ride or a restaurant… well, you get the idea.
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!
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