It’s fast, it’s 4D, is rumoured to have cost $270 million and was created by the people behind the Oscar-winning film Ratatouille. Friday editor Karen Pasquali Jones joins the rat race trying out the latest ride at Disneyland Paris
Escape the rat race on Disneyland’s new Ratatouille 4D ride.
A six-metre-long fish dangles from the pantry roof, a pungent odour of cooking making my nostrils twitch. Shivering, I pull my jacket tighter around me, trying to ignore the dozens of shiny rats’ eyes blinking in the gloom. But they aren’t the enemy – they are hiding, like me, from the fury of Chef Skinner, the villain in the Oscar-winning Disney Pixar film
Ratatouille that has now been turned into a 4D attraction at Walt Disney Studios Park in Disneyland Paris.
Costing a rumoured $270 million, Ratatouille the Adventure has been five years in the making, basically because the technology didn’t exist for the ride, based on Remy, the star of the animated movie who wants to become a renowned French chef. The ride is in a corner of the theme park’s Toon Studio, which has been turned into Remy’s Paris – there’s the ride, his 370-seater restaurant, and a shop, selling Ratatouille merchandise. La Place de Remy is all too familiar, transported magically from the movie into bricks and mortar, with pretty tinkling fountains and hand-tended gardens.
But the real magic starts on the way into the ride, where we’re handed 3D glasses, ‘shrunk’ to the size of rats, and then become an integral part of the action as animation, electronics and imagination collide. Transporting riders across Parisian rooftops, there’s a heart- stopping drop through the skylight of legendary chef Gusteau’s restaurant as we follow Remy in an entirely new story, created by Brad Bird, the writer and director of the 2007 hit.
Disney and Pixar worked together to create ‘wrap around 3D’, trackless ‘rat mobiles’, and 4D sensory experiences to make the 60th ride at Europe’s number one tourist attraction the most technologically advanced yet. (Last year 14.9 million visitors passed through the French theme park, which is twice as many as went to the Eiffel Tower, and Disney bosses are expecting a big return on their Ratatouille investment.)
We’re one of the first families invited to try the ride and race to be at the front of the queue after the ribbon is cut at a VIP-studded inaugural ceremony.
Laughing, we grab our glasses, jump on board a rat mobile, and vanish across rooftops towards the restaurant. Hurtling along, we’re at the heart of the story, seeing it from a rodent’s point of view as Remy tries to escape the clutches of the diminutive but intimidating chef Skinner. “Look
Mamma, they’re bigger than us,” my six-year-old daughter says, pointing to the band of furry, giant rodents surrounding us in the food locker.
“Oh rats, honey,” I murmur, nudging my husband Alex. “We’ve shrunk the kids.” But he’s too engrossed in the ride, ducking from the (very real) heat as we scuttle under a giant oven, gasping as we’re sprayed with water from a mob, and wrinkling his nose as smells of cooking waft towards us.
We all shriek as a giant hand suddenly tries to grab us but we manage to dodge it and speed away, under tables, through waiters’ feet, until we find ourselves – breathless, but safe – back on the rooftops overlooking the French capital’s unique Haussmannian architecture.
“That was brilliant,” grins my 11-yearold son. “Can we go again?” I look at the smiles on the faces of my husband and kids and nod. We duck into the very next rat mobile and into a new adventure – scores of different stories and scenarios were filmed so the ride changes every time. “It was even better second time around,” everyone decides afterwards, but all this excitement – and talk of food – has left me hungry.
Luckily Bistrot Chez Remy is next door. It’s a fine-dining-style restaurant based on the one from the film, where everything is larger than life and Remy’s favourite dishes are on the menu. “I love this sesame oil dressing,” I say, tucking into a crispy salad, while the children try steaks – cooked rare to medium, just how chef Remy recommends – with pomme frites and declare them ‘très bien.’ My husband dines on ratatouille – what else? – polishing off the lot, and then eyes up the trio of desserts while I have a cheese platter with crackers and baguette.
It’s a world away from theme park food, and worthy of the months of hard work that went into perfecting every dish, to make sure it was up to Remy and the harshest food critic’s review, just like in the movie.
Stuffed, and still smiling from our earlier crazy culinary adventure, we’re ready to explore the rest of the studio and the neighbouring Disneyland Park.
So we head off, through Toy Story Playland – trying to ignore the shrieks from RC Racer and dodge the queues for Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin and Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop in Toon Studios – past the Finding Nemo- inspired and frankly stomach-churning Crush’s Coaster (it rotates so sometimes you’re flung up and down a vertiginous track backwards – need I say more?) to ride on the quaintly retro dodgems-style
Cars ride, and into the park next door. Pausing to take pictures in Main Street USA – with a view straight down to Sleeping Beauty’s pretty pink castle
– we glance warily at the grey clouds overhead.
We were here for three days, so there was enough time to check out our favourite rides – Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, It’s a Small World, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant along with undiscovered ones such as Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups – whatever the weather.
We’ve been going to Disneyland Paris since our son was a baby, but we’ve never taken our little girl before. “I want to see Mickey Mouse and Minnie,” she says. “And Anna and Elsa from Frozen. Oh, and Belle, Cinderella, Snow White and Aurora from Sleeping Beauty.”
My tween son, meanwhile, was desperate to check out all the thrills and spills the parks had to offer – Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril – while he balks at Space Mountain. “I’m not going on that unless you do,” he says, knowing I’d never be brave enough.
But I am up for a roller coaster and so we head to Big Thunder Mountain, a runaway train ride on a wooden track, for all the family. “I want to sit in the front with Daddy,” my little girl demands, and promptly regrets it as we plunge into darkness while hurtling down the mountain at full speed. “I want to get off,” she yells until we emerge into the sunlight and she realises it is fun to career down the tracks and whistle round the corners.
“That was fun,” she grins at the end, and so I decide she is brave enough to tackle the Phantom Manor.
“There’s nothing scary about this,” she says as we step into a Victorian living room with portraits on the wall. The door closes behind us and the floor begins to sink. Further and further we descend until the portraits have transformed into grisly, gruesome pictures to terrify even the hardiest of adults, and my daughter hides her face in my skirt.
Inside the gloomy house, we’re told the story of a bride whose groom failed to show up for their wedding. Grief-stricken, she roamed the house for years in her wedding dress and veil, sobbing, until she died. “That’s so sad,” my daughter says, while my son rolls his eyes, declaring the lovesick bride story ‘lame.’ He soon changes his mind when we see ghosts dancing before our very eyes and the skeleton of the jilted bride, still in all her bridal attire, jumps out of the darkness to scare us.
Giggling nervously, we emerge from the gloom, eager to try something more upbeat – and are relieved to hear it is time for the Disney Magic on Parade.
Clapping along to the well-known songs, we wave to a procession of loved
characters from The Lion King, Jungle Book, The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo,
Snow White, Toy Story, and Frozen, now the highest grossing animated movie of all time.
And then, as the clouds open, we dash to our hotel, the beautiful Disneyland Hotel at the park entrance. It’s pink, has a shop that sells the Anna and Elsa dolls from Frozen that my little girl so wants, and comes with extra hours in the park and a lift direct to the entrance.
Micky, Minnie, Pinocchio and a host of other Disney characters join us for dinner, and we fall asleep in our Castle Club suite early, ready for the next day.
After a help-yourself buffet breakfast with Mickey, we head out again, this time with Elma, our VIP tour guide. She’s Dutch, and can speak seven languages, seems like a modern-day Mary Poppins, and most importantly can show us around, take us to the rides we want to discover and lead us straight to the front of the queue on every ride with Fastpass – and to the
exit of ones that don’t have it. Most of the big rides have Fastpass, where you can take a ticket for a designated time to bypass the queues, but Elma is our ticket to queueless fun.
“Where would you like to go first?” she asks as our children rattle off a list. Driving the 50s-style cars at Autopia? No problem – we’re on the track in a jiffy. Blasting aliens on Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast? Let’s go! She leads us straight to the front of the snaking line. Peter Pan… Pirates of the Caribbean… – we’re on and off before you can say VIP Fastpass. And then, as we’ve done so many in such a short time, she introduces us to rides we’ve missed in the past – Disneyland Railroad, a cute little train ride that banks around corners and whistles into the station, and Le Pays des Contes de Fées, a
In Phantom Manor, ghosts dance before us and the skeleton of a jilted bride jumps out of the dark
gentle boat ride that stops to let us on and serenely sails us past what look like fairy homes and pixie dwellings, as well as little buildings and entire villages inspired by Disney classics.
The day rushes by in a blur of rides. “I’ll drop you here and see you in an hour and a half,” Elma smiles, taking us to the door of the Auberge de Cendrillon restaurant. Inside we’re greeted by Cinderella and Prince Charming and the kids dine on roast chicken with potato dauphinoise, while a procession of princesses come to meet us. My little girl is overawed. Luckily she’s worn her Anna costume, and learns how to hold the edges of her skirt up ‘just like a princess’ when she poses for photographs with Snow White, Belle, and Aurora.
After dinner Elma reappears and wants to whisk us off to watch Disney Dreams, a show at the end of each day featuring lasers and water jets, but our little girl is falling asleep. “Have a magical sleep,” Elma whispers, and we’re sorry to see her go. Not only has she been our guide, but she’s quickly become a friend too, and a firm favourite with our daughter.
“I want Elma,” she insists the next morning after another character breakfast. I explain she’s no doubt busy with another family today, and that we only have time for a couple of rides before it’s time to leave. I thought our son would ask to go on the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, or The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I was sure Anais would demand a personal meeting with the characters from Frozen or at least to ride in the parade with Mickey and Minnie. But they both wanted the same thing – one more ride on Ratatouille the Adventure.
“Time to join the Rat Pack,” I think, heading off back to La Place de Remy. It’s pure thrills and spills for all the family. No cheesiness in sight.
A Ratatouille- based ride, restaurant and shop make up La Place de Remy
The opening ceremony of the Ratatouille adventure
Wheel thrills on a ride inspired by the movie Cars
Crush’s Coaster is not for the faint-hearted
Oh rats! I’ve shrunk the kids, honey!
Plunge down the Big Thunder Mountain for some thundering fun
Save the universe at Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast
There’s magic all around at the Disney Parade
Anais with Mickey in Disneyland Hotel at dinner time