Travel

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

Friday - - Contents -

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

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