The “sixtieth” attraction at Disneyland Paris, by official count, sees its Grand Opening for the press this weekend in Marne-la-Vallée. And Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy means a lot more to Disney’s European resort than most of those other 59 attractions.
From the size of the investment to the location inside Disney’s least popular theme park, it’d be easy to think of 60 reasons why this is a really big deal.
But, since there are things to prepare and time’s running out, here are just Six Big Reasons Why Ratatouille Matters…
Space Mountain: De la Terre à la Lune will forever be the addition Disneyland Paris fans regard as the one. Opening in 1995, it arguably saved the resort from financial meltdown — well, until its next restructuring — and provided a big, new version of a Disney classic which Parisian fans could say was all their own. But as a wild thrill ride with height restrictions it wasn’t for everyone and, since the bigger Discovery Mountain project was scrapped, it didn’t have a restaurant or much else to explore around the circular mountain.
In that sense, and even taking the roughly ten new attractions Walt Disney Studios Park brought in 2002, Disneyland Paris has simply never built such a complete and well-rounded expansion. One that everyone can ride, one that has all the necessary theme park infrastructure — dining, shopping, toilets — built in. This is how it should be done.
Since Le Visionarium in Discoveryland saw its all-too-early demise, Disneyland Paris has been lacking a certain French-ness in its parks. That fantastical Circle Vision 360 film was a gem, a real love letter to France; it helped to ground the park and helped the park — and its visitors — relate to its location.
Now, over in Walt Disney Studios Park, visitors can feel like they’re in Paris without ever stepping foot on the RER train to take them into the city.
It might seem mad to build Paris in Paris, but — ah! — this isn’t just any City of Light, it clearly has enough whimsy and “Hidden Rémys” to make it its own place.
This works two ways: it gives the park something very French, which foreign visitors will love, and it gives the park something very French, which the French will love.
Unmistakably connected with Disneyland Paris, it will put the resort on the map both for Disney fans and the general public in a way not seen since Space Mountain in the ’90s.
The Studios’ first and only E-Ticket expansion to date, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, was a huge deal at the time and helped give to the park a focal point a feeling of much-needed atmosphere. But coming almost four years after the exact same version of the ride was built in California, and that a full ten years after the Florida original, there wasn’t much new or fresh to actually be excited about. Construction was more about waiting for the next thing, not waiting to see what’s next.
With trackless vehicles, huge 3D projections, plus physical scenery and physical effects, Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy is a comparatively unknown mélange like nothing seen in any other Disney park, on a scale to be truly excited about, and there are no plans as yet to reproduce it around the world.
It’d be absolutely right to hesitate to say that Walt Disney Studios Park is now a “full-day park”, but with an extra must-do attraction and a table service restaurant, it is almost getting to the point where you would struggle to do everything in a day.
Combined with Disneyland Park, this could begin to tip the balance towards three days in the parks becoming more of a standard at Disneyland Paris, at least for first-time visitors. That’s good for the parks, good for the hotels, good for everything.
After Disney California Adventure, Disney seems to have rediscovered the motto that “investment pays” — let’s please have that apply to Paris, too.
Indeed, more so than any expansion of the park yet, Ratatouille should encourage more visitors to hop to the Studios in the first place — and to hop back again. More visitors in the park could mean more much-needed investment — or at least you’d hope so, because…
There might be a lot of talk this weekend and further ahead of Walt Disney Studios Park “coming of age” or “being fixed”. Let’s be clear: this relatively tiny pocket of pure, proper Disney theme park magic is still just that.
The original Animation Courtyard still lacks anything to write home about, and Backlot is positively bleak. The park is still just a collection of generally very good but largely disparate attractions, lacking any Disney glue — or even enough money-making restaurants and shops — between them.
What this new Ratatouille mini-land does do, however, with its intricate sets, endless hidden nods and spectacular fountain, is set the benchmark: for a type of immersion in storytelling which should be standard, but has still yet to be seen across the park. Toy Story Playland actually did immersion quite well, but not so much the quality of its attractions.
Even Hollywood Boulevard which surrounds The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a beautiful area of the park for almost seven years, lacks any kind of real immersion the second you turn to see the flat Hollywood Hills backdrop or the unrestricted views to the rest of the original backlot-inspired park. Could it finally be completed now?
Now there’s Place de Rémy, there’s no excuse. From Animagique to Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic to Armageddon: Les Effets Speciaux, Ratatouille will prove, somewhat painfully, just how under-performing the rest of the park is — both in how it looks, how it works and how it makes money. And that has to mean major changes.
Star Wars Land? Marvel Studios? Animagique 2?! As one new attraction opens, it seems Disneyland Paris always becomes awash with rumour about what’s next. But right now, we just don’t know, and as we’ve seen in a past, these (often very real) plans have a disappointing habit of never making it to reality.
So as Ratatouille: The Adventure prepares to open its doors, enjoy the moment. You never know how long we’ll be waiting for this feeling of simmering excitement again. Savour it.
• Join DLP Today from 11am this Saturday, 21st June for the Inauguration of Place de Rémy, part of our Ratatouille: The Adventure Grand Opening LIVE weekend schedule.