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The success of Disneyland Paris' new Ratatouille ride could hold the key to the future of this theme park

The success of Disneyland Paris' new Ratatouille ride could hold the key to the future of this theme park

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EuroDisney S.C.A. (i.e., the financial company behind Disneyland Resort Paris) has a lot at stake with the opening of its brand-new multimillion attraction, "Ratatouille, l'avventure totalement toque de Remy" (which -- for all of you English-speaking Disney fans out -- translates into "Remy's Totally Crazy Adventure").

It's also worth noting here that the word "toque" in French means both "crazy" but also stands for chef's hat, "the toque."...this is a clever summing up of how crazy the road to this attraction has been for Disneyland Paris management and how much "ego" is also at play here.

As all Disneyland Paris watchers know, when Walt Disney Studios Park opened on the 16th of March 2002, it had only 9 attractions and very weak theming. Though the Front Lot was and is still regarded by some as stunning, once Guests exit Studio 1 - WDS' covered version of Main Street, U.S.A. -- it was a commonly acknowledged joke that (given the way the Partners statue was positioned in the main plaza of Walt Disney Studios Park) even Walt was pointing the way out of this theme park.

Walt Disney Studios was the last of a large expansion phase which gave Walt Disney World its fourth gate (i.e, Disney's Animal Kingdom. Which has amazing theming but a low ride count), a second gate for the Disneyland Resort (i.e., Disney's California Adventure theme park. And we all know how the original version of that project turned out), Tokyo Disney SEAS at the Tokyo Disney Resort (TDS is what many consider to be WDI's modern masterpiece) and a second gate for Disneyland Paris (which was originally supposed to have been called "Disney-MGM Studios Europe").

The low attendance of Walt Disney Studios (less then 3 million guests in its first full year ) brought EuroDisney SCA back to its 1992-1996 "doom days" when the entire DLP resort struggled & had to make drastic cuts to its operation line up and investments. This theme park simply wasn't compelling people to stay on property that extra night which would have then increased not only ticket sales but also improved this resort's restaurant revenues and hotel bottom lines.

Disney Paris management quickly followed the Anaheim formula and decided to clone the Tower of Terror ride into the park - this was to be seen as a similar move to what was done in 1995 with the opening of "Space Mountain" in Disneyland Park next door; a heavy investment attraction which was to be a game changer for the park and with high marketing potential in Europe (no other European park had such a highly themed thrill ride).

Along with the Tower came the "Toon Studios" area; with two Pixar themed rides; the fun and thrilling "Crush's Coaster" (a spinning coaster-in-the-dark themed around the East Australian Current scene from "Finding Nemo") as well as a "Cars Race Rally" Cars themed spinner ride.

These new rides allowed the park to establish itself as a close-to-full day park; still closing at 6 p.m. in winter and 7 p.m. in summer (but the park is often used for business or sponsor special events in Studio 1) but still dragging in no more then 5.6 million Guests a year; thus being the Cinderella of the Disney Parks & Resorts.

Walt Disney Company management finally decided to solve its "Paris problem" once & for all by dropped three large "gifts" onto the Resort.

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  • the amazing "Disney DREAMS" nighttime show in 2012 for Disneyland Paris' 20th anniversary
  • it then paid back 1.5 billion Euros of debt the company had owed the banks & lenders (out of 2.3 billion) and opened up a large play area, "Toy Story Playland" in the Walt Disney Studios to up that theme's ride count as well as increase its overall kid-friendliness.

And this is where our story gets interesting.

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You see back in 2011 during the Toy Story Playland previews guests got an amazing teaser of what Imagineering really wanted to do with the area in the future. Which was open up an amazing Paris street with a Ratatouille-based restaurant and ride.

During those annual passport & shareholder previews of Toy Story Playland, Guests exited the area through a blue "barrel of fun" which -- on the other side -- was an archway. And on top of this archway -- for a short few days, anyway -- Guests would find a huge statue of Auguste Gusteau, the chef from "Ratatouille." And as they walked down this faux Parisian street, Guests would find highly-themed benches with little chef Remys hidden in their iron work. Which was a lot of theming & testing for an area which hadn't even been greenlit yet.

You see, Tom Fitzgerald -- Executive Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering (More importantly, the man who was in charge of the Disneyland Paris portfolio) -- had delegated Tracy Eck (WDI's operations head for Paris) to have everything ready so that management could immediately greenlight this cartoonish Paris-based area.

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Imagineers knew that the Walt Disney Studios needed something which could be sold to the French as "theirs" and yet familiar with the Europeans. Tom also knew that the Studios lacked a true "themed area," one of those truly immersive place-making areas which Imagineering was famous for. Fitzgerald's team also knew that the Studios park didn't have a truly unique restaurant. Even worse, there was no proper sit-down restaurant (a must for a theme park which wants to become a full-day destination).

It therefore was an obvious choice to create a highly themed area, based on a truly French character who could then give this theme park a must-see attraction and -- at the same time -- justify the construction of a fully functional sit-down restaurant.

Unfortunately, Disneyland Paris management couldn't see its way clear to greenlighting construction of this new area until the Walt Disney Company waved that 1.5 Billion Euros (The Banks, up until then, had a very strong say when it came how money was spent at that Park and didn't want to greenlight such a costly 150 million Euro reinvestment in the property).

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The wait though proved to be positive for Tom & Tracy and their team as it allowed some rethinking of the ride system and show. When DLP Guests finally venture into those Paris-themed show buidings which house the ride they will board the result of 13 years of tweaking the most amazing ride vehicle Imagineering has ever designed. "Ratatouille, l'avventure totalement toque de Remy" uses a NextGen of Tokyo Disneyland's "Pooh's Hunny Hunt" trackless ride vehicles (which debuted at that theme park back in 2001).

As they come through the queue, Guests will be shrunk down to the size of a rat and then invited by Remy to come along with his friends (which are rat-shaped ride vehicles) to travel along the rooftops of Paris and then down into the kitchen where Chef Gusteau once worked and where Chef Skinner now rules the roost.

And to really sell the idea that the Guests are now rat-sized, everyone will be issued a set of 3D glasses before they board that rat-shaped ride vehicle. And the combination of huge physical sets of kitchen tools & refrigerators and giant 3D screens showing Skinner & Liguini striding around this immense kitchen ... Well, the end result is a NextGen combination of Universal's "The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man" & "Transformers : The Ride - 3D" with Disney's "Pooh's Hunny Hunt" with a dash of Hong Kong Disneyland's "Mystic Manor" thrown in.

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Once they're out of Chef Skinner's reach, Walt Disney Studios Park Guests will no doubt want to sample the fare at "Bistrot Chez Remy." What makes this new sit-down restaurant fun is that -- as Guests enter the place -- they're still supposed to be the size of rats. Which is why -- as they dine -- these people will be surrounded by huge plates, forks and knives. The menu at Bistrot Chez Remy (which was tested last month at Disneyland Paris's Sequoia Lodge hotel) will offer pres et 3 course menu with the choice of 3 hors d'ouvre, 3 main dishes and 3 desserts (including cheese as dessert) for a fixed price. Which is something that is sure to be appreciated by DLP Guests, especially given Europe's current economic crunch. And -- of course -- this being the "Bistro Chez Remy," there has to be Ratatouille on the menu.

It's important to understand here that Walt Disney Imagineering & Disneyland Paris both have a lot riding on "Ratatouille, l'avventure totalement toque de Remy." The July 10th opening of this Walt Disney Studios Park addition (which comes on the heels of this past weekend's media preview as well as this ride's upcoming annual passport & shareholder preview dates)  (all to get as much word of mouth marketing and publicity for this area as possible) will closely watched by senior Walt Disney Company management. All with the hope that -- should WDSP see a significant uptick in attendance levels over the next six months -- Disney may decide to give this theme park a Disney California Adventure-like makeover. Which would ultimately turn this theme into a full day experience with more themed areas (there's a plan to turn the Backlot into a Marvel-themed area) and a nighttime show (which would mean the construction or a central lake/area to stage this nighttime show on) or to just "Let It Go" when thinking about Paris.

And as for me ... I plan on visiting Bistrot Chez Remy soon and eating some Ratatouille.

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Salut mes amie!

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  • Thank you for this very nice article. I watched many photo's and seen the ride through and it sure looks all very nice. I still wonder if the France will warm up to this real American interpretation of Paris that is just a short train ride away and is to be honest much more impressive and beautiful. Sure this would do wonders in the US but I as someone from The Netherlands and in (sort off) driving distance from France would rather spent my time wandering the streets of Paris then be in this post stamp size recreation. And besides this and the Tower of Terror area the rest of the park looks, tasts and feels cheaper then a Six Flags but without the trills.

    When Disney really want to connect with their European customers they should introduce the edges that where taken off the European stories that Disney took and Americanized. Take Efteling, a few years back they introduced the story of the "girl with the matches". In the end the girl dies from freezing. It's a beautiful story but no rainbows and sparkles.

    Sure Disney Paris is the most visited theme park in Europe but the constant commercials with second day free hotel room, free entrances and discounts shows they are having a hard time to get people to stay let alone to spend money on overpriced mediocre food and souvenirs. Remember Paris, haute cuisine, haute couture and the city of light and love is just a small ride away.

  • The photos and videos do not do the ride justice and cannot because they can't properly convey what it is like to be on the ride itself. It is a very good attraction.

    I drove to Paris and back this weekend in order to spend the majority of 2 days in the parks, the last time I visited Paris itself I was a teenager (now 38) and I have no intention of visiting the actual city any time soon either. I do however have 2 more visits to Disneyland Paris planned for this year. But it isn't trying to "be" Paris, it is a recreation of Pixar's/Ratatouille's Paris and as soon as you look at the details you see that more and more.

    I agree Disney is having problems with getting money in and hotel occupancy; but that is because everyone has worked out its a fraction of the cost to buy an Annual Pass (equivalent of 2 or 3 park days depending on what pass you get) and then stay offsite. No amount of new attractions or different attractions is going to change that. They need to put the cost of the AP up to a point where the ticket deal with staying onsite makes sense and that actually so many people aren't in the park for free because they have already saved the cost of the AP in discounts (which with 10% on food and 20% on merch you can do very easily) and are from that point onwards getting all food and merch at a discounted rate also; and then also staying offsite meaning Disney is making absolute minimal profits out of a large amount of it's guests.

  • Also, while not completely the same thing. The reasoning of proximity between park land and real thing is exactly why WDW didn't open with PotC and the fans didn't seem to care, they just wanted the attraction

  • annual passes are only around 2% of "clicks" into the parks and they usually spend more in the stores than average guests so Disney can afford to give 20% off.  The mark up on most items is 70%.   Disney needs to try and fill it's hotels with free-spending 1st time visitors.  The adverts need to concentrate more on the 2nd park I think.  Even their latest UK advert on you tube where a group of "bad guys" win a trip doesn't include anything in Walt Disney Studios.  TOT, Rock & Crush would have been perfect for this advert.  People know there is a castle and that they can meet Mickey, show the rest of the parks and hotels.  Hopefully Ratatouille will feature heavily in the new TV adverts.   I think in the long term future a indoor waterpark would boost hotel room occupancy and stop people staying off site.

    The ride and area does look really well done and I hope it does pull people into resort.

  • Crush' Coaster is an amazing ride that I only wish could be ported to the US. It may be one of the best roller coasters in the world, in fact, as I have not been on anything in America that resembles it.

  • Crush's Coaster is the same ride in principle as Primeval Whirl at Animal Kingdom, but improved and with better theming.

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