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"Ratatouille" is Coming to Epcot. Here's an In-Depth Taste of This Modern Marvel.

Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a stewed vegetable dish originating in Nice, France, comprised of onions, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, fennel, basil, and sautéed garlic cooked together with a tomato base.

Image: Disney / Pixar

Until 2007, that is, when it was redefined in pop culture thanks to the eponymous Disney•Pixar film. That animated feature produced and directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles and Tomorrowland) follows the exploits within Gusteau’s – a fancy French bistro whose recently deceased namesake just so happens to have inspired a rat named Remy to become a chef himself. Needless to say, rats aren’t exactly welcome in fancy French bistros, leading to Remy’s team-up with a young garbage boy / wannabe-chef named Linguini.

Though – arguably – Ratatouille hasn’t been as enduring in pop culture or in Disney’s long game strategy as Cars, Monsters Inc., Toy Story or Nemo, the film was nonetheless yet another clever addition to Pixar’s nearly-uninterrupted pattern of releasing top-notch, unexpected animated films that feel like they exist outside of any pre-existing formula or familiar plot.

Image: Disney / Pixar

Oh, and in France, the film broke records as the highest grossing animated film ever. Viewers, the press, and – most surprisingly – prominent French chefs gushed over the film…

And like most of Pixar’s portfolio, Ratatouille earned nearly perfect critical reception, was nominated for five Academy Awards (winning one – Best Animated Feature), and made $650 million at the box office against a $150 million budget.

And that’s when rumors began to swirl. Insiders said that Walt Disney Studios Park would soon expand its “Toon Studios” area (home to Crush’s Coaster, Magic Carpets of Agrabah, and a Cars themed family spinner ride) with an Ratatouille attraction… But for Imagineers, that wasn’t enough.

Bringing it together

In March 2013 – about six years after the film’s debut – it was official. Walt Disney Studios would indeed add a Ratatouille-themed attraction: Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy. (It’s a pun! Get it? No? In French, “toque” means “crazy,” but also is the name of a chef’s hat.)

Ratatouille would be a true E-Ticket dark ride that would instantly rocket to the top of the park's billing. And, as concept art revealed, the new anchor attraction would use some superb technologies to do it.

First of all, Ratatouille would take the core concept of Universal’s legendary Modern Marvel: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, physically whisking guests through a showbuilding from scene to scene, with physical sets flawlessly blending in screens. The animation on those screens would “squinch” (a term developed by Spider-Man’s designers), with the perspective adjusting as vehicles move past, truly making the screens into “windows” to expand the world.

Image: Disney

But rather than Universal’s patented “SCOOP” ride vehicles, guests in Paris would instead be seated in circular “Ratmobiles,” designed to resemble toy rats (a curious choice, for sure) with no track to guide them! Indeed, Ratatouille uses Disney’s LPS (that’s local positioning system as opposed to global) ride system to dispatch four vehicles at a time into the ride where they can turn, reverse, and even move around one another to diverge down separate paths. You’ll find the same system in use on another Modern Marvel: Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland, as well as its original uses at Tokyo Disneyland (Pooh’s Hunny Hunt) and Tokyo DisneySea (Aquatopia).

Naturally, the ride also includes a custom score by Michael Giacchino (who also scored The IncrediblesAlias, LOSTUpSpider-Man: Homecoming, and Disneyland’s own Space Mountain and the Incredicoaster).

Image: Disney / Pixar

But perhaps even more telling than what it is is what the new Ratatouille attraction is not. It is not, for example, placed on a large studio "soundstage." Instead, a brand new cul-de-sac off of Toon Studio would lead to a sub-area themed to a Parisian courtyard… And that’s where our adventure begins… Ready to see what Epcot’s newest E-Ticket has in store? If you’d rather be surprised, this is your chance to skip to the last page…

Ratatouille: L’Aventure

Image: Disney

Passing through the entrance to Ratatouille, guests find themselves queuing along the romantic rooftops of Paris at night, beneath the glowing incandescent sign advertising Gusteau's. Occasionally, Chef Gusteau himself comes to life, speaking to guests and welcoming them to the City of Lights. "So many hungry faces! You've come to the right place. Everyone knows the best food in the world is made here in Paris, and tonight ze toast of ze town, Chef Remy, will prepare for you a culinary masterpiece!"

Rounding the corner, guests emerge among the same rooftops, but now they appear much, much larger. That's because we've been ceremoniously "shrunk" down to the size of a rat for our culinary journey, as from the darkness emerge our "Ratmobiles." Seating six guests in each, these simplified rats set out among the rooftops where our adventure begins...

As always, the best way to tell the tale is with an on-ride video captured of the ride, from our friends at SoCal Attractions 360 (whose videos are shot with special low-light cameras, often showing more than the human eye does in person!). If you don't mind spoilers about the new experience soon to come to Epcot, this is your chance to see it before its U.S. debut... 

As you can see, Ratatouille is a spectacular, whimsical, scurrying dark ride that's grand in scale and execution. Cleverly, it's also Disney's first attempt to "fusing" its fan-favorite trackless dark ride a la Mystic Manor with the screen-based wow-factor of Universal's Spider-Man.

To be clear, Ratatouille never reaches the heights of either, and while Disney Imagineers likely envisioned this as a resort-defining E-Ticket, calmer heads would probably rank Ratatouille as a D-Ticket despite its pomp and circumstance and the technology it employs. (A likely culprit? While screens act as "windows" on Spider-Man by extending physical sets, they're used more like "windshields" on Ratatouille, responsible for the frantic "thrill" of scurrying around on the floor... an illusion that's broken when your peripheral vision notices that the physical sets around you are also coming along for the ride.)

Image: Nicolas Bailly, Flickr

However, in true Disney fashion, it's the physical sets and spectacular scale of the project that's most unbelievable, with new props and effects to notice each time. (Did you notice the moving cart wheels when the Ratmobiles scurry under the moving cart? Linguini lifting the cart's red velvet skirt?)

But this is only half the story... On the next page, we'll explore the way that this sensational family attraction is headed stateside where it's set to shift another park's direction. Read on...

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