Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, the ride based on the Pixar movie Ratatouille, opened at Epcot in October, as part of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration. I wasn’t too impressed by the original version of the ride at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris, and so wasn’t in a rush to try out the virtually identical Epcot version. I finally rode it in December, though, and a weird thing happened: I really liked it?
I didn’t hate Paris’s Remy ride, but I was disappointed. It felt like another example of Disney losing sight of the audio-animatronics and practical effects its name is built on, and focusing on the cheaper and buzzier screens and 3-D visuals instead. More importantly, though, the Paris version simply had way more pressure to please. The fact that I enjoyed the Epcot version more says less about the ride itself, I think, and more about how its surrounding park and environment can directly impact our appreciation of an attraction. A theme park ride doesn’t exist in isolation; it’s part of a carefully designed package, and every element of that package needs to work together for optimal enjoyment. And with Epcot, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure has found a much more cohesive and better designed home than the one at Walt Disney Studios Park.
The Epcot version of the attraction is tucked away within the France pavilion at World Showcase, in a new plaza behind France’s traditional footprint. When I visited on a chillier-than-usual December night, lit by Parisian lamps and with those familiar street signs on the sides of buildings, I really felt like I was strolling down some small side road inside Paris. A short walk leads to the plaza, with the ride entrance at the far end; a beautiful fountain and the large, beautifully illuminated attraction sign make this a fantastic photo opportunity.
Once I made it into the ride’s interior queue, I thought I was still outside. It’s designed to look like a Parisian rooftop at night, with that distinctive Haussmann architecture, and the sign for Gusteau’s restaurant shining down on all of us in line. The artificial nighttime sky feels natural and seamless when entering at night, which only helps add to the illusion of the ride.
The version of Ratatouille that’s actually in France doesn’t have as beautiful of an entrance. It’s nestled off in one of the small park’s corners, across from a Toy Story enclave full of carnival-style rides, and near an upcoming Cars-themed addition. It appears suddenly, a would-be slice of Paris amid a chain of random movie-related rides that would be at home at a county fair. There’s no sense of illusion here, none of the subtle, experiential world-building found at Epcot’s World Showcase. Its artificiality is highlighted by the park’s proximity to Paris; every time I’ve been to Disneyland Paris, I’ve come from a hotel within the city, from among the kind of buildings and promenades that the park tries to recreate outside its Ratatouille attraction. A small recreation of Paris works a lot better in the heat of far off Orlando than it does just a 45 minute train ride away from Paris itself, and that’d be true even if Epcot’s France didn’t offer a larger, more detailed Parisian tableau.
As soon as I first walked up to the Ratatouille ride at Walt Disney Studios Park I was underwhelmed. That feeling carries over to the ride itself; the trackless ride vehicles slide and swerve with thrilling abandon, but most of the ride’s setpieces are screens. It quickly whisks us from one screen to another, with 4-D gimmickry creating an unfulfilling sense of action.
That ride experience is the same at Epcot. For a myriad of reasons, though, I was fine with it. I wasn’t disappointed. Obviously, I knew what to expect, unlike the first time I rode it at Walt Disney Studios Park. Crucially, though, the ride experience was only part of a larger, more impressive package. Instead of the ride being the entire draw, as it was in Paris, it was like the second half of a double feature that gets off to a fantastic start. Just being in that new space in Epcot was charming and entertaining enough to make the ride feel almost like a dessert instead of the main dish.
Along those same lines, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is one of a number of cool, well-designed attractions and experiences at Epcot. It’s one thing guests will do in a day full of exciting rides and activities. Meanwhile, it’s pretty much the only reason to visit Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris, at least for regular visitors to the American parks. That should be changing soon, as a few new attractions are scheduled to open at that park over the next few years, but when I’ve visited, though, Ratatouille has been one of only two noteworthy rides at Walt Disney Studios Park that didn’t also exist at an American park. (The other, a cute and fun spinning coaster called Crush’s Coaster, isn’t amenable to those with motion sickness issues, and even did a number on me.) The other big attraction at Paris’s second park, outside of Ratatouille and Crush’s Coaster, is a copy of The Tower of Terror. There also was a version of the Aerosmith coaster found at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, although that’s currently being rethemed to an Iron Man coaster as part of an upcoming Marvel area.
France’s Ratatouille ride was the only reason I went to Walt Disney Studios Park. It’s simply not good enough of a ride to shoulder the weight and expectations of being a centerpiece attraction. In Epcot, it’s a contributing player, something that capably fills a specific role, but won’t draw too much attention away from the real E tickets like Soarin’ and Spaceship Earth. Those expectations can have a palpable impact on how someone reacts to an experience, and for me, at least, that, along with the lackluster attempt at world-building, helped make the original Ratatouille ride in France a real bummer. Now that Epcot has not just the same ride, but a superior version of it, I don’t see a reason to visit Walt Disney Studios Park again, at least until the upcoming Frozen area opens up. That just means more time to enjoy Disneyland Paris next door-or, y’know, Paris itself. That’s a pretty good city, that Paris. You should check it out some time.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s also on Twitter @grmartin.