Ratatouille Concept Art
Ratatouille Concept Art

Making of ‘Ratatouille’ Attraction

It’s officially on the menu: on 10 July 2014, Disneyland Paris unveils a new world dedicated to the Disney•Pixar film Ratatouille. Named La Place de Rémy in tribute to the “little chef,” this all-new mini-land opens in Walt Disney Studios Park and will feature a completely original attraction, inspired by Rémy’s adventures in the film.

The all-new attraction, the 60th to open at Disneyland Paris, is called Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy. Guests are shrunk down to the size of a rat and board “ratmobiles” for a zany culinary adventure through Gusteau’s famous restaurant. From a Paris rooftop to the restaurant’s bustling kitchen, cavernous food locker and busy dining room under the careful watch of Chef Skinner… this tasty adventure is full of twists and turns. The crazy culinary adventure begins 10 July 2014, exclusively at Walt Disney Studios Park, Disneyland Paris.

We’ve the chance to interview Liz Gazzano (Executive Producer ) and Andrew L. Schmidt ( Lead Animator ) and ask them a few questions about this new project and its making of.

Ratatouille Concept Art
Ratatouille Concept Art

IT’S ART :  Can you give us a brief overview of the challenges in an attraction like Ratatouille?

Liz Gazzano – The biggest challenge for our Pixar team was bringing back the characters and a world that was over 8 years old. That is ancient in computer animation! All of our Animators, FX, and Lighting TDS had to work in an outdated program to be able to bring Ratatouille characters to life for the attraction. This was a huge challenge because Pixar Animation, especially, works much differently now than it did back when we created the film Ratatouille.

Another big challenge was the length of our shots: Many were over 45 seconds long. That is a very long time to hold on an animated shot. If you look at many of our films, the shots are a fraction of that.

But the crew was amazing and rose to the challenge! Our team created almost 5 minutes of brand new Ratatouille animation, and even built two new environments.

The other big challenge was rendering out all of our film for the attraction: If you can believe it, the 5 minutes we created for the Ratatouille attraction took EIGHT times longer to render than the original film! This is due to the fact that many of our shots were super high resolution at 8K, and in 3D coming from three different eye points.

IT’S ART : Ratatouille is mixing some real elements and projected animation during the ride. Can you give us details about these design choices?

Liz Gazzano – We collaborated closely with the Walt Disney Imagineering team. Imagineering has the expertise in creating all the physical elements and the ride programming that interact with the media. Their Designers and Technicians are incredible, and their team spent many hours collaborating with the filmmakers here at Pixar.

Brad Bird, the Director of Ratatouille, spent time going to see the mock ups at WDI, worked with our story team, animators, lighters and gave us notes along the way and worked with our Creative Director, Roger Gould. John Lasseter also gave creative guidance throughout.  The original Production Designer, Harley Jessup, spent time with the Designers and Architects from Imagineering, talking about how the buildings in the film are designed, and many other key crew from the original film collaborated with Imagineering.

IT’S ART – What about the user experience? Did elements of the ride, or the story, evolve as the attraction was being developed?

Liz Gazzano – We worked hard with Tom Fitzgerald, Chrissie Allen and the Imagineering team to get a comprehensive story locked in the beginning of the process. This story made sense for the elements that were planned for the ride…Of course there are always things that happen along the way, but this experience stayed pretty true to where we started.

IT’S ART : In your opinion, what is the most important thing to focus on when developing a project like the Ratatouille attraction?

Liz Gazzano – Getting the story right from the beginning. Then making that story work within the context and parameters of an attraction.

Ratatouille Making Of
Ratatouille Making Of

IT’S ART : – Andrew, What was your role with the Ratatouille attraction, and how long did you work on it? Can you give details about the pipeline and creative process for the animation?

Andrew L. Schmidt – I was the lead animator on the project. I worked on it for about 14 months, supervising a small rotating team of animators, several of whom had worked on the original film.

The pipeline was mostly the same as that of Pixar’s feature films; sequences were storyboarded, then went into layout (a previs version of the shot). Animators would then take the previs version as a starting point and bring the characters to life. We would have dailies, where all the animators would show their work to the creative director Roger Gould for notes. Then the shots would move into simulation, fx and lighting on through to final render.

However, there were big differences in the process as well. This was a collaborative effort between Pixar Animation and Disney Imagineering (DI). The director of the project, Tom Fitzgerald from Disney Imagineering, was the creative force. Thus, once we were satisfied with how the animation looked at Pixar, it was converted via some complex mathematics to fit onto gigantic wrap-around test screens in Los Angeles, which were duplicates of the projection screens that would be used in the installation in Paris. We would review the work in 3D with Tom and the DI crew.

Brad Bird, the director of Ratatouille, was also very involved. The biggest problems were usually related to execution of an idea. We could animate, for example, Remy falling into shot and the physicality and acting would work on our monitors and in our screening room at Pixar, but when we put it up on the giant wrap around screens and looked at it in 3D, we had to solve problems of eye tracking, distance from camera and various other issues that weren’t apparent on our computer monitors.

Ratatouille Making Of
Ratatouille Making Of

IT’S ART : – Can you explain the challenges and the fun of translating the animation from the world of the film to a world with vehicles and real objects at a theme park?

The fun part of this project was the chance to revisit the world of Ratatouille and bring the characters to life in a new and completely immersive world where visitors feel as if they are the same size as Remy and Emile and are participating in the story instead of just watching it unfold. But that also provided part of the challenge in the animation in that the camera was more than just a moving camera. It was precisely timed to simulate the motion of the ride vehicle, thus it couldn’t move too fast, couldn’t pan or rotate too quickly due to the fact that it would break the simulated illusion that you were physically moving through the scene. When you’re working on a film, you can take certain liberties with the camera while animating. Not so in the ride. We had to time everything to concur precisely with the camera movement; objects falling, characters stepping in front of the camera, Remy running in front of camera. And the animation had to play to the rider/viewer as if they were characters in the scene.

Another challenge was that in a feature film, you tell the story in cuts. So the scenes are short. The nature of the ride precluded us from being able to do that. For example, in the feature film Ratatouille, there’s a sequence where Remy runs through the kitchen. The sequence is comprised of a large number of shots. (SPOILER ALERT) We wanted this sequence to be part of the ride, wanted the riders to follow Remy through the kitchen so we had to show all that in one long shot. Some of the shots in the ride are almost a minute in length! This is extremely difficult on the animators, especially when there are so many characters involved. It’s much more time consuming and requires a tremendous amount of render time.

Ratatouille Making Of
Ratatouille Making Of

IT’S ART :   Do you think that working for a 3D movie add a new perspective when you create the animation? Any particular challenges?

In Pixar films, we try not to make the 3D effect noticeable, in that we don’t want to pull our audience out of the story for the sake of an effect. You don’t see objects flying at camera simply to make the audience jump in a Pixar film. The 3D effect is used to enhance the environment and story. In the ride, all that’s out the window. You want your audience to react, you want things to fly at them, to make the audience duck or jump. You want them to feel as if they are in the scene with Remy. So working on the ride was a chance to play with the 3D effect in a way that we wouldn’t in our features.

Andrew L. Schmidt-  Compare working in animation on a short film vs. a theme park attraction. Is it similar? What are the main differences?

Working on the Ratatouille theme park attraction was similar to working on a short film in that you work with a smaller, tighter crew, which I find very appealing. I love working on the features and being part of a large crew as well, but there’s an intimacy that you get with a smaller crew of 8 or 10 people that’s difficult to achieve when working with a crew of 70. It’s also similar in that with this ride we were trying to convey a story, not just thrills.

The biggest difference would be that all our films, shorts and features, are all done in-house. For the theme park rides, we collaborate with Disney Imagineering and have reviews with the DI crew in Los Angeles or at the ride installation. And a theme park ride provides a different venue for telling a story, in that there are things occurring outside the realm of animation in the practical world that are part of the ride/story. For instance, the viewer sits in a car that is physically driving through oversized Ratatouille themed sets. That needs to blend into the projected element so the rider, hopefully, doesn’t realize there is a transition occurring between real world and animation. Plus there are places where the animation and physical world interact. (SPOILER ALERT) A mop swings out at you in the animation and you feel the spray of mop water across your face. That’s not something you get in a movie theater!

Ratatouille Making Of
Ratatouille Making Of

IT’S ART :  Rémy is now an iconic Pixar character. How hard it was (or not) to work on this character again, years after the movie?

It wasn’t hard at all! You get to know these characters very well; how they move, how they think and react. It’s always a pleasure to be able to spend time with them again. That may sound odd, but as an animator, it’s a chance to become the character, to play that role. We had animators who had worked on the original film that were excited to revisit the world and we had new animators that were thrilled for a chance to bring them to life as part of their animation/acting repertoire.

The only difficulty, if you can call it that, was that these particular characters had not been updated to work with our latest software, yet. So we had to work with an older animation system. It’s still a very usable and robust system, it was just a little odd to go back in time and try to revive all that old muscle memory regarding the tools and hot keys.



Ratatouille Disneyland
Ratatouille Disneyland
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