The ambitious La Place de Rémy in Disneyland Paris is much more than a collection of Ratatouille attractions. It is an immersive experience that transports you to the Paris that was seen in the film, from the Parisian streets, to the kitchen that Remy cooks in, to the restaurant where his family and friends dine. In the final part of our exclusive interview with Roger Gould, the creative director of Pixar’s Theme Parks Group, he describes how Pixar’s films have been turned into groundbreaking lands at Disney Parks and what it takes to bring them to life. Read the interview after the break!
Pixar Times: There’s Cars Land, Toy Story Land, and now this La Place de Rémy. What is it about Pixar that leads to this creation of these large lands at Disney Parks? Often, you see an attraction here or maybe a restaurant inspired by a film’s design, but we don’t really get to see a whole scene from a film pulled out and built out into an immersive section of the park, except for these Pixar lands.
Roger Gould: Well, I think a lot of it flows back to John Lasseter. He’s a huge, huge fan of the Parks. I’m sure you know he grew up just down the street from Disneyland. He’s thrilled to see stories he created end up inside the park. When the idea for Cars Land was first being developed, originally it was not Cars Land, it was Car Land (no ‘s’). The idea Imagineers had behind it was that Main Street’s Disneyland was Walt’s childhood, the world of his grandparents, but with Car Land, they looked at the 1950s and 1960s Main Street America that celebrated the big fin cars and color TV and that world. While they were developing that, John pitched them the entire Cars movie when it was still in production and they got so excited that they started incorporating elements from Cars into their plans for this land.
After maybe more than a year, the movie had come out, and they had incorporated so many Cars elements that John looked at it and he said, “I’m kind of confused as to where I am, between this human world and Cars world. What if we just simplify it and make it Cars Land and immerse you in that single clear story?”. And it was a really bold thing to do because, as you know, there is no Disney Park that had ever done that, create an entire land immersing you into a single story. Most of the lands at Disney Parks are really frameworks – Adventureland is a framework to house other attractions, Fantasyland is a framework to house attractions with many stories. It really was an outrageous thing to do, so unprecedented. What’s fantastic, of course, is that it turned out to be a great idea, and it’s been so embraced and loved by guests.
What was interesting was that when we were designing it, that clarity made all the decision making so much simpler because it was all, “Does this fit in this world of Cars or not – is it part of that story?”. Every decision you make from the manhole covers to the lampposts in the land are trying to reinforce that single story. I think it was really from the thrill of Cars Land that was the genesis for this Ratatouille land, which Tom Fitzgerald had started developing before Cars Land opened. The design [of Cars Land] had already begun and was well underway, and he got really excited by that idea, of creating a single story immersive land. We did it with Toy Story Playland in Paris and then this Ratatouille land was the next step of that. When I was there last month, I had kind of forgotten that that was where we started but standing in the nearly finished land and looking around, it really hit me. It was so completely immersive that I felt I was in Remy’s world. I think it brings the dream of a movie to life in a way that I think is very exciting for our guests. It’s sort of satisfying of the clarity of, “Oh, I’m in Remy’s Paris” – there’s nothing that contradicts that story.
I should mention that all the original animation that we did for the attraction was done here at Pixar. Andy Schmidt was our Supervising Animator, he was one of the key animators on the movie, and lived with these characters for years. It was fantastic because we had animators who worked on the film like Kristophe Vergne, who had largely been responsible for Linguini on the film. Here we have some amazing Linguini moments and I was able to say, this is what we need for the scene but I’m not going to tell you how Linguini should act because you’re Linguini! That was so great. We had Sharon Callahan, director of photography on the film, who consulted with us to recreate the mood of that film. Lloyd Bernberg, one of the lighters on the film, was our Lighting Supervisor and did an amazing job.
Tony Apodaca, our Supervising Tech Director in our Theme Parks group, is also our master archaeologist. Every one of our films is like a software release so even though we have a lot of new tools here at Pixar since the movie came out in 2007, to recreate the world of Ratatouille we had to go back in time and use the software circa 2007, so it’s crazy to say we’re going to use this old software but we’re going to do things we’d never done before. The scale we never imagined rendering in, for the four-and-a-half-minute attraction that you go through, the rendering time for computers because of the enormous resolution and the stereo of the attraction, the computer rendering time for our attraction took five times as long as the rendering time of the entire movie.
It was just fantastic that we were able to bring together this team of people, which I think was over 50 Pixar artists who collaborated to bring this Ratatouille attraction to life. Everybody is so proud of it and the collaboration with Imagineering, that it was so fun and exciting, that their ambition was really great, it pushed us to be really ambitious. Brad Bird would come in every two months and help us shape the story and review the animation and just got more and more excited seeing old friends brought back to life. It’s a project we’re all really, really proud of and I’m so excited that it’s now open to the public.
PT: Yes, I’m really excited to hopefully have the opportunity to check it out sometime in the future! As we wrap up, what’s next for you, for Pixar’s Theme Parks Group? How do you follow up on this incredible new addition?
RG: There’s a lot going on. There’s an entire new resort at Shanghai [Disneyland] going up right now. We have a number of Pixar projects there that haven’t been announced yet so I can’t say more than that but a lot of really exciting things, things that we haven’t done before. We’re just happy audiences around the world fall in love with our characters so we get to keep bringing them to life in the parks.