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Ratatouille: Big Cheese Tour
 
Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland,
visits “Ratatouille: Big Cheese Tour” at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort

 
May 14, 2007

Yesterland is usually about attractions that have reached their ends of their runs at Disney parks and resorts. By that definition, the Ratatouille: Big Cheese Tour qualifies for inclusion in Yesterland. After all, it closed at Walt Disney World on Sunday, May 13, 2007—at the end of its third day.

The courtyard in front of Disney’s BoardWalk Resort is usually just a quiet, neatly mowed patch of lawn. For three days, it became home to a 25-foot wedge of cheese, a performance stage, various kiosks, and a digital mini-cinema fronted by the Eiffel Tower.

Considering the near-90-degree temperature and the blazing Florida sun, it’s good that it wasn’t a real wedge of cheese.

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Have fun sliding down, but only if you’re between 36 and 54 inches tall.

The short run at Walt Disney World was intentional.

The Ratatouille: Big Cheese Tour is still alive and well. The whole “experience” is on its way to food festivals and other summer events, including a 9-day run at the huge annual Taste of Chicago in Chicago’s Grant Park.

May 11-13, 2007Walt Disney World ResortOrlando, FL
May 19-20, 2007Atlantic StationAtlanta, GA
May 26-27, 2007Taste of CincinnatiCincinnati, OH
June 1-3, 2007Milwaukee Riversplash!Milwaukee, WI
June 9-10, 2007Three Rivers Arts Festival Pittsburgh, PA
June 17, 2007International Cultures FestivalNew York, NY
June 23-24, 2007Safeway BBQ ChallengeWashington, D.C.
June 30-July 8, 2007Taste of ChicagoChicago, IL
July 13-15, 2007TBATBA
July 21-22, 2007TBATBA

The official movie website for Ratatouille has a map for the Big Cheese Tour with Flash-activated wedges of cheese for each of the announced locations. The map also has two inactive wedges of cheese, which seem to correspond to Minneapolis and somewhere between Los Angeles and San Diego. Could this be a clue to the “TBA” locations? Could the final stop for the Big Cheese Tour possibly be the Disneyland Resort?

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Climbing up the wedge of cheese looks like as much fun as sliding down.

In some ways, the 3-day run at Walt Disney World was a dress rehearsal. The location at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort meant a much smaller audience than if the Big Cheese Tour had been placed in a Disney theme park or Downtown Disney. The event was not announced to Walt Disney World guests—not even to guests of the BoardWalk Resort. It’s certainly easier to make final adjustments when the audience consists of dozens of guests at any given time, rather than thousands.

The Big Cheese Tour does not have a high capacity. For example, the slide can only handle one child climbing and one child sliding at any given time. The mini-cinema has around 30 seats and a cycle time of ten minutes.

In 2006, Taste of Chicago drew an estimated 3.6 million visitors over a 10-day run. I wonder how the Big Cheese Tour will handle such crowds.

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Maitre d’ Janet has turned the stage over to Chef Renée.

Now let’s head to the performance stage.

Hang around the stage for a while, and you’ll hear that “a rat named Remy dreams of becoming a great chef despite his family’s wishes and the obvious problem of being a rat in a decidedly rodent-phobic profession.”

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Chef Renée demonstrates how to make Garlic Crostini with Fresh Mozzarella.

Pay attention as Chef Renée shows you how to make “Healthy Snacks & Tasty Treats.” Chef Renée rotates through several different recipes, so if you come back in two hours, you’ll learn how to make something else. The demonstrations are for children and adults, so the recipes are neither too complex nor too weird for children to follow. At the end of the demonstration, you’ll get a recipe card.

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Miss Monica joins Leo the Garbage Boy for “Pots & Pans, Tunes & Follies.”

When Leo the Garbage Boy takes over the stage, everything on it becomes a percussion set.

Miss Monica uses large high-definition video screens to show how Pixar created the animation for Ratatouille. Although these are state-of-the-art screens and they’re shielded from direct sunshine, the setup is much more effective after dark than during the day.

The performers who play the parts of Maitre d’ Janet, Chef Renée, Leo the Garbage Boy, and Miss Monica all do a great job. They’re enthusiastic, and they recognize that their audience includes children and adults. They’ve clearly rehearsed a script, but they also improvise as needed.

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Have your picture taken...
Photo of Ratatouille Big Cheese Tour
and have it e-mailed to you.

It wouldn’t really be Disney is there weren’t any promotional partners, right?

Intel is hosting photographers dressed as chefs—“equipped with Intel® Centrino® Duo processor technology-based laptops using Intel® Core™ 2 Duo processors”—who wander around offering to take pictures of guests. The laptop tablet computers digitally combine the photos of guests with Ratatouille characters. Guests enter their e-mail addresses on the tablet, and they’re supposed to receive the pictures as e-mail a day later.

(If anyone from Intel is reading this... My wife and I had our pictures taken Friday morning, May 11. As I’m writing this article, it’s now Sunday night, May 13, and we’re still waiting. Thank you.)

Other promotional partners are Samsung, THQ video games, and Chocolate Chex cereal.

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The Eiffel Tower is the entrance to a mini-cinema.

The Eiffel Tower welcomes guests to a small cinema in a blue tent.

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While you wait for the cinema, watch video podcasts about the making of Ratatouille.

Anyone who has subscribed to the Ratatouille Video Podcasts on iTunes will recognize the videos on the kiosks.

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Sit in plastic chair for a 9-minute sneak peak at Ratatouille.

The 9-minute preview of Ratatouille is the same 9-minute preview that’s on the official Ratatouille website and at Apple’s QuickTime movie trailer site. It’s a wonderful series of scenes that set up the premise of the movie. The animation is phenomenal.

Unfortunately, the mini-cinema is not the ideal venue. On a hot, sunny day, the air conditioning in the tent doesn’t begin to provide relief from the heat, while the tent acts as a greenhouse as well as stopping any breeze. Because the plastic chairs are on flat ground and the screen is immediately in front of the chairs, much of the screen is likely to be blocked by other guests.

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Play Ratatouille video games—when they work—on big, high-definition screens.

By the middle of the second day at Walt Disney World, the THQ video games were not yet working. Apparently, it was just a matter of not having all the right cables.

Once the games are working, the plan is that guests will be able to play the Ratatouille video game, and that there will be demonstrations of it on the performance stage.

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It’s cooler at night, and the stage is lit brightly.

At night, the stage is brightly lit. Light bulbs glow on the 30-foot Eiffel Tower (although this didn’t work the first night because the bulbs had not been seated tightly enough). The cinema is no longer baked by sun. And the energetic cast continues to perform, even if they’ve already been working twelve hours.

The purpose of the Ratatouille: Big Cheese Tour is to market Ratatouille, which opens in theaters on June 29, 2007. I already had every intention of seeing Ratatouille on the big screen. But I’m now awaiting June 29, 2007, even more eagerly.

If you’re visiting any of the events that are part the Ratatouille: Big Cheese Tour schedule, be sure to check it out.


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© 2007-2009 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks
 
Updated May 24, 2009.
 
Photographs of “Ratatouille: Big Cheese Tour” by Werner Weiss, 2007.