I don’t know if this happens to other people, but I often find myself drawn to certain movies, books, and/or songs at different points in my life. For a variety of reasons, these artworks strike a chord with me at particular moments in time, and they become my cultural touchstones for however long the connection lasts. At the moment, my cultural touchstone and go to movie is Pixar’s Ratatouille, and while I may not be an aspiring chef like the lead character, or a rat for that matter, I know exactly why I’m drawn to this film at this particular point in my life.
My connection with Ratatouille started last month when I treated myself to a day at the Disney parks in Paris. I had only just moved to France and I hadn’t met anyone yet, so when it came time to decide how to spend my birthday alone in a foreign country, Disney was the clear answer. I knew that a brand new attraction based on Ratatouille had opened earlier this year, but because I hadn’t seen the film since it was released in 2007, my recollections of the plot details were a bit fuzzy, and therefore, the night before my birthday, I sat down to watch Ratatouille so that I would be ready to experience the new ride the next day. It only took a couple of minutes for me to be reminded of why Pixar is renowned for their storytelling, because I was instantly swept up in the story of Remy, a rat who wants to be a chef in Paris, and Alfredo Linguini, the garbage boy at the famous Parisian restaurant, Gusteau’s, who happens to be extraordinarily bad at cooking. Remy has the talent, Linguini is a human, and together, they take the culinary world by storm.
As it turned out, my decision to re-watch Ratatouille before going on the ride was a good one, because although people will be amazed at the ride itself without having seen the film, the ride succeeds in putting you right in the middle of the movie, and by knowing the characters and their stories, the ride is simply that much better. A combination 3D movie and dark ride experience, Ratatouille, or as it’s known in French, Ratatouille: L’Adventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy, is an incredible leap forward in theme park attraction innovation, and in particular, the trackless technology used to move the ride vehicles through the attraction is incredible. I ended up going on the ride several times in a row, garnering some rather pointed looks by the ride attendants in the process, but I didn’t care. I loved every minute of it, and Ratatouille is now easily one of my favourite Disney attractions, not to mention one of the best theme park attractions in general that I’ve experienced in a long time.
Since my visit to Disneyland Paris, I’ve re-watched Ratatouille a number of times, and I’ve come to realize that there’s a certain level of familiarity to it that goes beyond how much I love the ride. One main character is a newcomer to Paris who has been separated from his family and can’t stop marvelling at the beauty of the city he now calls home, while the other main character lives in a tiny Parisian apartment, needs a job, and is spectacularly bad at cooking. Let’s just say that I can relate to them both. I have a feeling that so long as I’m in Paris, I’ll keep coming back to Ratatouille and the adventures of Remy and Linguini, because even though I don’t aspire to be a chef, there’s something comforting in watching characters take big risks to do what they love. And who knows? Maybe Ratatouille will eventually inspire me to learn how to cook. Just don’t tell my Mom I said that. I don’t want to get her hopes up.