Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I've managed to see Pixar /Disney's latest film, Ratatouille and I must tell you it is excellent. It's not just me that thinks that, the film has already been shorted listed as one of 12 animated films for this years Academy awards for animation. Because of the quality of the film I've decided to include a more in depth blog article than usual. There are a few spoilers in here so if you've not yet seen the film (or DVD) then look away now.

The rats are the key characters in the film with brothers Remy and Emile providing the setup for the story at the beginning of the film and soon the screen is full of scurrying rats. Unfortunately for Pixar, Eadweard Mybridge did not include rats in his Animals in Motion so the animators such as Mark Walsh had to record their own clips of rats eating, sniffing, climbing and crawling. Under Brad Bird's guidance they have skillfully blended these 'rat-isms,' with more human characteristics required for the character scenes. As well as great movement these rats have a fantastic appearance, Pixar have demonstrated that hair and fur are no longer a limitation for computer animation. When water is added into the mix it should have been impossible but the animators and shading experts have also perfected the "drowned rat" look.

One of the major concern of a film about rats in the kitchen must be the hygiene issue. Remy explains this to his brother who is confused why any rat would want to walk on just two legs. When the family of rats help out with the cooking there is a very humorous scene where they are all washed in the dishwasher.

For more details about the design challenges of rats see the cinematical visit to pixar.

The other characters are also fleshed out in detail in terms of their positions in the kitchen and backgrounds. My particular favourites are the critic played by Peter O Toole and the mad head chef Skinner who reminded me of Inspector Drefus from the Pink Pather films. The bulbous waiter also reminded me of the Monty Python, Mr Creosote character.

One of the stars of the film is the food and Pixar have ensured that it's treated with as much skill as the characters. The sheer variety and details of the food is incredible. The food is chopped, prepared, cooked and tasted by the chefs and rats and the kitchen and store rooms are full of it.

The film has some excellent cinematography so it was not surprising to learn that the director of photography and lighting Sharon Calahan and production designer Harley Jessup has spent lots of time researching Paris and films such as Amelie, Bon Voyage and An American in Paris

One clever technique which is close to my heart is the use of a shallow depth of field. This is used when in dark world of the rats and contrasted with the sharp focus of the world of the humans and outside scenes around Paris.

Games, Merchandising and DVD Releases

When I saw the sequence in the sewer when Remy's boat goes over the rapids I had two imediate thoughts. The first was that it reminded me of the Dragon's Lair game from the 1980s and the second is that was definately going to be in the game version. There are in fact a range of games associated with this film including ones specially designed for the Nintendo DS.

Mattel who did the toys for films such as Cars are also making Ratatouille games such as a mouse trap variation and a selection of plushies and figurines.

Even before I saw this film, the DVD versions were being released in the USA and Australia. Unfortunately there is no sign of a UK DVD arriving in time for Christmas.

My showing of Ratatouille came with a short "B-movie" - Lifted. This space film looks a young alien and the problems of abducting a sleeping farmer from his house. The team have also produced a short about Rats, "Your Friend the Rat" a 2D educational piece covering everything you want to know about rats. "Your Friend the Rat" also includes sections in Stop Motion and Chalk animation based on production sketches.

Script and trailers

The film starts by a little old ladies house with the family of rats scavenging for food. Remy is experimenting with blending foods and his brother Emile eats that and anything else he can get his paws on. Following a fight at the house the rats escape by river. Their preprepared collection of vessels reminded me of Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. In the confusion Remy is separated from the family and navigates through the sewers and passages with the ghost of his favourite chef Auguste Gusteau to guide him. He finds himself in Paris at Gusteau's old restaurant. Here, he fixes a soup messed up by Linguini who is working as a cleaner in the kitchen. Gusteau acts as a mentor and conscious to Remy. Linguini is made an apprentice chef and remote controlled by Remy, he cooks up some excellent food, much to the anger of head chef Skinner. Their partnership causes the restaurant to flourish and comes under the attentions of a famous critic. The story weaves in love, betrayal, conflicts between family and career and corruption between the chefs and rats and climaxes in a crazy conclusion which has to be seen to be believed.

Trailers for the film can be seen on the Pixar site or the Apple site.

Director: Brad Bird
Produced by Brad Lewis
Executive Producers: John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton
Associate Producer: Galyn Susman
Original Story: Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
Music: Michael Giacchino
Story Supervisor: Mark Andrews
Film Editor: Darren Holmes
Supervising Technical Director: Michael Fong
Production Designer: Harley Jessup
Supervising Animators: Dylan Brown, Mark Walsh
Director of Photography/Lighting: Sharon Calahan
Director of Photography/Camera: Robert Anderson
Character Design: Jason Deamer, Greg Dykstra, Carter Goodrich, Dan Lee
Character Supervisor: Brian Green
Sets Art Director: Robert Kondo
Sets Supervisor: David Eisenmann
Shading Art Director: Belinda Van Valkenburg
Shading Supervisor: Daniel McCoy
Global Technology Supervisor: William Reeves
Effects Supervisor: Apurva Shah
Simulation Supervisor: Christine Waggoner
Groom Supervisor: Sanjay Bakshi
Crowds Supervisor: Ziah Sarah Fogel
Production Manager: Nicole Paradis Grindle
Sound Designer: Randy Thom


Remy: Patton Oswalt
Linguini: Lou Romano
Colette: Janeane Garafalo
Skinner: Ian Holm
Emile: Peter Sohn
Django: Brian Dennehy
Auguste Gusteau: Brad Garrett
Antono Ego: Peter O'Toole

Git: Jake Steinfeld
French Waiter: Brad Bird
Horst: Will Arnett
Lalo & Francois: Julius Callahan
Larousse: James Remar
Mustafa: John Ratzenberger
Lawyer (Talon Labarthe): Teddy Newton
Pompidou & Health Inspector: Tony Fucile
Ambrister Minion: Brad Bird
Narrator: Laurent Spelvogel


Imagine Magazine speculates on how rats might be the next turtles.

Other Reviews

Dante Kleinberg's look at Plot, Character, Theme and Execution.
James R Hull ponders why the film seems too long and looks at Time lock and Option lock plots.

Final fact

The Secret of NIMH was produced by ExDisney Don Bluth who also did the graphics for Dragon's lair.

1 comment:

FleaCircusDirector said...

A good analysis of Ratatoille's camera shots by FXRant.