So June 29, 2007 doesn’t sound like that long ago, but along with being the release date of Pixar’s 8th feature film, Ratatouille, this was also the day that the first iPhone came out. Crazy, right? I can’t imagine life without iPhones—and I can’t imagine a Pixar repertoire without Remy and Linguini. Not since Lady and the Tramp’s spaghetti scene has such delectable food and atmosphere been shown in an animated film. However, it wasn’t always peaches and cream for this culinary classic.
Several years into development, John Lasseter wanted a bit more vision and leadership out of his director Jan Pinkava, so he brought on Brad Bird (swoon!) in 2005 who was just finished with The Incredibles. Bird’s influence on the film would be substantial and effective. Although Pinkava’s role in creating the concept can’t be overstated, the film really came together after the addition of Bird. Major changes Bird made included the killing of Gusteau and making the rats look more like rats.
There are lots of sumptuous tidbits about this film, like the fact that the villain, Skinner, gets his name from a famous scientist who experimented on rats in boxes with little buzzers and shockers. Also, Brad Bird cast Patton Oswalt after hearing his standup routine about Black Angus and Emile’s voice, animator Peter Sohn, after noticing that his demeanor fit the character perfectly. They also had trouble tying in marketing for the film as companies were hesitant to be associated with rats. The crew spent time in Paris focusing on an accurate portrayal of the nuances of French architecture and culture and they also spent a lot of time with rats—in the studio as their pets for over a year.
What I love about this film is Remy. He is so likable and creative. He is full of hope and passion—a passion that knows no bounds, even across species. Linguini is great, too, but Remy is the star and the movie upholds that with the wonderful portrayal of Remy and Ego’s restaurant at the end. I love this film’s unapologetic affirmation that greatness exists. Sure, anyone can cook, but not everyone. That nuance may be missed by some, but it is the underlying key to this deeply touching and tasty film.