Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”
Budget: $150 million
Box office: $620.7 million
Plot: Remy is a rat, with highly developed senses of taste and smell. Inspired by his idol, the recently deceased chef Auguste Gusteau, Remy dreams of becoming a cook himself. When an old woman discovers Remy’s colony in her house and attempts to exterminate them with a shotgun, they are forced to flee, and Remy becomes separated from his family.
He ends up in the sewers of Paris and eventually finds himself at a skylight overlooking the kitchen of Gusteau’s restaurant. A young man named Alfredo Linguini is hired as a garbage boy by Skinner, the restaurant’s current owner and Gusteau’s former sous-chef. When Linguini spills a pot of soup and attempts to recreate it, Remy sees that he is ruining it, and fixes his mistakes.
Linguini catches Remy, but hides him when he is then confronted by Skinner. The soup is accidentally served and proves to be a success. The staff convinces Skinner to retain Linguini, who is assumed to be the soup’s creator. When Skinner catches Remy trying to escape, he orders Linguini to kill the rat, but Linguini discovers Remy’s intelligence and decides to keep him instead.
Remy discovers that he can control Linguini’s movements by pulling his hair. On Linguini’s first day as a chef, he and Remy find a way to communicate: Remy guides Linguini like a marionette by pulling on his hair while hidden under Linguini’s toque. Skinner assigns Colette Tatou, the staff’s only female chef, to train his new cook.
Suspicious, Skinner learns that Linguini is Gusteau’s illegitimate son and the rightful owner of the restaurant. Remy discovers the evidence of Linguini’s inheritance and, after eluding Skinner, gives it to Linguini, who deposes Skinner as owner. The restaurant continues to thrive, as all of Remy’s recipes become immediate hits. A romance develops between Linguini and Colette, and Remy begins to feel left out. Remy finds that his family has come to Paris as well, and is taken to their new lair.
France’s top restaurant critic, Anton Ego, announces he will dine at the restaurant the following evening. That night, Remy and Linguini have a heated argument. Remy leads his clan to raid the restaurant’s pantries in retaliation, but Linguini catches them and drives them out.
Having discovered Remy’s skills, Skinner captures him in an attempt to use him to create a line of frozen foods. However, Remy is freed by Django and his brother Emile. He returns to the restaurant to find Linguini, who has been unable to cook without him. Linguini apologizes and reveals the truth to the staff, but they all leave in disbelief. Colette later returns after recalling Gusteau’s motto, “Anyone can cook.”
Django arrives with the rest of the clan and Remy has the rats cook, while Linguini waits tables. For Ego and Skinner, Remy creates a variation of ratatouille, confit byaldi, which reminds an astonished Ego of his own mother’s cooking.
During the meal, the rats are forced to tie up Skinner and a health inspector to prevent them from revealing the rats’ involvement in the cooking. When Ego requests to see the chef, Linguini and Colette make him wait until the rest of the diners have left before introducing Remy. Ego is stunned and leaves the restaurant, deep in thought. He writes a positive and thoughtful review for the newspaper the next day, stating that Gusteau’s chef is “nothing less than the finest chef in France.”
Linguini and Remy have to release Skinner and the health inspector, however; thus, despite receiving a good review, Gusteau’s is forced into closure, and Ego loses his job and his credibility as a critic. Luckily, Ego funds (and frequents for Remy’s cooking) a popular new bistro, La Ratatouille, created and run by Remy, Linguini, and Colette. The rats settle into their new home in the bistro’s roof.
Background: Jan Pinkava came up with the concept in 2000, creating the original design, sets and characters and core storyline. Pixar management replaced him with Brad Bird. Bird was attracted to the idea of using Linguini for physical comedy. Bird rewrote the story, killing off Gusteau, and gave larger roles to Skinner and Colette.
Bird, producer Brad Lewis and some of the crew spent a week in Paris to properly understand its environment, taking a motorcycle tour and eating at restaurants. One scene has Linguini wet after jumping into the Seine to fetch Remy. Pixar employee Kesten Migdal 1 jumped into Pixar’s swimming pool wearing a chef’s uniform and apron to see which parts of the suit stuck to his body and which became translucent from water absorption.
Gourmet chefs in both the U.S. and France were consulted and animators attended cooking classes at San Francisco-area culinary schools to understand the workings of a commercial kitchen. Renowned chef Thomas Keller allowed producer Brad Lewis to intern in his French Laundry kitchen. For the film’s climax, Keller designed a fancy, layered version of the title dish for the rat characters to cook, which he called “confit byaldi” in honor of the original Turkish name.
Animation: The same sub-surface light scattering technique that was used on skin in The Incredibles was used on fruits and vegetables. To create a realistic compost pile, the Art Department photographed fifteen different kinds of produce, such as apples, berries, bananas, mushrooms, oranges, broccoli, and lettuce, in the process of rotting.
A vivarium containing pet rats sat in a hallway for more than a year so animators could study the movement of the animals’ fur, noses, ears, paws, and tails as they ran.
Music: Brad Bird reteamed with Michael Giacchino on the score for Ratatouille. 2 Singer Camille performs the song “Le Festin.”
Patton Oswalt as Remy. He is known for roles in The King of Queens, Young Adult, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Justified, Blade: Trinity, Big Fan, The Heart, She Holler, and The Goldbergs. he stars in the 2017 revival of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and co-stars as Principal Ralph Durbin on the sitcom A.P. Bio. Sir Ian Holm as Chef Skinner. 3 His credits include Oh! What a Lovely War, Nicholas and Alexandra, Mary, Queen of Scots, Young Winston, Alien, Chariots of Fire, Time Bandits, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, Brazil, Dreamchild, Henry V, Hamlet, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, The Fifth Element, The Sweet Hereafter, and From Hell. He appeared as Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings series. In 1967, he won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play as Lenny in The Homecoming by Harold Pinter.
Lou Romano as Alfredo Linguini. He was a production designer and animator on The Powerpuff Girls, Iron Giant, Monsters, Inc., Cars, and The Incredibles. Since leaving Pixar he has worked on The Boxtrolls, The Little Prince, Kubo and the Two Strings, and Samurai Jack. Brian Dennehy as Django. He started in television series like Kojak, Lou Grant, Dallas, Dynasty, and Miami Vice. His breakout role was Sherriff Teasle in First Blood. Other films include Semi-Tough, Foul Play, 10, Silverado, Cocoon, Split Image, Legal Eagles, F/X: Murder By Illusion, Presumed Innocent, F/X2: The Deadly Art of Illusion, Prophet of Evil, Best Seller, The Belly of an Architect, The Man from Snowy River II, and Tommy Boy. He has won two Tony Awards 4 and has been nominated six times for an Emmy Award. 5
Peter O’Toole 6 as Anton Ego. 7 He gained international recognition playing T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia for which he received his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. He was nominated for this award another seven times, for Becket, The Lion in Winter, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, The Ruling Class, The Stunt Man, My Favorite Year, and Venus. He won a Primetime Emmy Award for his role as Bishop Pierre Cauchon in the mini-series Joan of Arc. In 2004, he played King Priam in the summer blockbuster Troy. Peter Sohn as Emile. He started his career with Pixar in the art and story departments for Finding Nemo. He also worked on The Incredibles and WALL-E. He made his directorial debut with the short film Partly Cloudy in 2009 which he also wrote. He voiced Squishy in Monsters University and directed The Good Dinosaur.
Will Arnett as Horst. He is best known for his role as George Oscar “Gob” Bluth II in Arrested Development. He has appeared in films such as Blades of Glory, Hot Rod, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He is a prolific voice actor with film roles including Monsters vs. Aliens, Despicable Me, The Nut Job, and Batman in the Lego Movie franchise. He also plays the titular character in the Netflix series BoJack Horseman. James Remar as Larousse. He played Richard, the on-off tycoon boyfriend of Kim Cattrall’s character in Sex and the City. He also appeared in The Warriors, 48 Hrs., The Cotton Club, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Miracle on 34th Street, and Dexter.
Teddy Newton as Talon Labarthe, He also co-wrote the short film Jack-Jack Attack and did the voices of the newsreel narrator in The Incredibles, the ‘Steward’ robots in WALL-E, a television commercial salesman in Up, Chatter Telephone in Toy Story 3, and Mini Buzz in Toy Story Toons: Small Fry. He made his directorial debut with the Pixar short film Day & Night which gave him a nomination at the Oscars for Best Animated Short Film. Jake Steinfeld as Git. He is best known for the “Body by Jake” brand. He appeared in Big Brother Jake, King of the Hill, Movin’ Mountains, Dream On, The Tracey Ullman Show, Shaping Up, and Simon & Simon. In addition, Steinfeld appeared in Home Sweet Home, Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie, Into the Night, The Money Pit, and Coming to America.
Brad Garrett returns as Auguste Gusteau. 8 Janeane Garofalo returns as Colette Tatou. 9
Where in the world is John Ratzenberger?: John Ratzenberger as Mustafa, Gusteau’s head waiter. 10
Pizza Planet Truck: The truck appears on the bridge over the Seine, in the scene where Skinner chases Remy.
A 113: It appears on a little tag clipped to the ear of Git.
- A. O. Scott of The New York Times called Ratatouille “a nearly flawless piece of popular art, as well as one of the most persuasive portraits of an artist ever committed to film.”
- Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B, saying “Ratatouille has the Pixar technical magic without, somehow, the full Pixar flavor. It’s Brad Bird’s genial dessert, not so much incredible as merely sweetly edible.”
- Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four, saying “What makes Ratatouille such a hilarious and heartfelt wonder is the way Bird contrives to let it sneak up on you. And get a load of that score from Michael Giacchino, a perfect compliment to a delicious meal.”
- Christy Lemire of the Associated Press gave the film a positive review, saying “Ratatouille is free of the kind of gratuitous pop-culture references that plague so many movies of the genre; it tells a story, it’s very much of our world but it never goes for the cheap, easy gag.”
- Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune gave the film four out of four stars, saying “The film may be animated, and largely taken up with rats, but its pulse is gratifyingly human. And you have never seen a computer-animated feature with this sort of visual panache and detail.”
- Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel gave the film three out of five stars, saying “Has Pixar lost its magic recipe? Ratatouille is filled with fairly generic animated imagery, a few modest chases, a couple of good gags, not a lot of laughs.”
- Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of four stars, saying “A lot of animated movies have inspired sequels, notably Shrek, but Brad Bird’s Ratatouille is the first one that made me positively desire one.”
- Desson Thomson of The Washington Post gave the film a positive review, saying “Ratatouille doesn’t center on the over-familiar surfaces of contemporary life. It harks back to Disney’s older era, when cartoons seemed part of a more elegant world with less edgy characters.”
Legacy: Ratatouille won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 80th Academy Awards and was nominated for four others. 11
An attraction based on the film has been constructed in Disneyland Paris. Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy. A similar attraction is planned for the France Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase.
Video game: The video game based on the movie was released in 2007 for Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Java ME, and mobile phones.
My take: You all know I am a foodie, and yes I have made this dish, although not as nice as Chef Keller. There are a lot of great moments in this film:
- The fighting/kissing couple that Remy encounters.
- Remy describing the taste of food and its visual representation
- “I killed a man… with this thumb!”
- “Larousse ran gun for the Resistance.” “Which resistance?” “He won’t say. Apparently, they didn’t win.”
- “Cheap sausages dipped in batter and deep fried. You know, American.”
- There a moment where Skinner is chasing Remy and he dives for the boat and misses. It took me a few times to notice that they pull the old tablecloth gag.
- And of course the moment where Ego tastes the confit byaldi and it triggers his memory.
Next Week: We meet a couple of robots…