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WONDERCON 2007: Inside Ratatouille

By — March 5th, 2007

Movie PictureSan Francisco's WonderCon is a great place to get a head start on the future of Hollywood and the first of the convention was Ratatouille, this year's Pixar film written and directed by The Incredibles Brad Bird.

It started out with the previously released teaser followed by the appearance of Bird who joked that:

"We were thinking of re-titling it Ratatouille 1, cause this summer already has Spider-Man 3, Shrek 3, Die Hard 4, Rush Hour 3, Harry Potter 5, Alien vs. Predator 2... so that's the 5th alien vs the 3rd Predator. We were thinking of calling it Raratoulle 1 and telling you guys this was the prequel to the sequel."

Bird used concept art to explain that it's the story of a picky rat named Remy (played by Patton Oswalt) who aspires to be a cook in the absolute last place a rodent should ever been seen: a fancy French restaurant. He befriends the kitchen's garbage boy (Lou Romano) forming a relationship of helping each other become top chefs. Remy is also joined by his chubby brother (voiced by an in-house animator), father (Brian Dennehy), villainous restaurant owner Skinner (Ian Holm) equally evil food critic Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole) and the imaginary friend/ghost of his hero and restaurant's previous owner, the Boyardee'esque Chef Gusteau (Brad Gerret).

Onto the clips..

CLIP #1

Remy and imaginary Chef Gusteau are peeking thru the skylights of the kitchen where they witness the garbage boy spilling a pot of soup. Scared for his job, he covers his tracks by refilling the pot using a vomit inducing batch of random ingredients. Remy, disgusted by this lack of care, jumps in to fix the soup while narrowly avoiding detection, open flames, etc. After completing his culinary masterpiece, Remy is detected.

Seeing the world from a rat's perspective makes for some very dynamic shots and action moments while Remy's four legged human behavior (ie. washing hands using a single drop of water) retain the tried and true Pixar charm.

CLIP #2

The soup Remy made was a hit and Linguini is hailed as a prodigal chef. Evil restaurant owner Skinny, however, suspects plagiarism and expresses his quest to prove him wrong. It's at this moment Remy is again detected, caught and told to be executed by Linguini. Right before dropping the rat into a rushing river, he notices that they are communicating via body language. "I can't cook...but you can!... I'll let you go, but we're in this together." And thus begins the symbiotic relationship of man and rat, working together to cook gourmet.

After the clips, Patton Oswalt came out and spoke of his experiences playing the lead. Already a veteran from voicing various cartoons (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Tom Goes to the Mayor), he was chosen when Bird listened to a stand up routine of the anatomy of a perfect steak. Oswalt cracked jokes about wishing robotic ninjas made it into the film while Bird announced the composer will be Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles).

In the creation of the film, Oswalt told us that the character was so well written that the acting process was very casual and easy, making the highlight of his gig the experience simply being at the Pixar campus. "It's like Willa Wonka's place without the creepiness."

The story was by Oscar winner Jan Pinkava (Geri's game), written by Brad Bird and directed under a very tight schedule where decisions were made by creative intuition instead of over thinking.

"It's a spontaneous movie...And if I had more time, maybe it wouldn't have felt like that."

In addition to Ratatouille, Pixar has 5 or 6 films in various stages of production at any one time, none of which appear to be continuing the adventures of Bird's earlier movies. "I don't do sequels just to do them, neither does Pixar." Along the same mindset, Pixar is hesitant to jump on the 3-D movie (as in 3D glasses) bandwagon unless it's a story based mechanism.

During audience Q & A, we were treated to Bird's quasi-confirmation that his next film will be live action. Working with Disney animation since age 14, he states, "My next project will probably be live action. That said there is a tendency for people who succeed in animation to leave. I'm not that type of guy, I love animation."

Wrapping up the presentation was the full theatrical trailer which explained more of the plot, introduced us to lots of fun physical comedy and pretty much sets this movie up to be yet another well rounded, entertaining Pixar flick.