Release Date: 29 June 2007
Director: Brad Bird. Jan Pinkava
History: "Ratatouille" had an interesting history. Originally the brain child of "Geri's Game" (Pixar's award winning short from 1998) director Jan Pinkava in the early 2000's. He created the core story and ideas for the key characters, sets, and style for the film. It was meant to be the first Pixar film with a European flair about it as well as Pinkava's film debut as director. But then in 2005, the studio lacked confidence in his direction and approach and called in "The Incredibles" director Brad Bird to take over as head director. Pinkava stayed with Pixar a while more to finish up a few duties at the studio, and then left, being very tight lipped about his feelings or story of what happen. Bird came in a re-wrote the story by giving Skinner and Colette larger roles and killing off Gusteau as well as making the rats more rat like and less anthropomorphic in appearance.
"Ratatouille" was also meant to be the first Pixar film free from commitments from Disney. After tension between Pixar CEO Steve Jobs and then Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, about the terms of the contract between the two companies, 'Cars" was originally set to be the last Disney distributed Pixar film (as it was the fifth film in the five picture deal they had signed, with Disney not counting "Toy Story 2" because it was a sequel) and "Ratatouille" would be the first Pixar film distributed by another studio. Much of this came beside the feud over "Toy Story 2" also over the fact that Pixar felt that even though their film were making millions of dollars (their first five films grossed over $2.5 billion) that Disney was enjoy the fast majority of the profits even though all Disney did was market and distribute their films. There was further contention was the fact that Pixar had no copy rights on their own films and characters, Disney did. Meaning Disney could make films with Pixar characters without Pixar. This lead to "Toy Story 3" originally being a Disney only film. More on that in the review for that film, but after some shake ups at Disney in 2005 that lead to Eisner stepping down at Disney, and new talks with Pixar by new Disney CEO Bob Iger that lead to Disney merging with Pixar, "Cars" became the first film under the new Disney-Pixar banner with "Ratatouille" suddenly the second.
While a soft box office opening for Pixar in the US (still coming in number one for it's opening weekend, but with $47 million instead of the higher numbers Pixar film normally get) but became the highest grossing animated film in France, where the film takes place. It was also a critical darling despite the fact that's it's main villain was a critic. It went on to win a number of awards including the Academy Award for best Animated Film.
My Reaction: "Ratatouille" came out during a very busy Summer Movie season, at least for me it was. "Spider-Man 3" and "Fantastic Four 2" both came out that summer as well as the third film in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise and "Stardust." Add to that in the animation world during or just prior to "Ratatouille's" release the third "Shrek" film, "Meet the Robinsons," and "Surfs Up." Of course with both the second "National Treasure" and "Enchanted" both coming out later in the year, there were many films that caught my attention in 2007 and I'll be the first to admit, if "Ratatouille" had not been a Pixar film, I most likely would have skipped it with so many other movies that I shelled out the big bucks to see.
But after seeing it again, it reminded me that while not my favorite Pixar film, I'm still happy I saw it and even happy I own it. Some of the nuts and bolts about cooking, while happy they were there to show the proper flavor the film was going for (no pun intended), I found bored me at times. But one thing I very much was in awe by way how organic they made made the food look in the film, even though it was made by computers. Clearly the medium is reaching new heights these days. I also enjoyed similar to "Mulan" how one person, or in this case rat, can make a difference.
My Wife's Reaction: She, like most women I've ran across with this film, seemed grossed out by the rats at times. But she very much appreciated much of the story and that the rats sanitize themselves before cooking at the end.
My Final Grade: (B+) While not amongst the list of my favs from Pixar, still a good film. I enjoyed the lessons from the film and the determination Remy had in living his dream and not letting others stand in his way.
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