Pixar's "Ratatouille" is a taste of France

29th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 29, 2007 (AFP) - Horrid as it might sound, "Ratatouille," an animated tale about a rat let loose in a classy Parisian restaurant kitchen, is an ode to the glory of French cuisine and to the country's capital.

PARIS, June 29, 2007 (AFP) - Horrid as it might sound, "Ratatouille," an animated tale about a rat let loose in a classy Parisian restaurant kitchen, is an ode to the glory of French cuisine and to the country's capital.

Scripted and directed by Brad Bird, who won two Oscars for Pixar's "The Incredibles," the almost two-hour long film is being released Friday in the United States before hitting screens in the remainder of the world in late July and early August.

Unusual for a rat, the hero of the film, Remy, has a fine palate and delicate taste buds and disdains the ordinary garbage slurped up by the rest of his clan.

Forced to explore the hostile world of humans, he lands in the kitchens of the Paris restaurant founded by his idol, the late legendary chef Auguste Gusteau, where a sadistic and unscrupulous cook named Skinner rules over the ovens while dreaming of becoming the king of frozen foods.

"It's an interesting world, it's not dull," Bird told AFP in an interview.

In the kitchen, Remy strikes up a friendship with young Linguini, a boy taken on to sweep the floors and clear the rubbish.

But the gourmet rat soon turns him into the restaurant's leading light, guiding Linguini through the art of haute cuisine by pulling on his hair like a puppeteer. The boy becomes the talk of Paris and the restaurant's fortunes soar.

"We tried to have the kitchen make sense, we tried to make it look lived-in, we tried to study how cooks moved, because they move with economy and authority. It's not like you or I, they do it for a living," Bird said.

Produced in California by 500 people, the six-year "Ratatouille" project is the most ambitious yet realised by Pixar, which was set up a decade ago by Apple founder Steve Jobs and purchased by Disney for 7.4 billion dollars in 2006.

One of the big challenges was giving emotion and personality to Remy, a far more difficult task than animating toys as in "Toy Story" or the superheros of "The Incredibles."

The Pixar team studied real rats in cages for months to reproduce the elasticity of their movements and the shine of their fur, made up of 30,000 different hairs on the studio computers.

It was also difficult to translate the ecstasy of taste into images.

To recreate the decor and the mad frenzy that goes on backstage in a top restaurant, producer Brad Lewis drew his inspiration from top eateries such as the Tour d'Argent, Taillevent, Guy Savoy and the famed Train Bleu restaurant at Paris' Gare de Lyon railway station.

"We paid attention to details, like the burn marks that cooks have on their hands, any good cook does, like somebody who has just been in a war and has some wounds," Bird said. "And the kind of people that populated the kitchen, and the hierarchy.

"That was a challenge, to get that explained to the audience in a simple, fine way, cause it could be boring if you don't handle it with the right touch."

Turning to the film's romantic portrayal of Paris, producer Lewis, a dedicated gourmet and francophile, said situating the plot in foreign parts was a first for the studio.

"We had never made a film on a foreign city, a foreign country, that was completely new for Pixar," he said.

Said Bird: "It wasn't about reproducing the exact reality of Paris, it was more about giving the impression of Paris, some of the romance, the history of Paris.

"It's a very lived-in city, and the computer does not want to do that. It wants to have perfect geometric, perfectly clean surfaces, with no physical flaws and that's the exact opposite of Paris."

"So our challenge was: every imperfection has to be put in," Bird said.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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