Directed by Brad Bird
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 111 minutes
Audio: PCM 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
Release Date: November 6, 2007
Review Date: November 9, 2007
The wit and intelligence behind the stories and especially the dialogue in a typical Pixar film have no equal in the cutthroat world of computer animation. Other studios’ films may win the feature animation Oscar (surprisingly only Finding Nemo and The Incredibles have netted Pixar the feature animation prize), but none of the other studios ever seem to be able to achieve the uncanny blend of sight and sound that is uniquely Pixar. And once again, the studio comes through with flying colors with Ratatouille, the latest in their long line of winning animated confections.
And “confection” is the right word in this case since the story of Ratatouille revolves around a rat who‘s a master chef. Yep, lovable Remy (Patton Oswalt), after being separated from his family, finds himself in the kitchen of once five star restaurant Gusteau’s. Due to the death of its founding chef and the new chef Skinner’s (Ian Holm) unbridled ego and dictatorial ways, the once proud eatery has lost two of the stars from its rating. With a few dashes of spices and herbs, Remy turns a soup into something craved by all, and credit for the concoction falls on clean-up boy Linguini (Lou Romano). Once Linguini and Remy learn how to communicate so Remy can make him into a master chef, the restaurant’s reputation for fine food takes off, enough that critic Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole) decides to return to pen another critique of this new miracle worker.
The key comic moments in the film all revolve around keeping the secret of Remy’s talent from those who might upset the apple cart. Naturally the haughty Skinner smells a rat (pun intended), but Remy must also deal with his goofy brother Emile (Peter Sohn) and father Django (Brian Dennehy), neither of whom understand why the garbage they usually forage isn’t good enough for Remy. There’s also an ambitious female chef in the kitchen, Colette (Janeane Garofalo), whom Linguini flips for and whose presence must be dealt with in times of great stress in the kitchen.
Pixar has lavished the usual incredible production values on the movie with stunningly detailed surroundings for both the rats and the humans. Paris has rarely looked more beautiful or appealing in some of these animated shots, and following Remy on his various excursions through the Paris sewers and behind the walls of various establishments reveals points of view that we humans rarely get to encounter. Like all Pixar product, the animation is so lush, so thoroughly intricate and exquisitely rendered that it’s often hard not to want to stop and just look at these frames as true artwork. Having just watched Meet the Robinsons with its beautiful animation, one realizes seeing Ratatouille that the Pixar craftsmanship on view is like the difference between high school and college coursework. Pixar does it more fully and with greater attention to detail and complexity.
The voice cast is also simply wonderful. Oswalt’s Remy is adorably wide-eyed and sweet while Holm overacts like fun as the grasping Skinner. Peter O’Toole sounds like he’s having the time of his life as the sneering food critic, almost daring anyone to please him. Brad Garrett does the voice of restaurant founder Gusteau who continues to be Remy’s Jiminy Cricket-like conscience throughout the film. You’ll also hear veteran character actors James Remar, Will Arnett. John Ratzenberger, and director Brad Bird voicing other characters in the movie.
Brad Bird’s direction offers some stunning sequences. Among my favorites were Remy’s sewer adventure early in the movie, Remy’s wild excursions all over the Gusteau kitchen during his first entry there, and the climactic cooking sequence with hundreds of rats on display. All of these astonishing events show mind-boggling animation at the zenith of its artistic effectiveness.
The film’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. As wonderful as the standard definition disc looks, the Blu-ray trumps it in every respect. In terms of sharpness, color depth and purity, and small object detail, the Blu-ray disc is a marvel. Ratatouille is bathed in warm hues throughout, so it’s less bright than some other animated films you can find on Blu-ray. However, for depth of field and attention to detail (watch moonlight softly glisten off Remy’s whiskers, for example, or notice the faint stubble on Linguini's chin), this Pixar film just soars in high definition. Obviously coming from the digital domain, everything looks pristine and beautifully rendered as, once again, Pixar animation offers up another reference quality release. The film has been divided into 31 chapters.
The uncompressed PCM 5.1 (48kHz/24 bit, 6.9 Mbps) soundtrack is a wonderfully orchestrated effort with its brilliant combination of music and sound effects pumped through all of the channels as necessary and also directionialzed voices where appropriate which sound so clear and with echo used so intelligently that you‘d swear the people were in the room with you. Again, Pixar does things right with the marvelous blend of sounds both expected and unique.
The Blu-ray release of Ratatouille features Disney’s Cine-Explore feature which allows for interactive discussions, inserts, and branching featurettes to be placed throughout the film for easy manual access or automatic playback as user selected. Watching the 111 minute feature with the automatic features turned on will take approximately three hours due to the feature rich nature of the materials present.
For this film, director Brad Bird and producer Brad Lewis team up for a lively and fact-filled audio commentary that leaves no stoned unturned about all aspects of the film. As they speak about different cast and crew members, photographs illustrate the people involved. Sketches, storyboards, and concept art also pop up as the appropriate scenes come on screen.
Also a part of the Cine-Explore material (which is also included on the menu and can be watched individually apart from the movie; they‘re presented in 480p) are 10 featurettes called “Animation Briefings” where director Brad Bird discusses with his staff the aspects of a scene to emphasize certain qualities or attitudes he’s looking for from his animators, 13 “Documentary Shorts” dealing with aspects of the production like music and character design, 3 deleted scenes in rough sketch or mock-up with explanations as to their elimination (these were also on the SD-DVD release), and 5 amusing deleted shots (running just a few seconds each) where the animators in question bemoan the loss of favorite moments of their work.
“Lifted” is the Pixar short which accompanied Ratatouille in theaters, and it’s simply hilarious as an alien taking driver’s ed uses trial and error to manipulate his spacecraft. Think Looney Tunes meets Close Encounters for this highly enjoyable 5-minute romp (also with a most effective Dolby 5.1 EX soundtrack). It’s a 1.78:1 1080p delight.
“Your Friend the Rat” is an 11-minute featurette in 1080p that features Remy and Emile amusingly discussing how rats have aided mankind through the years. (Yes, they step gingerly around the bubonic plague problem.) This short could easily have been a segment on the old Disneyland program to go along with shorts like The Truth About Mother Goose or Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom which found homes there.
“Fine Food & Film” gives us 14 minutes in 1080p of director Brad Bird and master chef Thomas Keller discussing (individually) how they run their respective domains proving true leaders can persuade an animation studio or a kitchen staff to do their best work. This is also presented in anamorphic video.
Exclusive to Blu-ray is Gusteau’s Gourmet Game, a game that requires a player to complete orders in the kitchen and deliver them within an increasing time limit.
Another exclusive is “The Will,” an almost 3-minute activity in which the viewer can select two different soundtrack accompaniments composed by Michael Giacchino for one particular film sequence.
“Remembering Dan Lee” is a final exclusive, a 3-minute tribute to animator Dan Lee who died during production, fondly remembered by several co-workers in a touching remembrance.
Ratatouille continues the winning tradition of Pixar’s legendary animation team. The film is fast, funny, and, like other Pixar gems, utterly unique. This Blu-ray release offers extraordinary quality for the home viewer and is most certainly the preferred presentation of this marvelous animated feature.