On Saturday I was in Edinburgh for the UK Gala premiere of Pixar’s latest film, Ratatouille, being shown as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The film isn’t out in the UK until October for some reason best know to the film distributors, but as a big Pixar fan I was glad to not have to wait until then to see Ratatouille.
On entering the cinema, I discovered a nice little souvenir on my chair (and everyone else’s for that matter, although obviously I didn’t take theirs). Everyone was given a rather classy Ratatouille card (see below) outlining the film, along with some nice Ratatouille artwork. It was a nice touch certainly, and I’ll certainly be treasuring mine. I noticed the odd person leaving their card behind, but foolishly didn’t run over to grab another one on the way out. I don’t know that it would have had too much ebay value anyway, but we’ll never know now!
So anyway, the film was introduced by Pixar’s Dylan Brown who was the Supervising Animator for Ratatouille, and has been animating with Pixar since ‘A Bug’s Life’. There’s an interview here by ‘The List’ magazine related to this premiere. Dylan seemed to be equally as enthusiastic about being able to introduce the film as he was with his time spent in Scotland over the last week. Dylan told the audience later that John Lasseter had commented when they were in Paris for the international premiere of Ratatouille, that they should really make films that are set where they’d like to visit, so perhaps we’ll see a Scottish-based story from Pixar in a few years!
As per Pixar tradition, Ratatouille was preceded by a trailer for next year’s film (Wall-E in this case, which from what I’ve heard and read about, sounds like a fantastic story), followed by a short film. This year’s short is Lifted, about a trainee UFO navigator who can’t quite control his ship enough to abduct his target. It’s funny, it’s brilliantly animated, it’s Pixar basically. I think Boundin’ is still my favourite Pixar short, but ‘Lifted’ was a great little film, that shows what can be done with a simple idea.
Onto Ratatouille, which is really a return to form for Pixar. I love all Pixar’s films, but Ratatouille really sits nicely with my favourites, ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Monsters Inc’. Pixar have always been about the story, and this one shows they’ve still got it in that department. I’m not really going to review the film here, and wouldn’t want to spoil anything for those that haven’t seen it yet, but it’s a film with a great pace that certainly didn’t leave me bored. The whole film is set in a particularly nice looking Paris, at a famous restaurant, that’s going down hill. The main characters Remy (the rat), and Linguini (who reminds me a little of Fry from Futurama), have been so lovingly animated and provide such great (and in the case of Linguini, often stupid) character, it’s hard not to warm to the film. The stars of the show really are those two, but in true Pixar style, the ‘evil’ character of the film, Antono Ego (who’s a food critic) gets some of the best lines, and biggest laughs, particularly when we see his home.
As I’m a bit of a CG fan, I have to comment on not just the wonderful animation, but also the look of the film. The food (of which there is a lot in this film) looked eerily realistic (perhaps too realistic in places give the general cartooniness of the characters), and Pixar have certainly taken things up yet another notch from their previous films.
At the end of the film, Dylan Brown came back on to give us a 20 minute presentation on how they put together Ratatouille. Dylan started by talking about how every Pixar film starts from a simple idea. You can see a drawing of this idea from the photo I took of his first slide, at the top of this post. Dylan talked us through the stages they went through in animating a couple of scenes, and had a funny demonstration of how some beginner animators put together their walk cycle. He suggests that the best way to visualise such things is to think of every step as a way to stop the character from falling, aided by some silly walks on his part.
He then went on to talk about the animation rigs the animators use. He pointed out that there are no limits on some aspects of each character, nicely demonstrated with Remy’s arms:
I missed some of the amusing faces he had Remy making as his arms were stretched, but you get the idea. He then finished with talking about a couple of easter eggs hidden in Ratatouille (there are as ever, many to be found apparently). One nod to Pixar’s ‘The Incredibles’ came in the form of a performer miming on the bridge as Linguini walks by, who was Bomb Voyage in that film. The other was unlikely to be spotted by most people, and you’ll see a grainy shot of it below – the Pizza Planet truck from ‘Toy Story’ crosses over a bridge in the distance at one point in the film along with other cars. Blink and you miss it.
A question and answer session then followed. Dylan confirmed the forthcoming Pixar films already known about, and seemed to wish he could talk about what would follow. When asked about whether Pixar would do 2D, he said he didn’t think Pixar would go that route, but he was excited about the other Disney studios returning to such things, particularly with John Lasseter overseeing things now across Disney. Questions were also asked about Pixar doing a joint live action film with others, which seemed to be mostly wishful thinking, as Dylan said it was news to him, and that he’d definitely be signing up for it were it actually true. But it would seem it’s not.
Dylan did a great job of enthusing the audience over Pixar, and was a great guest to have at the premiere. Altogether it made for a great few hours of Pixar love. The Edinburgh International Film Festival is also polling audiences as they leave film screenings to vote via a card handed out on how many stars you’d give the film (up to four stars). The ‘Audience Award’ will be given to the best rated film by audiences, and as you can see on their site here, so far Ratatouille is taking the lead. Suffice to say, one of those votes was for the full four stars option, and I’m sure you can work out who gave it that.