The past two years, Brad Bird, the Oscar-winning director of Pixar Animation's "The Incredibles," has been watching as one talking-animal animated movie after another has come and gone in theaters.
Frankly, he's a little annoyed because he knows you're thinking his new film, "Ratatouille," is just another "wisecracking critters movie." Yes, "Ratatouille" does follow a mouse who does indeed talk, but Bird says, "About one minute into this movie, people are going to see it's not only different from all those other movies, but different from anything that Pixar has ever done."
"Ratatouille" follows a rat named Remy who fancies himself not only a gourmand but also aspires to be a gourmet chef. So he takes up residence in one of Paris' top restaurants to learn from the best, which, of course, puts him in the line of fire.
The French may let dogs into restaurants, but rats are another matter.
"It's whimsical, with — I don't know how to put it — a slightly European sensibility," Bird says. "There's more of a fairy-tale vibe. It feels as close to classic, old Walt Disney-era movies as you're ever going to get."
Bird was planning to follow "The Incredibles" with a live-action film. But Pixar execs John Lasseter, Steve Jobs and Ed Catmull weren't happy with the way "Ratatouille" was developing and asked Bird for help. Animation hadn't started, but it was late in the game. Bird kept the premise but wrote a new script from scratch.
"They did the same thing with 'Toy Story 2,' " Bird says. "It's an adrenalized situation, to be sure, but I did it because of my belief in the company."
As for that live-action film (possibly an entry from the "John Carter of Mars" series?), Bird says it's next, and it will be for Pixar.
"The company is evolving into a place where all kinds of movies, not just animated ones, can come out," Bird says.
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