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"The Art of Ratatouille" gives its readers a glimpse of the picture that Pixar Animation Studios almost made

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"The Art of Ratatouille" gives its readers a glimpse of the picture that Pixar Animation Studios almost made

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It is one of the more intriguing aspects of the production history of Pixar's latest, "Ratatouille." The fact that this animated feature started off with one director (I.E. Jan Pinkava, who helmed this animation studio's Academy Award-winning short, "Geri's Game") yet wound up being completed by another director (I.E. Brad Bird, the talented writer / director behind Pixar's Oscar-winning feature, "The Incredibles").

Why exactly did that happen? More importantly, what would Jan Pinkava's version of "Ratatouille" have been like? Well, if anyone could tell us that, it would be Karen Paik. As a member of Pixar's development department, Ms. Paik was one of the very first people assigned to work on this movie about a rat who wanted to be a chef.

Karen was there when Jan originated this project, then stayed on after Brad came on board and totally overhauled the production. So she basically had a front row seat for all of the upheaval that ultimately led to the creation of the version of "Ratatouille" which is opening in theaters this Friday. 

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Pixar
Chronicle Books LLC. All Rights Reserved

But does any of that juicy behind-the-scenes stuff actually wind up in the new making-of book that Ms. Paik just wrote, "The Art of Ratatouille" (Chronicle Books, May 2007) ? Well ... Sort of.

To explain: Karen closely follows the template that you usually see applied to hardcovers like these. In that you first get to see the artists struggling to get a handle on the look of the characters (Take a look at this early, extremely skinny version of Remy that Peter DeSeve drew back in 2001) ...

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

... followed by the final, fully-realized versions of those same characters from the film. (First take a gander at "Ratatouille" 's lead character as a three dimensional clay sculpture done by Greg Dykstra, then as a shading study created by Dominique Louis).

 Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

But then -- in addition to this material -- Ms. Paik also gives her readers brief glimpses of ideas & characters that were originally developed for the Jan Pinkava version of this movie. Take -- for example -- Remy's mother, Desiree ...

 Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Who -- according to "Ratatouille" story supervisor Jim Capobianco -- was a character that ...

" ... we tried to develop for quite a while, but as the story evolved it became more about the father-and-son relationship, and she faded away. Desiree was the overworked mother of 200, but she always knew what was going on with all of her very precious children, who were kind of an 'Our Gang' group that were continually getting into trouble."

Mind you, along with these abandoned characters, Karen also slips in quick glimpses of cut scenes from the film. Check out this aborted fantasy cooking sequence which was inspired by "The Nutcracker." Where Remy imagines himself wandering in this wintry wonderland where powdered sugar falls from the sky and covers a wide variety of outrageous desserts.

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Of course, given that this is a book that's intended to support & help promote Brad Bird's new movie, 90% of the art that's featured in this hardcover comes from that version of "Ratatouille." But again, if you're paying really close attention, Ms. Paik sneaks in these references to the Jan Pinkava incarnation of this picture. Check out these two title concepts for this animated feature. Back when Pixar's latest went by the name "Rat!" or "Rats!"

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Me personally? While I like the stuff like this, I also enjoy getting the chance to scope out some of this production's hidden detail that goes by too quickly in the finished film. Take -- for example -- these images from the main dining room at Gusteau's. Which -- as production designer Harley Jessup explains -- were done in this style because ...

" ... we ... thought of the dining room as a palace of food. (Which is why) the walls are covered with murals that show Gusteau as a Zeus-like god of cuisine."

Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

The end result is a making-of book that skillfully mixes the what-might-been with the what-actually-did-end-up-on-the-big-screen. Loaded with hundreds of colorful concept paintings & inspirational sketches, "The Art of Ratatouille" will make a fine addition to any animation enthusiast's library. If only because Karen used the very last page of this book to pay tribute to the late, great Dan Lee ...  

 Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc. / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

... the much-beloved artist who helped create the look of many of the characters featured in this brand-new Brad Bird movie.

Speaking of Mr. Bird: If you want to know why Brad replaced Jan, the real reason that John Lasseter, Ed Catmull & Steve Jobs called Bird (While he was on vacation after promoting the release of "The Incredibles" DVD, no less) and insisted that he immediately take over as director of "Rat!" / "Rats!" / "Ratatouille" / whatever ... Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you all about the important role in Pixar history that this particular animated feature was originally intended to play.

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  • Hey all. I have been brought to tears by a CD I recently purchased at Amazon.com. What does that have to do with animation you ask? Because it's the original "Firehouse Five Plus Two" that's why! All of their recordings have been recently re-released and are available at Amazon.com. I just received the Live at Disneyland CD that was originally released in 1962. What a joy it has been listening to this CD as Ward Kimball; Frank Thomas; Don Kinch; Danny Alguire; George Probert; Dick Roberts and Eddie Forrest live again, if only for a brief few moments. Hope you get a chance to check these out.

  • Here's a bit taken from an AP story about "Ratatouille"

    Brad Bird rewrote the script and replaced Jan Pinkava as director. Pinkava, who later left Pixar, ended up with story and co-director credits on “Ratatouille.”

    “Jan came up with a brilliant idea and was very excited about it, but in the end, it didn’t have the leadership to take it kind of through,” Lasseter said. “The last thing we want to do is replace the director, but to help make the movie better, if we have to, we will.”

  • While it’s always interesting to see every conceptual art piece left on an animation room floor, implying that such early-drawing-board art was the picture “as originally intended” is jumping to conclusions. Every movie has early concepts that are altered, enhanced, or scrapped. If the majority of Jan’s ideas were scrapped, perhaps they should’ve been better ideas. A rat mother of 200 kids sounds too silly. A “dream sequence filled with desserts” sounds too cliché. Simply calling the film “Rat!” is as uninspired of a title as…well, CARS. If these were all part of the “Ratatouille” Jan planned, well, Jan deserved to be canned like a tuna.

  • I am going to have to agree with EVILASH23's comments. The piece did come across to me as a small slam due to the tone of the piece. There seems to be an inference there that there was nothing the matter with Pinkava's version, but...OH no, we have to have Bird grace us with his presence or the film won't work. Maybe, that is not want was intended but that is how I took it.

    There s no question that Bird is at the top of the craft right now. Why wouldn't Disney/Pixar go with the surer bet. Can't fault them. But, from my glance at the book there was nothing wrong with the Pinkava draft.

    One more point. It is always nice to see documentation of the evolution of a work. Many movies, "Star Wars" comes to mind, have had dozens of drawings rendered as preliminary outlines that never last through to the final visualization.

    Nice book and I hope the movie does well.

  • The Art of Ratatouille è un libro che illustra le caratteristiche chiave dello sviluppo artistico del prossimo film Pixar. Ciò potrebbe anche non essere così interessante per i profani, non fosse che permette di conoscere un po' più

  • Maybe it is not an article bashing pixar. But, it feels like it is a rewrite of a PixarBashing article. Like it was tone down.

    At the end , it's nice to see an article reflect what the book is showing, altough it is only a one sided view of the book.

    So why I keep coming back to this site? because looking beyond the Pixar bashing and the Jim bashing comments, it still gives me very good information and a fun reading time.

  • Users Bashing Jim For Bashing Pixar...

    Heh. I didn't really see any Pixar bashing. Oh well. I thought it was a pretty good article.

  • Speaking of Jim getting bashed for writing a Pixar article, where's that story about Pinkava?

  • "Just think at one point "Toy Story" was almost unwatchable, with a snarky and very unlikeable Woody. It was so bad -- in part because the artists at Pixar were following the notes given to them by Jeffrey Katzenberger and the suits at Disney"

    Umm, everything I've ever seen or read says the exact opposite.  That it was the input from Disney that helped get "Toy Story" on track and that Pixar wouldn't even have understood the requirements of a feature film without that input.  It was Disney that told Pixar the film wasn't working and that they would cancel it if it wasn't fixed.  Pixar rallied to fix what Disney told them was wrong, not to get away from the advice Disney gave them.

    The key is that they were willing to take that advice and embrace it.  Move the film in a better direction, instead of doggedly sticking to their guns.  This is apparently the problem that occurred with "Ratatouille" and "American Dog"; filmmakers unwilling to bend to try and make their film better.

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