by Curt Holman
(photo Â© 2007 Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios)
The documentary The Pixar Story amusingly conveys the fears that 3-D computer animation will destroy traditional 2-D animation by showing a hysterical montage worthy of a 1950s sci-fi movie. Pixar proves itâs no enemy of old-school animation with its latest short, âYour Friend, The Rat,â an extra on the Ratatouille DVD. For fans of Pixarâs films, the DVD releases can be nearly as fun as the movies themselves, like the dessert to a full-course meal, to borrow a culinary metaphor from Ratatouille.
Directed by Jim Capobianco, âYour Friend, The Ratâ is a tongue-in-cheek educational short, narrated by mismatched brother rats Remy (Patton Oswalt) and Emile (Peter Sohn). At times they appear as their computer-animated selves from Ratatouille, but most of the film is animated the old-school way, in a style that harks back to âBullwinkleâ and other animatedÂ shows from the 1950s and 1960s. Itâs funny, charming, extends the human vs. rat dynamic of the film and, at 11 minutes, is the longest Pixar short to date. That said, it doesnât contribute as much to the âworldâ of Ratatouille the way the hilarious âJack-Jack Attackâ and âMater and the Ghost-Lightâ did for Pixarâs The Incredibles and Cars, respectively. (Arguably âMater and the Ghost-Lightâ provides some of the prankish, anarchic humor that Cars sorely lacked.)
Someone could write (and probably already has) about the relationship between computer animation and digital video discs. Pixarâs second film, A Bugâs Life, was âthe first wholly-digital transfer of a feature film to a digital playback medium. No analog processes came between the creation of the computer images and their representation on the DVDâ (to quote the Wikipedia entry). Pixarâs DVD releases have been treasure troves of minidocumentaries and bonus material, but the Cars and Ratatouille discs have cut back a bit. Both are one-disc products (compared to two discs for their prior films) with one behind-the-scenes documentary each. At least they contain some deleted scenes â two shorts apiece â an original-to-DVD âsequel shortâ and the short attached to each film theatrically ("Lifted," a silly but well-executed spoof of alien abduction, for Ratatouille).
The Ratatouille disc is perfectly enjoyable, as you'd expect from one of the best films of 2007. Perhaps a Pixar accountant realized they simply didn't need to invest so much in the DVDs, or maybe they plan to double-dip with more lavish sets in a few years. Itâs surprising that the Ratatouille disc doesnât even contain the charming theatrical teaser trailer, which features good gags that were not in the finished film (not to mention the voice of director Brad Bird as the waiter):
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