DVD: The "Added Value" of Ratatouille



(photo © 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 it’s no enemy of old-school animation with its latest short, “Your Friend, The Rat,” an extra on the Ratatouille DVD. For fans of Pixar’s 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, “Your Friend, The Rat” 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 “Bullwinkle” and other animated  shows from the 1950s and 1960s. It’s 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 doesn’t contribute as much to the “world” of Ratatouille the way the hilarious “Jack-Jack Attack” and “Mater and the Ghost-Light” did for Pixar’s The Incredibles and Cars, respectively. (Arguably “Mater and the Ghost-Light” 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. Pixar’s second film, A Bug’s Life, was “the 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 DVD” (to quote the Wikipedia entry). Pixar’s 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 — two shorts apiece — an original-to-DVD ‘sequel short’ 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. It’s surprising that the Ratatouille disc doesn’t 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):[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/nYUjNQrokeg" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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