Ratatouille is quite possibly the perfect movie - and it all comes from two places: the script and the animation direction. Both of these items can be traced to one person: Brad Bird. Most of us know Brad Bird as the mind behind The Incredibles, the movie that many of us really, really liked a lot more than we told people. Prior to that, tho', Bird did The Iron Giant, which (in my mind) is another damn fine film. Why? Well, let's leave the animation out of if for a moment, leaving only this as a caveat to that increasingly impressive medium:
"I reject that whole point of view - that animation is a children's medium. The way people talk about it is, well, hey, it's a good thing I have kids, because now I get to see this. Well, hey, no, man! You can just go and see it. There's no other art form that is defined in such a narrow way. It's narrowminded, and I can't wait for it to die."
- Brad Bird
Y'see, that's what I dig about Brad Bird; he's using the medium to tell his stories, not telling his stories to fit the medium. Which is why Bird's films are so good; he focuses on the story first, then makes the movie. That he chooses to work in animation is secondary. Insight to his personal view on filmmaking and movies helps us understand where he's coming from:
"I think all movies are an illusion, whether they are live action or animation. And I think the best special effect that people don't pay enough attention to is caring about the characters who are going through the set pieces. If you can be invested in the characters that you are putting in danger, then you can amp up the pressure, and it really means something because people are rooting for them to survive. Characters are the special effect."
- Brad Bird
This is important for us as filmmakers to remember, because - like it or not - on the level of filmmaking we're doing in this town, more people than I'd like to name here tend to focus on the things they're good at: make up, special effects, sound, camera geekery, etc., and what I find lacking in their films is the aspect of character and good writing.
In any event, Ratatouille can serve us filmmakers in many aspects: as entertainment, certainly, but also as a 90 minute film-school on how to develop character and how to write a good film.
Boise Filmmakers. No Tourists.