by Karen Paik
The Art of Ratatouille (Amazon)
In a nutshell
A collection of artwork that went into the production of Disney Pixar’s film Ratatouille, as well as quotes from the artists and filmmakers.
“I found myself relating to Remy, a character that sees the seeming impossibility of his dreams and pushes forward anyway, believing that he’ll find a way past all the obstacles.” – Brad Bird, Director
“These images may illustrate a moment you’ll never see in the film, but they give you a moment of insight into the character.” – Brad Lewis, Producer
“I’m so happy Pixar takes the time to pay attention to the little details, right down to the floor of the kitchen. We tweaked the tile pattern so the tiles were slightly irregular, and then shading made sure it was worn unevenly, like a real floor.” – Robert Kondo, Set Designer
Ratatouille is one of my favourite films. I love the style – the lighting, colours, and the characters and animation are wonderful, and I identify with the story. The line by critic Anton Ego “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” always resonates with me. So I love that this book is a chance to delve a bit deeper behind the scenes, and really get an idea of all (or at least more of!) the thought and effort that went into making such a great film.
As you know, you don’t get anything for free in an animated movie. Every set, every prop, every cobblestone, and every ray of light, patch of fog, or gust of wind has been carefully designed and placed for a purpose. But even when you are aware of that, I think it’s still easy to overlook just how much work went into a film like this. Because when it all works, you barely even notice it. You just accept it, and focus on the story and characters. So it’s great to take a look at all of the research, and planning, and testing, and exploration, and the thought processes behind all of these decisions about what to include and how it should look. For example, different designs of the rats’ boats, using all kinds of household items like pins, ashtrays, eggboxes, cheese graters, bottles and paper clips. Or the research that went into designing the street lamps and signs. While you may not notice every single little detail while watching the film, you are certainly aware of some of the elements as a whole, which really adds to the richness of the film, and it’s great to get a second look here.
There is a huge variety of different types of artwork displayed in this book. Although the finished product is all CG, a wide array of different mediums and styles are used to create it – clay sculptures, pencil sketches, marker pen drawings, pastels, paints, reference photographs, and digital painting too. The attention to detail is meticulous, and as you’d expect, the artwork is all of the highest quality. I especially love seeing the progress of the character designs. I find it fascinating that a character designed and sketched in 2D, can then be modelled in 3D and still be absolutely recognisable as the same character with the same proportions. A flat pencil sketch now has volume and can be viewed from any angle. As well as getting to see all of the details that did make the final film, you also get to see some designs and characters that didn’t make the final cut, like Desiree, Remy’s mother. Some of my favourite pieces in this book are the character pencil sketches by Carter Goodrich – many of them dating back to 2000. Ratatouille was released in 2007, so it’s interesting to see how early these characters were being explored – many of them changing very little before the final release.
The text of the book is worth reading too – you get lots of nice little insights from the people involved.
The only thing that would be great to see a bit more of, is the thumbnail sketches used for actual animation. You get a tantalising glimpse of what these could look like, on the front and back inside covers, but not much more than that in the main book. However, this book is more about everything that went on before the animation on the film started, so it’s understandable. Take a look at these great thumbnails by Victor Navone though if you’d like to see some.
A lovely book, worth buying if you enjoyed the film and would like to see a bit more behind the scenes.
1 Foreword – John Lasseter
2 Introduction – Brad Bird
3 A Rat’s Life
4 Anyone Can Cook
6 Gallery of Characters