Movie: Ratatouille (2007)
Director: Brad Bird & Jan Pinkava
Composer: Michael Giacchino
Have you ever watched an animation movie and thought, “Wow, somebody actually did this frame by frame”? I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t, we don’t naturally pay close attention to the animation in animated films. However, because it takes up so much space in the creation of the movie, we have a tendency to subconsciously accept the fact that everything happening in front of us was generated by a computer. For a long time, I was in the camp that watches the film and loses itself into the world that was meticulously created by the animators. Today, I can still put myself in that same mindset but a part of me still wants to visually analyze the movie frame by frame. Nonetheless, I can still remember the awe I felt whenever I’d watch a Pixar movie when I was young. I loved animation movies and used to watch them all the time. From The Incredibles to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, animation films have always been a big part of my love for cinema. Then came Ratatouille and my perception of animation completely changed (in a good way, don’t worry). I mean for fuck’s sake, they made animation food look good…
First off, seeing as this movie is for kids (sort of) and that it came out in 2007, it should be no surprise when I admit to you that I only saw this movie because of my parents (past me really wanted to see some PG 13 action and shit). Thus, thank you Mom and Dad for making me discover one of the greatest films ever made. As a family, we didn’t go to the movies that often, but Pixar movies were usually something that my parents wanted to check out. On this particular occasion, it was the first time in my life that nobody else was in the theater with us. If you’ve never experienced this before, I urge you to try it because it changes your whole interaction with the movie. I think that might be part of the reason why I love this movie so much; it has an amazing soundtrack, a fantastic story, great characters, and I experienced it all with only my parents and a giant screen with a massive set of speakers. However, the thing that surprises me the most is the fact that even though this is a kids movie and the experience usually degrades after the first viewing, Ratatouille is still one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s one of the rare cases where the movie is better every time I watch it. Either that or past me still has a crush on Colette’s character… Moving on!
Last week, I talked about music reflecting a movie’s style and genre; this week’s entry is in the same pool of thoughts. Let’s get straight to the point, Michael Giacchino is one of the great composers to be working today. His work on the recent Pixar projects is simply amazing, and his take on the Star Wars universe in Rogue One was very respectful to John Williams’ already established atmosphere. Ratatouille is no exception when it comes to Giacchino’s ability of making a fictional world seem real. In the same way that Alexandre Desplat was able to add culture to Wes Anderson’s fictional world of Zubrowka in The Grand Budapest Hotel, Michael Giacchino was able to perfectly represent the French cuisine culture in his music for Ratatouille. The simple yet very effective use of instruments like the accordion or even some mini maracas (which, by the way, resemble the action of adding pepper or salt to a meal) adds a lot of depth and effect to Giacchino’s representation of the French cuisine world that Pixar was recreating for the movie. Simply put, Giacchino did a fantastic job with this soundtrack.
Alright, enough bootlicking for now, let me show you something. It’s time to “analyze” Giacchino’s composition and I’ve decided to share my thoughts on the scene were Remy fixes the clusterfuck that was once considered a soup. Take a look (sorry for the subtitles).
Did you notice anything particular about the music? If not, this is the part where I blow your fucking mind (or not). This might seem a little crazy but I believe Giacchino composed the scene’s song so it resembles a culinary recipe. Thus, the song doesn’t only intensify or dramatize Remy’s actions, it actually mimics it. There are a lot of different ways to use music as a narrative element in movies, but this one is very peculiar. In this particular case, the music doesn’t need a character’s theme to support its storytelling because it tells a story on its own. So how does it mimic Remy’s actions? Well, it’s pretty simple when you think about it; just like Remy adds ingredients and goes faster and faster throughout the whole scene, Giacchino adds multiple layers of instruments one after the other and makes the rhythm go faster and faster as well. That might seem dull and obvious, but it works tremendously well towards the spectator’s subconscious. In other words, it’s the kind of music that makes you smile even though your watching a rat making soup.
Once again, I am getting ahead of myself and that results in an unnecessarily long post that three, maybe four people will read… I shall leave you with this wonderful quote from none other than Gusteau himself, “You must be imaginative, strong-hearted. You must try things that may not work, and you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul. What I say is true – anyone can cook… but only the fearless can be great.” Calm down, I know it’s cheesy but I like the phrasing so just deal with it.
Interesting trivia: Pet rats were kept in the hallway at Pixar’s studio for more than a year so that the animators could not only study the movement of their fur, but also the movement of their noses, ears, paws and tails. Also regarding the animation department: an average person has about 110,000 hairs. Consequently, Colette’s character has 115,000 rendered hairs whereas Remy’s character has 1.15 million rendered hairs. I know, this isn’t related to the movie’s soundtrack but it blew my god damn mind so I had to share it.
Song: Wall Rat
Song: Colette Shows Him The Ropes
Song: Special Order
Thanks for reading (and listening). See you next time!