Brad Bird is one of the name directors at Pixar. His The Incredibles was one of their biggest and most acclaimed hits, so they'd definitely mention him when he was doing his next project. But Ratatouille began without the Brad Bird stamp. He took over the project later in development.
Snacking on Ratatouille with Brad Bird
"I think that it started out as an assignment," said Bird. "I was asked by John Lasseter and Steve Jobs and Ed Catmull to take the project over because while everyone loved the idea, they loved the look of the film, there were story problems that they felt were not being solved. So they came to me and I was very honored by that. I was working on something else and I had some reluctance to get involved because it wasn't my baby. So I began it as an assignment, a really difficult, almost like a film school assignment like if you had these parameters you had to stay in, but you can do anything you want within these parameters, and you have this amount of time and that's set, what can you do in this amount of time?"
Ratatouille is the story of Remy the rat who tries to be a chef in a French kitchen. He uses the human Linguini to do his bidding, while Linguini fumbles around his affections for fellow chef Collette. Remy is inspired by the ghost of Gusteau, whose restaurant is where the duo now work. What on earth could have been wrong with that story?
"What were the problems and how did I deal with them? I killed off a major character. I made him become one of the other character's imagination. I took a tiny character and made her a major character in the movie in Collette. I made one character be biologically related to another character in a way that they weren't. I created a story of legal matters shall we say, without giving that up. Just a lot of things like that. I did a brand new script using the premise but I didn't use any dialogue or any shots of the previous versions."
Since The Incredibles came out of Bird's own feelings about work and family, and his previous The Iron Giant was also personal, he had to find a new connection to Ratatouille.
"I found myself relating to Remy most of all. I think I again, like Incredibles, I relate to more than one character in the movie. I mean, I think anybody who's a guy that cares about a girl or another relationship knows what it's like to feel awkward like Linguini does with Collette. I think that I mostly connected with Remy because he's somebody who wants to do something that he loves and the world has a little bit of resistance to that."
Once again, Pixar does not have the only rat cartoon out there. Flushed Away beat them to screens last October, but they know how to deal with that. "You know, that's not the first time Pixar has dealt with that and we won't get into that because there's a certain amount of history with that kind of thing. This project was in the works when I came up in 2000 so I don't know how old Flushed Away is or whatever but they're two very different movies so I don't think anybody's worried about that."