Brad Bird Interview – RATATOUILLE

     June 25, 2007

“The Incredibles”

“The Iron Giant”

“Family Dog”

Those are the last three things that Brad Bird directed, and if you can’t tell by reading the list of projects above, the man was born to make movies. Brad Bird is one of those rare artists that come along only a few times a generation. He’s a person who can tell a story without forcing it. He can make you laugh or cry and you wouldn’t see it coming. While I may be building him up to a level he’s uncomfortable with… trust me, I’m undervaluing his talent.

And while the projects above are great, his new movie “Ratatouille” could be the best yet. While I’d love to put them in order of my favorites, I’ve only seen the “Ratatouille” once and it’s not fair to make a big judgment on one viewing… but trust me.. it could easily end up my number one.

So what makes it so great?

Is it the story? The acting? The animation? Perhaps it’s the direction?

The reason “Ratatouille” is so great is all of the above.

Every ingredient in the recipe is perfect and the chef is, of course, Brad Bird. He has an ability to mix up everything just right. To not put in too much drama, or force unneeded laughter. Because if you do it just right, each aspect will complement one another and make the entire entrée perfect.

And while I’m doing a little dance to avoid the plot, if you need to know what it’s about… the film takes place in a restaurant in Paris and the chef, who you’ll come to love, is a little rat named Remy. The rest of the film is about trying to make a dream happen and not to lose your family and friends in the process.

As I’ve said a number of times already, “Ratatouille” is one of my favorite films of the year and one of the best animated films I’ve seen. Do yourself a favor and check it out this weekend when it opens.

And now the reason you’re here…. the Brad Bird interview.

Just a few days ago I was able to participate in a small roundtable interview with Brad at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. It was my first time getting to meet him and as a HUGE fan… it was something I couldn’t wait to participate in.

Of course we covered all the normal questions… “Incredibles 2.” Can you talk about “1906” (his next project)? I even asked about “Wall-E” and “Up” – the next two Pixar movies.

If you’re a fan of Brad you’ll dig the interview as he’s refreshingly honest and he also addresses why Pixar is so amazing – they don’t sell out for money!

And before getting to the interview, here is a link to the movie clips I posted a week ago and here is a link to the other interviews I did for the film. They’re only audio files but if you’re a big fan of Pixar you’ll like them.

Finally, if you’d like to listen to this interview as an MP3 click here.

And with that…. Brad Bird.

Question: So how does it feel to hit yet another home run in your long line of home runs?

Brad Bird: Oh, I don’t know, is it a home run yet? It hasn’t even opened.

It’s a home run.

Well, thank you I’m glad you feel that way. It was a real challenge making the movie because of the short schedule I had in my involvement in the movie but I’m really happy with how it turned out, so if you liked it that’s great.

I rarely make these kind of comments in a public setting but man, that f-ing movie was good.

Oh, great, good. We have our work cut out for us this summer though because there’s a lot of really big expensive movies that have numbers after them and everybody knows what they are so all they have to do to advertise them is go you know that thing you loved last time, another one of those and everybody’s like “I’m in.” You say it’s a rat who wants to cook but it’s kind of a comedy. It’s hard to describe this movie in a sound bite and so we’re counting on you guys if you like it to get the word out.

Can you talk about the most challenging aspect of bringing Paris to life in a Pixar movie?

I think our goal is to get the impression of something rather than perfect photographic reality. It’s to get the feeling of something so I think that our challenge was the computer basically wants to do things that are clean and perfect and don’t have any history to them. If you want to do something that’s different than that you have to put that information in there and the computer kind of fights you. It really doesn’t want to do that and Paris is a very rich city that has a lot of history to it and it’s lived in. Everything’s beautiful but it’s lived in. It has history to it, so it has imperfections and it’s part of why it’s beautiful is you can feel the history in every little nook and cranny. For us every single bit of that has to be put in there. We can’t go somewhere and film something. If there’s a crack in there, we have to design the crack and if you noticed the tiles on the floor of the restaurant, they’re not perfectly flat, they’re like slightly angled differently, and they catch light differently. Somebody has to sit there and angle them all separately so we had to focus on that a lot. And it was a movie about good food and the food had to look delicious and its data. How do you define what makes food look good. It’s actually a bunch of really subtle little complicated things and everybody worked really hard on it.

What drew you to a movie about rats?

Well, I wasn’t really drawn to it. I always liked the idea and it was being Jan Pinkava’s idea and he was working on it the whole time I was making The Incredibles. That was his idea and I always loved the idea but I wasn’t thinking I was going to direct it. They had trouble—everybody loved the idea and they loved the look of it and the cast of character types and all the possibilities of the premise but they were having trouble getting the story to coalesce. It kept wanting to go off in too many different directions and a little over a year and a half ago the Pixar founders John Lassiter, Ed Catmull and Steve Jobs asked me to come on the project, write a new script and kind of get in onto the big screen. So my motivation at first was respect for these amazing, really genius guys through some fluke of nature happened to get together and make a company that is actually an amazing place so I wanted to help them out in any way I could. Then my next motivation was oh my God, what have I done. I agreed to the original schedule—ahhh! It was complete fear and that so I just went through it. I described it to somebody else as driving down the freeway the wrong way and just trying to live and make a movie that made sense and fulfilled all the possibilities of Jan’s brilliant premise and just survive. We just finished it a couple of weeks ago and I’m still just …heart beating from not dying in my freeway maneuver but I’m really happy to hear you guys like it. I like it, but I’m not sure what it is. It’s a very strange thing and I kind of had to write it very intuitively and not look back because the schedule was right there ready to run me over.

It was a different feel for a Brad Bird movie.

I don’t think it probably would have happened if it hadn’t happened the way it happened. It’s not an idea that I probably would have come up with. But it is an idea that I’ve always thought had a huge number of possibilities so through the process to kind of complete that of making it, I fell in love with this world and fell in love with this group of characters and really am glad I was involved.

Who was the lucky group who went to Paris and how long were you there for?

The lucky group was a lot of the initial story guys and Jan went there with Sharon Callahan, the director of photography and Harley Jessup who was the Art Director and several others. They got several trips out of it. I only got one but it was very short and it was right before I started on it. The big yuk, yuk is to say hey what a scam. How did I get this? The truth of the matter is it actually proved to be very useful and one night walking along the Seine, most of the film took place in the kitchen at that point and I was walking done the Seine with the story supervisor, Mark Andrews, who came onto the project with me. He was one of the few people who came with me onto the project, he and Michael Giacchino, the composer, but we were walking along the Seine and I was going man, this is great. We’ve got to have a scene here somewhere. I didn’t know what the scene would be but shortly afterwards when I came back I came up with this scene where they kind of seal the deal along toward the edge of the river there. That kind of thing I don’t know if it would have happened if I hadn’t been in Paris and tried to like, man, this is such a great city, we’ve got to have this image.

How much did you eat when you were there?

How much? Oh, too much man.

It’s a hard life really.

Well, no but seriously if you do it with ignorance which is how I did it, I’m an American. You get one plate and then maybe you get a dessert afterwards, maybe you get a salad beforehand but that’s kind of it. Here they come out with these plates and there’s these dainty little things and it’s like ha. This is a meal here, ha, ha, ha. And I ate it and it was all good. I cleaned my plate and then another plate came and there was another nice arrangement of tiny little things and I thought man, ok, these are all good. But the plates kept coming and coming and coming and pretty soon I’m like geez I should have paced myself and then if I didn’t eat one somebody would say “is there something wrong?” and I’d say oh, no it’s very delicious meanwhile they’re bringing out the cheese trolley with 5 unbelievable cheeses meant to be eaten in a certain order and this is before the dessert trolley and this is like ahhh. Actually I thought I was going to die so it’s good I got out of there after a few days.

So you’re not a foodie.

Well, I mean I married a really good cook and I like…there are certain favorite restaurants so I like good food but Patton is really the foodie and I didn’t know that about Patton when we were casting the film. We actually had already hired him when we found out he’s a total foodie. I mean he goes to a town and hunts down the best restaurant experience he can have and if he has it, he’ll let you know about it. He’s the real foodie.

I wanted to ask you and I’m sure you get asked this all the time about The Incredibles. Is there any chance ever of you going back and re-visiting that world?

Or letting someone else do it?

I wouldn’t let somebody else do it without a fight because them’s my family. So I would be very un-happy if someone else did it. I wouldn’t say that about every idea but that one, yes, because I don’t think…I believe there is a certain way to make that idea and I want to make it if it’s going to be made. I love the characters and I love the world so if I can come up with a story that was as good or better than the one that we did, I would do it. I only have bits of it right now. I don’t have something all together. You know sequels are not a part of the business plan at Pixar. If people can come up with an idea that people are excited to make…

Continued on the next page ———>


Like with Toys.

Yeah, But that’s a good idea and people keep having new things to do with that idea that we’re excited about. Everyone’s excited about Toy Story 3 but we don’t make them to make money you know. Walt Disney had a quote that he said “I don’t make films to make money; I make money to make films.” That’s the kind of idea at Pixar and certainly I’m not against sequels. Several of my favorite movies, Goldfinger, The Empire Strikes Back, Godfather 2, Road Warrior, Toy Story 2 are great sequels but I think often times the impituous for making a sequel is making money and not because you have something you really want to see on screen.

But your next film is a live action movie though right?


You confirmed that in San Francisco.


Is it the 1906?

That is..yeah. That’s the title of it. I’m not ready to discuss it yet but I’m really happy I can stay at Pixar and still pursue this idea so.

Will you use any of your Pixar collaborators?

Yeah. There’s some friends who are coming along for the ride. But I’m not saying any more than that. We’re not ready to announce it but I’m excited about it.

I wanted to know your opinion on Wall-E and the first 3rd being just robot sounds and silent dialogue.

I’ve seen that first 3rd and I think it’s amazing, so I’m really excited about Wall-E and I’m also exited that it’s a very different film than Ratatouille which is very different than The Incredibles and the one after Wall-E, UP is very different from Wall-E and so I think they are all unique films. They’re all going to have their own roads to getting realized. Maybe they will be easier or more difficult than others but they’re all films that everybody is really excited to see, so I am to.

Are there any plans for a Nemo 2?

I don’t think Andrew has another story he wants to tell, but if somebody else maybe came up with an idea maybe, but again it can’t be money. They’re too hard to make. You can go “and my goal is to make money” and what a boring goal. I mean there are easier ways to make money. Invest in the stock market or something.

Just quickly, were you scared of rats before you did start this?

I wouldn’t say I was scared. I certainly wasn’t going to go down into the sewer and engage one of them. But seeing the little cute lab ones that we had in cages…

Did you hold him?

I did and they’re kind of sweet and they lead with their nose which is kind of cute.

Is there a hidden Buzz Lightyear or anything in this?

There’s hidden stuff. We got some A1-13’s. We got the Pizza Planet truck but I’m not going to tell you where they are. You gotta look.

Thank you very much.

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