FROM TOQUES TO TABLECLOTHS: RATATOUILLE PUSHES THE ENVELOPE IN CLOTH DESIGN
Already renowned for its pioneering work in cloth motion, the team at Pixar went a step further with RATATOUILLE by creating the most complex "wardrobe" ever for CG animated film. For a long time cloth was a sticking point in creating authentic-looking CG animation because clothing, by nature, isn't static and the laws of physics - from gravity to friction - are subtly operating on it all the time. It was Pixar that first opened up new possibilities for cloth with the life-like rumpled t-shirt in "Monsters Inc." and then made amazing breakthroughs with the array of credible, retro-futuristic clothing styles presented in "The Incredibles."
RATATOUILLE features even more complex, multi-layered clothing as well such cloth props as tablecloths and napkins, amounting to the creation of over 190 different models. Much of the task fell to simulation supervisor Christine Waggoner and the simulation team, who were also involved in the simulation of hair and fur. "With RATATOUILLE the technical bar has been significantly raised," says Waggoner. "The characters have more clothing, with more layers and more motion than ever before. For us to be able to create these chef outfits with double-breasted jackets with buttons, an apron and a pair of pants all layered together, with a chef's toque on top of their hair, it was really something."
Some of Waggoner's favorite costumes are those of August Gusteau himself, who was once a very robust man but has become a ghostly sprite. "We designed the clothes first for the living version of Gusteau, then shrank them down to size for the sprite you see in the film," Waggoner explains. "But we also wanted his clothing to be very sophisticated and highly tailored. There's really no precedent for designing clothing for some of the body styles we have in the film, so that made it very interesting."
Even such simple items as tablecloths and napkins, it turns out, can be quite complex in the CG world. "There's a lot of details you have to keep in mind, for example the interaction between character's legs and the cloth hanging off of the tables," notes Waggoner.
Yet, for Waggoner who is as much an artist as a programmer, the real fun came in putting everything together into a dramatic big picture. "The primary challenge for me was really nailing the look, because Brad likes things to appear both realistic and caricatured at the same time. So it was never just a case of scientifically studying the way different cloth moves and then entering in the numbers. Instead, it was an overall subtle process of fitting every detail into the film's overall aesthetic," she says.
The result is that the clothing, along with the sophisticated body designs, for each of the characters brings the world of RATATOUILLE that much more to palpable life. "By simulating all of the clothing and having natural folds and things like that we're really moving toward more of a live-action feel," says Waggoner.
Sums up associate producer Galyn Susman: "The beautiful thing about the clothing in RATATOUILLE is that it's so natural, it doesn't really call attention to itself. It just looks right, which in and of itself is an exceptional accomplishment."
PARIS FROM THE TWO-INCH TALL PERSPECTIVE: THE CINEMATOGRAPHY OF RATATOUILLE
Though the easy way to approach the story of RATATOUILLE might have been to start from a human point of view, Brad Bird naturally gravitated towards the less predictable path and chose to tell the story through the eyes of his rodent hero. Bird found cinematic inspiration in some unexpected places, including a classic thriller from Hollywood's past. "One sequence was a bit influenced by Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rear Window,'" the director admits. "In that movie, Hitchcock kind of eavesdrops on the lives of others through the point of view of Jimmy Stewart's apartment - and in our movie we see an apartment in Paris through a rat's point of view."
Director of photography/lighting Sharon Calahan, who previously served in the same role on "Finding Nemo," "Toy Story 2" and "A Bug's Life," knew that she had her work cut out for her on RATATOUILLE. "We wanted a really rich look, we wanted to capture the feeling of what it's like to be in Paris and in a great Parisian restaurant, we wanted to make the food look appetizing and we wanted to make these furry little characters look really cute and appealing," says Calahan of the task that lay before her.
She continues: "I'd already had some ideas in my head about how to get a kind of richer, deeper, fatter kind of look to the colors, and it seemed right for this story. This meant trying to get our illumination model to do the opposite of what it usually does, which is to add in black where there's an absence of light. I wanted it to replace that with more surface color instead, which took a lot of little tricks and hacks."
Calahan was seduced by the notion of giving the film the feeling of a perfect October day in France. "When we went to Paris, it was sunny, but the light was so silvery and diffused and everything felt very soft and warm and inviting. That was the kind of overall quality I wanted for the movie," she says. "The film isn't lit with a lot of heavy colored light and heavy colored shadows in the usual way because I really wanted to celebrate the local color."
When it came to actually photographing the food, Calahan looked to today's endless array of gourmet magazines and books for inspiration. "I spent quite a bit of time looking at all the food photography out there, trying to figure out the difference between good food photography and bad food photography and breaking it down into specific components," she explains. "Different light positions tended to make food look better. So it was a question of 'how do we make the food look more believably translucent or look wet enough to be as appetizing as possible?' And one of the things that we realized is that warm light really brings out the local color in food."
Calahan ultimately used technologies that were originally developed to make the fish look more translucent in "Finding Nemo" and to scatter light off the skin of humans in "The Incredibles" to give more realism to the food in RATATOUILLE.
As for working with the rodent characters, Calahan explains: "The key to making the rat characters really appealing was to get their fur to have just the right quality and their ears to glow. It took a lot of experimentation to figure out how to get the fur to react to light properly."
Scale was also a major challenge. "Trying to get the humans and the rats in the same world at the same time wasn't easy," she notes. "Light was a really big component in how we made those relationships work." Overall Calahan's work is much the same as that of traditional cinematographers. "I really try to think like a painter and approach the lighting in a way that makes everything more beautiful," she says. "As for RATATOUILLE, I couldn't imagine a more creatively challenging and rewarding experience. Brad Bird has a way of bringing out the best in everybody's talent."
STIRRING UP THE MUSIC: ABOUT MICHAEL GIACCHINO'S SCORE
When it came to finding the right music to fuel the manic action and subtle emotion of RATATOUILLE, Brad Bird returned to the composer who had done such a bang-up job with "The Incredibles": Michael Giacchino, who conjured up a brassy, jazzy, percussive score that is as fun, fast-paced and French-themed as the film itself.
"Even though this film is so completely different from 'The Incredibles,' Michael's range is so great I just knew that he was the right guy for it," says Bird. "This film is more whimsical than 'The Incredibles' -- a funny, romantic journey into Paris -- and Michael did a tremendous job capturing that."
The collaborative spirit between Brad Bird and Giacchino is part of what spurred the two on to define a fresh sound for the film. "These two guys are basically able to read each other's minds," observes producer Brad Lewis. "Brad speaks in a visual language and Michael speaks in a musical language, but somehow they find a way to intertwine them perfectly in the film. Sometimes the music is subtle, sometimes it's very broad and comic and Michael has this great way of creating the right mood to go along with each moment in the story. He can get really grand and emotional, he can get really small and light, and he can get a little bit goofy, all of which we needed in this movie."
When Giacchino saw a first cut of RATATOUILLE, he knew he was in for one of the biggest musical challenges of his life. "When I saw the movie, I was really scared because I knew that the music it needed was something I'd never done before. It was a style I'd never worked in before - actually it was more than one style, it was filled with all kinds of styles. So I left the theatre and went to Brad Bird and said 'this is terrifying, but I'm happy to give it a shot,'" he recalls.
With those words, Giacchino dove into the project, yet he found that even his creative process had to transform. "Before I saw the film, I was thinking about it from a very practical point of view, but after I saw it, it became a very emotional process," he explains. "It was the scene at the end of the film where the food critic Ego is giving his review made me say 'wow, that's what this story is about' and that scene helped me to come up with the main theme for the score, which we also turned into a song for the film."
He continues: "It's a happy movie, obviously, but there's also a bit of melancholy to it - the melancholy of looking back at the things you've always wanted to do in your life - and I wanted to pull that idea out and express it musically. My biggest goal was to try to capture that feeling. At the same time, there's a lot of fun and action, but I never wanted that to overshadow what the movie is about."
In addition to the main theme, Giacchino developed off-shoot themes for each of the characters, reflective of their highly individual personalities and desires. "I really like working thematically because it's how you can best represent the characters," he says. "That's what I love about soundtracks like 'Star Wars' or 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' or 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' from the 30s - they have these great thematics that are almost operatic in their approach. Those are the scores that inspired me most growing up."
Remy, he notes, has two themes, as well as a "buddy theme" he shares with Linguini. "Remy at first has this ratty theme, which is almost like a thief-like thing, a melody that follows him around, like the genes that make him a rat even though he wants to be something else," Giacchino says. "It's prevalent in the scenes where he's running through the house and in between the floors. But when gets to the roof and sees Paris for the first time, the new theme that plays there is about his hopes and wishes and dreams. That's what is inside Remy. The first theme is what you think of when you see Remy, but when he's looking at Paris, that's the real Remy."
As for the theme that emerges between Linguini and Remy, Giacchino says: "The buddy theme only really happens when they are working together. The prime example of it is when Remy first learns how to control Linguini - that's the embodiment of their theme. Then, it progresses into a very big, kind of heroic action cue at the end of the film when all the rats band together and Linguini's on his roller skates. It's almost like a British World War II theme because their friendship has evolved to the point where they're going to get this done together."
Another key theme in the film is that of Colette, which Giacchino explains "surrounds the whole cooking process." He continues: "You hear it for the first time when Colette is teaching Linguini what to do in the kitchen and what he needs to know to be a great chef. Then, it kind of changes throughout the film, depending on what's going on. When Linguini has to come up with an off-menu dish and Remy starts improvising, that same theme is used in a much more improvisational way, the same way that Remy is just going off the cuff and making up the recipe as he goes. The themes and the music constantly change with the story." Skinner's theme also shifts with his mercurial moods - starting out with a hipster-style French jazz theme that grows increasingly frenetic and orchestral as he loses control of the kitchen. "The theme starts out cool and suave and ends up a little insane, just like the character does in the film," laughs Giacchino.
In weaving together the film's many styles and tones, Giacchino made a musical separation between the human and rodent worlds. "There's certain instrumentation that I used a lot in the rat world, including a giant thumb piano that's layered into the orchestration, and a lot of pizzicato strings," he says. "Brad really loved the sound of the pizzicato strings for the rats, but again, there was no hard and fast rule. What was right for one scene with the rats might not be right for the next, so it is always changing."
Yet, to contrast with the visual wildness of RATATOUILLE's madcap physical comedy, Giacchino kept the focus of much of his score on subtlety. "It's easy in animation to chase every single move," he notes. "but the thing I like most about film music is that the slightest thing can be suggestive. So I really tried to pull back and let the picture be the picture, just as if it were a live action film."
With such an unusually diverse score, Giacchino's next task was putting together a unique, jazz-influenced orchestra, which included such unconventional instruments as harmonicas and accordions. The composer was thrilled to be able to recruit numerous world-renowned musicians to add their touch to the recording sessions, including: Tommy Morgan, one of the world's greatest harmonica players who has graced more than 7000 recording sessions for records, television, film and more in his 50-year career; award-winning jazz accordionist Frank Marocco, considered the most-recorded accordionist in the world; bass guitar legend Abe Laboriel who has recorded with jazz greats ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Herbie Hancock; and influential jazz drummer Harvey Mason who began his career with Duke Ellington and Erroll Garner in the 60s and has gone on to garner seven GRAMMY® nominations.
"This was a wonderful chance to get some of the greatest musicians in the world in one room for a week," says Giacchino of recording the score. Topping off Giacchino's score is the song "Le Festin," which he wrote and then recorded with the captivating young French singer Camille, who has forged her own adventurous and contemporary chanteuse style. "She has such a unique sound and special voice, there was nobody else other than her I wanted to sing the song," says the composer. "The song is based on an old French saying which basically refers to getting together with your best friends and closest family and having a great meal together, while celebrating all that is good in life. It's a song that grew directly out of RATATOUILLE's story."
MICHAEL GIACCHINO's (Composer) melodies have enhanced entertainment of all genres, including television shows, animated shorts, video games, and stand-alone symphonies with themes that run the gamut from driving, melancholic, and suspenseful to serene. Viewers of the hit television shows "Lost" "Alias," are well acquainted with his work and have been enjoying his compositions for several seasons. He made his feature film composing breakthrough with his acclaimed score for "The Incredibles" and went on to compose music for Disney's "Sky High," the comedy-drama "The Family Stone," Albert Brooks' "Looking For Comedy In The Muslim World" and the thriller "Mission: Impossible III."'
In early 1997, Giacchino was approached by the newly formed DreamWorks Studios to score their flagship PlayStation video game, based on Steven Spielberg's summer box office hit "The Lost World." "The Lost World" featured the first original live orchestral score written for a PlayStation console game and was recorded with the members of the Seattle Symphony.
Since "The Lost World," Giacchino has gone on to compose many orchestral scores for DreamWorks Interactive, including the highly successful "Medal of Honor" series, a World War II simulation game created by Steven Spielberg. It was his work on such games that led to his involvement in the ABC series "Alias," created by writer/director JJ Abrams. The producers of the show contacted the composer because they were fans of the games he had worked on. "Alias," in turn, became a gateway of sorts for his work with Pixar on "The Incredibles."
At the age of ten, Giacchino spent the majority of his time split between the movie theater and his basement, where he made many 8mm stop-motion animated films using his brother's ping pong table as a sound stage for his miniature movie sets. His favorite part of the process was actually finding music to put to the films. He remembers listening to the "Star Wars" soundtrack as a kid, and being completely amazed at the way the music was telling a story. It was an instant awakening as to what the various instruments of an orchestra could accomplish.
His boyhood fascination with movies led him to film school at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where he majored in film production with a minor in history. Upon graduation, Giacchino began composition studies at Juilliard School at Lincoln Center while working day jobs at both Universal and Disney's New York publicity offices. Two years later, he was transferred to the Disney Studios in Burbank to work in their feature film publicity department. During that time, the aspiring composer accepted a job with Disney Interactive as an assistant producer, managing and producing titles for the division. He devoted his evenings and weekend to practicing and studying music.
On May 13th, 2000, the Haddonfield Symphony premiered Giacchino's first Symphony, "Camden 2000." The concert took place at the Sony E-Center in Camden, and proceeds went to benefit the Heart of Camden, an organization dedicated to rebuilding inner city Camden housing. The symphony, which played to a sold-out crown, celebrated the birth, past greatness, and future of hope in the city of Camden, N.J.
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