Its funny that so much of the initial buzz about Your Friend the Rat, the new Pixar short subject that appears on the just released Ratatouille DVD, is focused on the fact that it is largely comprised of two dimensional animation. For in truth, the roots of this particular endeavor can be found not simply so much in its more traditional hand drawn format, but in the cartoon modern style trappings and fast paced irreverent humor found in early Disney television productions largely written and directed by Ward Kimball.
This entertaining and often hilarious film owes much in theme and structure to Kimball's 1969 Oscar-nominated It's Tough to Be a Bird, and in some places even echoes that film's dialog. But in style and design it is clearly rooted in Kimball's earlier efforts on the Disney television anthology programs. It also is related to films such as The Truth About Mother Goose and additionally to many of the television episodes that showcased the eccentric and always very funny Ludwig Von Drake.
Remy and brother Emille take us through a fast paced and surprisingly educational history of the rat. Beginning with a quite expressive summary of mankind's longstanding war with this rodent species, the film then segues into a chronicle of global rat infiltration. It makes a hilarious pit stop in the 14th century to expose the real truth behind the Black Death, and at the same time affords us a clever but slightly more obscure Pixar character cameo. The fun continues, especially in an inspired sequence borrowing visuals from early pixel-heavy video games that illustrates how brown rats were vanquished from Alberta, Canada.
But the film rarely strays far from its Ward Kimball-inspired zaniness. When it touches on how rats have managed to survive extended exposure to nuclear radiation, the resulting mutant rodent is distinctly reminiscent of Kimball 's creations in 1957's Mars and Beyond. And shortly thereafter, when Mars plays a prominent part in the film's closing musical number, the dots are quickly connected. These Pixar folks are clearly fans of that particular member of Disney's Nine Old Men.
One piece of advice - be sure to read the details of the ending disclaimer. It's a bit of a challenge due to the antics of Remy and Emille, but well worth the effort.
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