Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Your Friend the Rat

Once again, Pixar steps out of the box, but even more notably, steps back in time.

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.

Images © Walt Disney Company


Anonymous said...

Why did you spell Ward "Kimbell" with an E? I've always always always seen it spelled Kimball.

Jeff Pepper said...

Total brain-backfire on my part! Thanks for catching it.

Lainey Schallock said...

Jeff - fantastic comparisons and a great post. I have been so busy but desperately meaning to get my hands on Ratatouille, so I may pick up my copy today. I haven't seen the short subject yet, but am eager to watch it as I keep hearing it's a real salute to the early days of 2-D. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

"Total brain-backfire on my part! Thanks for catching it."

No problem. Another great post, either way.

Cory The Raven said...

I'm more interested in seeing Your Friend the Rat than I am in seeing "Rat Story"!

Princess Fee said...

An enjoyable post - the film is not long out in the cinemas here so I don't even know how long I will have to wait to grab a copy of the DVD...but I cannot wait to see that little short when I do get it! It looks like a lot of fun, from the stills you posted. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

A note - they're playing the "every store has a different bonus" game with Ratatouille, and where you buy depends on what you want with it. Target has a bonus second DVD with it, with the "never before seen footage, behind-the-scenes character profiles & more" that usually comes as bonus features but didn't this time. I haven't seen the disc yet, so I can't tell how good it is, but it was more appealing than a chef hat & apron offered from one store. So it's worth taking a look around before picking up a copy! - Pat

Anonymous said...

I love to watch Your Friend The Rat too, Cory the Raven. But what is Rat Story? I've never seen that before.

Anonymous said...

I am trying to imagine how something regarding the Black Death could be hilarious?

Time and space make things funny I presume?