The trouble with 'Ratatouille'

Rat_lPixar and Disney are having a hard enough time promoting their latest animated creation, Ratatouille (coming June 29). First hurdle: edumacating the American public on how to pronounce that unfortunate title. (As the film’s logo says, it’s, "rat•a•too•ee.") Second: Not everyone, especially New Yorkers, will find the concept of rats in a restaurant so cute. But an interesting story in today’s New York Times suggests a third, more unexpected challenge: selling a film that comes from original material.

I know, it sounds ridiculous. A good movie should sell itself — especially one from Pixar, which has never gone wrong — right? And this flick certainly looks like fun: I enjoyed the clip of it that played at ShoWest last month. But a look at the statistics offers a gloomier story, writes The Times: "In the last five years, only about 20 percent of the films with more than $200 million in domestic ticket sales were purely original in concept, rather than a sequel or an adaptation of some pre-existing material like The Da Vinci Code."

Yipes! Are we movie fans really so unimaginative that we’re unwilling try something new? Or is it the studios that don’t trust us, going only for the sure-thing franchise film? I suppose one could argue that Pixar movies are franchise films of a sort, but are you really less likely to go to something like Ratatouille versus, say, the latest Pirates or Harry Potter or Shrek installment, simply because you don’t know the story going in? I mean, I always thought we preferred to be surprised and wowed by something new. But, sheesh, maybe I’m wrong. Does this whole thing trouble you as much as it bothers me?


Comments (48 total) Add your comment
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  • kelsey

    I still plan on seeing not only Harry Potter and Shrek, and probably Pirates 3 if I can, but also Ratatouille! I think Brad Bird is a terrific writer and I instinctively trust that anything that comes out of Pixar is wonderful and entertaining.
    I think Hollywood is just in a sequels rut right now. It might get better or it might get worse, but it’s the nature of the beast. It’s never really bothered me before.

  • Nick

    I guess I am just a rare person because I had no trouble with any of those three problems. I understood how to pronounce it quite clearly especially since they tell you how. I have no trouble with a rat being in the restaurant since it is animated and looks “cute” and it is not a documentary and I had no trouble with it being original because it sounds like a really interesting plot. I for one can not wait for the movie and it is near the top of my list of movies to see this summer.

  • Vicky

    I’m in. I love Pixar movies! Plus the teaser trailer totally sold me. I’m always looking for movies with new material, but I’m also a fan of big blockbuster sequels. I’m gonna be spending a lot of money on movies this summer….

  • Padraig Tipton

    This really is a non-story, at least from the Pixar angle. “Cars” made $244 million, “The Incredibles” made $261 million, and “Finding Nemo” made $339 million. In fact, if we include “Monster’s Inc.,” released in 2001 and which grossed $255 million, then the company’s entire output of original films this century has made over $200 million. Not a bad track record, so why would Pixar be torubled at all?
    Heck, even non-Pixar original animated features like “Happy Feet” ($197 million) and “Madagascar” ($193 million) were pretty darn successful.
    Perhaps you should have focused on an original non-animated film for this article? It would have made more sense.

  • mikey

    Pixar is enough of a proven commodity with a loyal audience that I don’t think the franchised material issue applies here.
    I also don’t see this as a recent development. It’s been around as long as people have paid money for art and entertainment. The bean counters are much more likely to authorize big projects if they know there is a built-in audience going in. So we get a healthy dose of sequels, adaptations, formulaic stories, and all things franchise. The Romans got a lot of popular battle re-enactments and gladiator matches in the Colosseum and we get Spidey-3 and American Idol tours. As long as some original material is made and given a chance to succeed (e.g. “Shrek” the first) I think we’re OK. It’s just the business part of show business and I don’t get the sense that it’s really any worse now than it’s ever been.

  • Allison

    I agree as well. I’m all for Ratatouille! I’ve been watching that trailer since December. You forget all about the fact that he’s a rat when he ‘gets crazy with the spices’. I love Harry Potter, it’s my number one movie to see, but I’m also Fandango-ing Ratatouille opening night!

  • sarah

    This movie is going to be just as well received as every other Pixar creation. People kept saying Finding Nemo was going to be a flop and look how that turned out.
    As for all the sequels being made… I think it’s cool when it makes sense: Pirates as a trilogy is good, Pirates 4 would be stupid. Unless they decided to make 6. They also shouldn’t make anymore Spidermans or X-Mens.
    I am just really really terrified that they will make Elf 2. That would make my heart hurt big time.

  • Ep Sato

    Josh Rich is on a roll today! First the fun article on line standing, then zoe bell’s prop posting, now this? Totally awesome, but I digress.
    While we all like to dis on remakes and movies that use previously proven material, the fact is that every original production is a gamble. Not every original idea is going to be good, so every “new” movie is a bigger gamble than say, a sequel.
    But there’s little else to go on. How have remakes fared? What about movies based on writing?
    Anyway, the key to making an “original” movie a hit is to go low budget with something risky, or a low budget horror film. Those always seem to make their money back, even if they don’t return hundreds of millions of dollars.

  • matthew

    I personally can’t wait to see this movie. Not just because Pixar movies usually always deliver, but it looks hilarious and screw the people that are too wrapped up in their Shrek and Pirates to go see something fresh and new.

  • matthew

    I personally can’t wait to see this movie. Not just because Pixar movies usually always deliver, but it looks hilarious and screw the people that are too wrapped up in their Shrek and Pirates to go see something fresh and new.

  • Jane

    I’m as good as in the seat with Pixar movies. Whenever trailers drag on too long at the theater I get impatient, but if Luxo Jr. comes hopping across the screen – then I sit up and pay attention (especially since Pixar usually creates original content to tease its films). Look for the lamp for all of your original content needs.

  • Rahul

    To me it sounds like the NYT is wasting ink on this story. Of course the film industry goes for the safe bet -their corporate parents want low risk and high returns.
    I have complete faith in Pixar that they’ll deliver a great movie. The NYT should try harder if they want people to buy their paper. This film will ring up tons of business.

  • Todd

    What a stupid article, ummmm 20% is not so bad.

  • Mozz

    Really, after all the plagiarism that has gone on at the New York Times, and that messy Judith Miller C.I.A. leak scandal, this has got to be the New York Times article that will make me never open the New York Times ever again.

  • bj

    funny funny
    wasnt all of Pixars stuff original other than the Toy Story 2? Brad Bird rocked on Incredibles as well as Iron Giant. What original animation came from Disney? The only thing I can think of is Lion King but I do not know if I am sure. I will be in line for pidey transformers Bourne and harry as well as the RAT

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