How the fuck did they pitch Ratatouille?

I was just watching Ratatouille for the third time a couple days ago and I once again admired how beautiful of a movie it was. I started thinking, "I could watch this movie about 3 or 4 more times, and it still wouldn't get old. It's that good." Then I stopped and thought for a second. I'm watching an aspiring-chef-sewer-rat tugging at a guys hair to control his motor functions and an army of his rat friends crawling all over a kitchen to run a five star restaurant. Who thought of that? What did the board meeting look like? Be honest, if Ratatouille never happened, would you have approved the idea? It would have disgusted the shit out of me. I might have fired the guy who pitched it or at least kept him as far away from my lunch as possible. How did Pixar have to foresight and the balls to plan a movie-a children's movie-about a rat in a guy's hair and spend millions of dollars developing it? How did they push such a concept that, without hindsight, would have seemed like a guaranteed flop?

whatever i don't know. 10/10 great movie.

Comments (39)

 
Sep 27, 2020 - 12:40am

This is the type of abstract thinking we all need more of while in quarantine. Bravo 👏🏼 sir 👏🏼 sb'd

"In order to be a really good investor, you need to be a little bit of a philosopher as well." -Dan Loeb

 

 
Sep 27, 2020 - 1:05am

Pixar's always been willing to toe the line.  Think about how stupid Toy Story sounds if you try to write it into a one page product brief. "It's about a kid's toys who wake up when he's out of the room or goes to sleep and have their own beefs with each other."  I wouldn't green-light it, and I doubt you would either but it works amazingly.

I generally see somebody I know on TV on Bloomberg/CNBC etc. once or twice a week. This sounds cool, until I remind myself that I see somebody I know on ESPN five days a week.
 
Oct 14, 2020 - 6:27am

Man, you're getting mad hate for saying that you wouldn't approve Toy Story. The main character is a flying jet propelled astronaut fighting the worlds evil with Mr Potato-Head and the legendary cowboy Woody.

Would have approved that in a heartbeat. Honestly if I was the CEO I would step down and give my job to whatever guy pitched that idea.

If you wanna take shots at a movie... Lion King literally made every kid suffer extreme depression. How are they just going to kill Mofasa like that in front of innocent kids. Thats messed up

 
Sep 27, 2020 - 1:58am

I don't see what the issue is with either Ratatouille or Toy Story. How does an english speaking person ignore the "rat" in ratatoille? There's no rat in ratatouille - scratch that idea- but you can pivot to a movie where a rat cooks the dish. The idea happens then the brainstorming and... you have movie idea. Simialarly, Toy Story starts with an idea. In this context someone or their kid probably thought about toys having a life of their own. Its not a unique concept -think: TED, Pinochio, and Chucky- but with a little imagination and creativity you can make it happen. The idea of the toys and then the idea of the "new toys" followed by exploration of other ideas and themes led to the creation of the movie. I can't comment on Toy Story 4 as I hacen't seen it.

 

 
Most Helpful
Sep 27, 2020 - 1:47pm

I know someone at Disney/Pixar. You have to remember the higher up people who green light/red light movies also have a high degree of imagination. Such ideas are introduced to decision makers with storyboards and graphics to help paint the picture, so it's not an opaque kickoff process as just verbally describing it like you've presented. They likely succeeded in presenting/communicating the great visuals you praised during the initial pitch.

Also, Disney/Pixar don't make much money off of movie ticket sales. It takes a ridiculous amount of man-hours to make an animated film. Decision makers also consider toy sales and other ancillary product sales to boost revenues. They were probably drooling thinking they could sell a million plush-stuffed rat toys once the movie dropped.

Array

 
Sep 27, 2020 - 3:40pm

The movie industry is really interesting once you start looking at the business factors driving it. The new Avatar sequels are reported to have a budget of $1 billion for 4 movies, and they are shooting films 2 and 3 back to back. Check out the Disney "Pandora" theme park, it's pretty wild looking. Counter to my comments on movies not generating revenue on ticket sales Avatar did something like almost $3 billion, surpassed only by Avengers Endgame, but still holds the record in sales for a non-sequel movie.

Array

 
Sep 27, 2020 - 11:14pm

Camille's Le Festin. Every time I hear that song I am instantly reminded of the magic of this movie. Brings me back to the innocent days. Such charm. Will rewatch this next weekend yay thank you for this post.

Array
 
Sep 28, 2020 - 4:41am

I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that some really great animation videos with accompanying graphics and story boards accompanied the product pitch. It was not at all verbal like you are imagining here. 

 
Sep 29, 2020 - 4:11am

I am god damn certain that movie pitches is an art in itself, in the industry. May be as outsiders we don't get to hear about it but within Hollywood they probably talk about it all the time. There is probably a mini industry within Hollywood whose job is helping create slick movie production pitches. 

Big budget movies and AAA rated games are huge, multi billion dollar industries and a lot goes on behind the scenes. 

 
Sep 28, 2020 - 11:51am

Can't speak to Ratatouille but one of my friends works at one of the talent agencies in LA and sends me some other pitches from time to time. Holy fuck, some of them are hilarious. Picture all the BS of IB pitches minus any of the actual quantitative validation... just a bunch of fuckin smoke and mirrors. Horrible slides too, they could really benefit from bringing on some IB analysts.

They have 'comps' too, shorthand for the general gist of a movie. Think along the lines of "Schindler's List meets Narco's" (an actual comp someone said).

One of the funniest ones I've seen was a major toy/game maker trying to get a movie done on spec (very uncommon, means coming up with concept and trying to get people to make it for you) based on a very popular card game in their product portfolio. The comps were fuckin Ocean's 13, James Bond, and other action/spy-type movies. I was dying. I don't think I could have come up with a more ridiculous deck if I was high.

 
Sep 28, 2020 - 12:59pm

That honestly sounds like a great perk. Amateur films are a goldmine for cheesy entertainment

I’m a fun guy. Obviously I love the game of basketball. I mean there’s more questions you have to ask me in order for me to tell you about myself. I'm not just gonna give you a whole spill... I mean, I don't even know where you're sitting at
 
Sep 28, 2020 - 1:07pm

Uncle Bobo

Can't speak to Ratatouille but one of my friends works at one of the talent agencies in LA and sends me some other pitches from time to time. Holy fuck, some of them are hilarious. Picture all the BS of IB pitches minus any of the actual quantitative validation... just a bunch of fuckin smoke and mirrors. Horrible slides too, they could really benefit from bringing on some IB analysts.

They have 'comps' too, shorthand for the general gist of a movie. Think along the lines of "Schindler's List meets Narco's" (an actual comp someone said).

One of the funniest ones I've seen was a major toy/game maker trying to get a movie done on spec (very uncommon, means coming up with concept and trying to get people to make it for you) based on a very popular card game in their product portfolio. The comps were fuckin Ocean's 13, James Bond, and other action/spy-type movies. I was dying. I don't think I could have come up with a more ridiculous deck if I was high.

Honestly, I can imagine.  I've seen fund proposals.  When S&P emails you and asks that you "just humor these guys" you know you're in for either entertainment or really bad cringe.

I generally see somebody I know on TV on Bloomberg/CNBC etc. once or twice a week. This sounds cool, until I remind myself that I see somebody I know on ESPN five days a week.
 
Sep 29, 2020 - 9:04am

1. Apparently that's the way to pitch movies, you just compare it to something else. They did that a bunch when Die Hard came out bc it was a surprise hit. So they made sequels. But then every other studio tries to make their own Die Hard. "Die Hard on a Bus" became Speed, "Die Hard on a Boat" Speed II, "Die Hard on a Plane" became Air Force 1. I guess it's easier ppl have an idea of what you're saying if they have reference vs having to explain the whole idea.

2. Studios get scripts all the time, so they have a bunch sitting on shelves. A lot of times they get adapted to fit different stuff. Coming with Die Hard, since it was a surprise hit they took some random script to make Die Hard 2. They also try to us IP to pare with a script that is already made. So instead of making a random war/soldier movie, slap "G.I. Joe" on it, modify a little bit, and you have a script. Pixar may or may not have done the same. 

 
  • Analyst 1 in CorpFin
Sep 28, 2020 - 6:02pm

I have actually spoken with the co-director and original screenwriter - he was eventual removed from the project due to creative differences. (Still has an Oscar thigh) I attended high school with his oldest son - all four years - and I can tell you firsthand that he and his kids are all wildly eccentric.

During our freshman year beach retreat, where the class is supposed to bond, get to know faculty, etc., his son was drawing hieroglyphics in the sand. I approached him and asked him what he was doing and he responded saying "I am communicating with my kind, for I am not from this planet". Not exaggerating even a little bit. He maintained that he was an Alien for all four years of school and even had a language that he referred to as his "native tongue".

All this is to say:
A. To pitch a story about a rat wanting to be a French chef, you have to be extremely 'creative', on drugs, or both.
B. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.

 
Oct 4, 2020 - 1:05am

Who thought of that? 

Jan Pinkava, Brad Bird, Jim Capobianco

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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