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Brad Bird On Saving Ratatouille: ‘It Was…A Beautiful Car That Was Somehow Not Driveable’

Brad Bird is easily one of the most interesting voices in mainstream American animation. With films like The Iron Giant and The Incredibles under his belt, he certainly has earned his place as a masterful storyteller. So great is he that he was even brought in to save not just one, but two productions. The first was the aforementioned Iron Giant from Warner Bros., which he spent around two years on, from outline to finish. But his highest-profile fix-up came in the form of Ratatouille over at Pixar.

Speaking with the Animation Art Conservation, Brad Bird delved into how he felt going into this project and the word he’d have to put into it.

“When I started, I was like a mechanic looking at a beautiful car that was somehow not driveable. It’s beautiful and the seating is wonderful and the motor is powerful but it’s not moving down the street, you know. So you’ve just got to lift up the hood and make your best guess at what the problem is.

There were really funny ideas that Jan [Pinkava] developed, and by the way, I really hated the idea of taking over somebody else’s dream project because I have a lot of respect for Jan and I think he’s very talented. It was a rough position to be in because I always come down on the side of the creator. I want people who come up with the idea to be the ones who usher it all the way through.

But the project was having trouble and I also have a lot of respect for the entity of Pixar and [John] Lasseter and Ed Catmull and Steve Jobs and Andrew Stanton, and the heads of Pixar asked me to come in because the project was in a rough position. And this was after years and years and years, so, you had to do something because the train was ready to leave the station so that’s kind of what happened. So I took one for the team because [Pixar] is such a rare, rare place. They were in a bind and Jan’s concept was a good idea.”

At the end of the day, Bird had to RUSH this damn thing out the door. Even producers John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton knew that this would be a Hail Mary. Pixar is known for giving extensive notes to their creators, but when they brought in Bird, they’d already used up all their note-giving time in hopes of salvaging the story as it was.

When that approach didn’t work, they knew they’d have to trust Bird to go forward, giving as few meaningful notes as possible in hopes that it’d come together.

To this day, I admire Ratatouille for being one of the more mature pieces of cinema to come out of Pixar, and you never would have guessed that it had such a troubled history.

But what do you think? Did Ratatouille turn out well for you? Let us know down below!

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SOURCE: Animation Art Conservation

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