Writer-director turns rats into endearing critters

For most people, the thought of a rat in a four-star French restaurant would inspire screams, not smiles. Even Bird remembers being intimidated by the concept, which had been kicking around Pixar before the “Incredibles” director joined the company in 2000, especially when it became his task to retool “Ratatouille” less than two years before its release date.

“It was very scary because I committed to the original start date for animation even though I was ripping the movie down to the studs,” remembers Bird, who rewrote the entire screenplay. His solution: embrace the rats in all their mangy glory. “If you’ve ever seen a fat comedian go out onstage, the first minute or two of their routine will probably be about their weight. By acknowledging what everyone is feeling, it gives them permission to move past it,” says Bird, who opened with a swarm of sinister-looking vermin (“our worst impression of what rats are”) before singling out the movie’s four-legged hero.

Point of view

“Fine French cuisine suggests your audience is going to be a tiny group of well-traveled people,” Bird says. “The goal was to make it a movie where everyone can relate to the characters and connect with the problems they face.”

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