Until Pixar came along, clear rules dominated the world of feature animation. “You were supposed to have five songs and a public-domain story that pretty much everyone knew,” explains “Ratatouille” director Bird. “You couldn’t do original material. You were discouraged from setting things in present day.”

While auds and crix focused on the gee-whiz factor of tech advances, Bird turned his attention to knocking down hurdles in the subject-matter department, and he had no problem with the story of a rat who wants to cook:

“For quite a bit of the film’s development process, the rats were treated like little humans. I actually had them lengthen the tails and really encouraged the animators to capture some ratlike movements.”

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