In Response to Cinematical: Pixar's Ratatouille In Trouble?
by Alex Billington
January 3, 2007
Not all of you know of Cinematical, but it's a movie blog that I read as well, as their structure and staff means they get out about 20 to 30 fairly short new blog posts every single day. Erik Davis from Cinematical put a post up yesterday titled "Will Ratatouille Ruin Pixar?" about the marketing troubles the new Pixar film Ratatouille will be facing in the midst of the upcoming summer's huge opening schedule, which originated from a similar post by blogger Jim Hill (Media). After reading Erik's post on Cinematical, I had to respond actually in support (as much as I can) of Ratatouille's success. I think he's overlooked some of the dynamics and exaggerated quite a bit on what to expect. There's only been a 30 second teaser trailer and nothing more, we don't even really know the story, but there's plenty more to my response.
I don't have much to say about its subject matter of rats and that rats don't exactly appeal as much as any other Pixar film, because I slightly agree, and separately, because I believe we don't know enough - though that comment comes in a later paragraph. First things first, talking on the subject matter - come on, your 8 year old sister isn't going to go see a movie about giant robots blowing stuff up. That aside, she may not see a movie about dirty rats, or will she? We all know that if the character is setup right, they'll at least go and see it. Now comparing to Flushed Away, people went, but the movie was pretty bad in my own opinion. It wasn't a Pixar film - by far. And given Brad Bird is directing this, I predict it will have solid reviews. So that is a very big starting point for its success. Great reviews and a more comfortable introduction to the character will get people a bit more involved. One thing to note: the people interested in rats, pets, or animals, is WAY more than those interested in Nascar - why did DreamWorks even make a rat movie to begin with?! Because they know that, too.
Next, there is the emphasis with its name, which is already memorable. I mean, we're talking about it now! I've heard that it's "hard to pronounce" obviously, but that's all part of the scheme. Do you remember when the name for the new Nintendo console, the "Wii" was first announced? Everyone hated it, and I mean, they were angry, but in a matter of hours, millions and millions of people were talking about it on the internet and media everywhere. It was just a name but it was so unique and so striking that it planted itself firmly in the minds of millions in a matter of hours after being officially announced. I think the same is already happening with Ratatouille, although not yet as wide scale. The name is hard to pronounce, but it's also a bit "fun." That makes it catchy to begin with, and I believe it has some sticking power with kids - but then again I'm not a kid so I can't completely confirm that. I think this name scheme is already a positive for it, now let's just hope they can remember Ratatouille as easily as they can remember Shrek.
Erik also mentions eventual competition of Transformers and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix starting a week later after Ratatouille's June 29th release. I don't imagine Transformers or Live Free or Die Hard (both released on July 4) taking away that much box office business from it, but I do think Harry Potter (released two weeks later on July 13) will be a big killer. However, with its strength as a Pixar film and hopefully very high reviews, I think it will continue to live strong. Additionally, Harry Potter is PG-13, and although most parents will still take young kids to Harry Potter, they know they'll be much safer taking their children to this Pixar film, which will likely be PG if not G (unless it comes down to Shrek 3 vs Ratatouille). I think some competition concern is of course very viable, but I believe it will still live strong part of the way through July.
Lastly, not all that much is known about the actual content of the film. Sure, they released a 30 second teaser in front of Cars, but that was a brief introduction. The photo above was taken some while ago and appeared on Aintitcool.com, showing that there are some real people involved, too. The basic story is about a rat, that's all we really know, but there is obviously a lot more we don't. When they push out their next 2-minute-long trailer, then we'll be introduced to the story in much greater depth, and it may be a whole different world. I think Erik may be jumping a bit too deep into this without that much known about it.
I can't exactly guarantee any of this is true or factual, but I do believe Erik did over exaggerate his concerns just a bit. I don't think Ratatouille will be one of the highest grossing Pixar films ever, but I do believe it will have a very strong opening weekend (with no real competition except Evan Almighty the week before) and last fairly well through all of July. Combined with great reviews and a guaranteed damn good story from Brad Bird, there is quite a bit we've yet to discover about Ratatouille, but I'm supportive of its success. We'll talk on this matter again in July!