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Ratatouille... or just plain rat salad?

How can a set of hundred-year-old book illustrations be used to humiliate an entire cultural industry? Stephen Worth shows the way with a tirade which leaves behind the unsettling implication that modern animation audiences are settling for much less than they ought to demand.


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Holy Crap, when I was just out of college with an art history degree, one of my first jobs was as a movie reviewer for my local paper. I looove animation, but I always pretty much was focused on the ever expanding level of detail and confusing that with art. What a eye opener. Stephen Worth is right we should demand far more from modern animation. By the by, this totally settles in my mind the current debate on whether Ratatouille should be entered into the best pic category for Oscars or the best animated feature category. Best Animated feature of a weak crop this year.


Okay, this book humiliates animation, but wouldn't that be true if a director actually created a movie that demonstrates the values Stephen Worth espoused.

Perhaps we need a paradigm shift, someone to make that animated movie that wipes clean the standards for animation.

I am reminded of that unique movie "A Scanner Darkly". Although in that movie the animation effect was created from live filming.


Every year around Christmas, the CBC puts on "The Man Who Planted Trees", a beautiful, moving (true) story by Frederic Back. Animation and art.

George Skinner:

This book might humiliate computer animation, but I think that looking at older cell-animated work like Bambi or the Chuck Jones Warner Bros cartoons demonstrates that animators can and do embrace Impressionist techiques rather than hyper-realism. The problem with computer-driven animation is that everything looks exactly as the animator specifies - nothing more, nothing less.

I thought it was rather weird that he took a shot at Ratatouille in that review. Yes, it perhaps uses the "bouncing hands" gesture with more than one character in more than one place, but aside from that, I've never seen an animated film with MORE compositional bedazzlement going on. That film worked very hard at creating a sense of place, and while I can't go and screencap to prove it quite yet, I recall a lot of interesting tableaux, and rather unusual shots (such as the well-rendered rat's-eye view from inside the chef's hat).

Also, that talk of compositional perfection ignores how much animation (and CGI particularly, and Ratatouille especially) is about movement and shifting viewpoints. Fluidity of viewpoint is a key strength of computer animation, where Hitchcock had to work with cumbersome cameras (and was quite conservative, with a few extremely important exceptions, with tracking shots and similar camera moves).

And paintings are of course the most constrained of all when it comes to viewpoints.

I dunno: it's good to avoid compositional cliches, but it's a pretty slight flaw to pick, at least with that film.

The thing about animation is that the animator has control over the composition of every frame. There's even less excuse for compositional sloppiness due to movement in an animated film than there is in a live action film.

I see all the same faults in every CGI movie released. They are all artistically primitive. The problem is that there's a disconnect between the creative staff and the technical staff. If you look at pre-production art from even the ugliest CGI movie, you'll see amazing creativity and real skill. When it gets translated into rigs and motion, it gets watered down and cancelled out.

CGI animation is currently in the same place hand drawn animation was in back in the mid 1920s. It's going to take hard work by talented artists to bring it up to the level of other forms of filmmaking. Disney did it between 1927 and 1937, so there's no reason that a CGI studio couldn't do the same in a relatively short period of time. But they won't get there by being satisfied with the mediocre state the art is in today.

See ya


I think his point misses its mark. Damn near all of the animated movies are targeted at children, or the inner child in an adult. They don't aspire to be adult themed or oriented fare. The only adult oriented by budget feature I can think of is Final Fantasy (The current Beowulf doesn't count as actors performed and then were subsequently CGI rendered. Gollum's performance in LOTR is a prime example of the effectiveness of this style). I would have to re-watch FF to see how character expressions rely on sterotypes.

Anyhow, as an animation fan, when I watch the current crop of animated shows and compare with what was available 30-50 years ago, I see the same exaggerated movements and emotional cues.
Again, these shows are and were aimed at children, but they have more in common with the current animated movie fare than the art the author wishes for.

There has always been animation for adults, but its hard to find in the mainstream.

Plain and simple I think that the movie was good. It was entertaining enough for my girlfriends son to watch about 4 times a day. Because I mainly work at home I am stuck watching it, or hearing it as well.

Rick Marnon, Howell


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