Monday, May 05, 2008

Did Jan Pinkava get kicked off of Ratatouille?

Yes. Yes he did.

The original story for Ratatouille was written by Jan Pinkava. When Lasseter saw the story headed downhill, he brought on Brad Bird, who just hit a home run with Incredibles...

Jan had the original story, created the set, and the key characters. Brad wrote the final story, all the details, and basically what made the movie "alive" and "emotional." He also directed all the animation. It is accurate that Jan was the co-director and the writer of the original story. That's all.

It's true that Lasseter pulled Jan off the project (at least he was taken off as the head director). To say that it was done to put a name as the director (since Brad Bird had a stronger name at the time) is completely untrue. Pixar doesn't care about names, and it always takes chances on promising directors. Bird wasn't a name when he did Incredibles (all Bird did was the flop, Iron Giant). Jan was more of a name than Bird was, because Jan got an Academy Award for Geri's Game.

None of that matters to Lasseter and Steve Jobs. The story's king, and Jan wasn't tugging the heart strings with his story. So they pulled him. If Lasseter ever pulls you off of something, you should humble yourself, say, "okay," and then see how you can help. Jan couldn't do that. He left the project, tried helping with other projects at Pixar, and then he had to leave; he couldn't stand see someone else take over his story (can you blame him?).

Lasseter does this a lot. He recently went to the Lilo & Stitch director (Chris Sanders) who was doing Bolt. He laid down a lot of changes (I believe about 80% of the story had to be cut), and the director bolted... to DreamWorks.

UPDATE: Chris' next project was far better than Lilo & Stitch or Bolt... How to Train a Dragon (my favorite DreamWorks film since Shrek 1 and Shrek 2). It certainly seems that Chris learned a ton when starting over at DreamWorks. We'll see how that translates to his next film, The Croods (about cavemen).
Story is king in Pixar's world (and now in Disney's world since Iger, Lasseter, and Jobs took over). If directors can't see that, then they will be replaced with directors who can get with the story (as evidence). That said, Chris turned out to be an amazing director (with Dragons), so you never know what each director is capable of.

Brad Bird's fourth movie is going to be called "1906." UPDATE: 1906 languished, so Brad directed and released MI4 first.



  1. What an absolutely contemptible point of view: 'if X says "jump", say "how high", or get lost. Never mind if you might have your own idea which you think worth fighting for. Stalin would approve.

  2. Matt,

    If you worked at McDonalds, and you're told how to cook burgers, and you decide to undercook them because you like them better that way, would you expect to be fired? Is it in the customer's best interest that you do not cook their food? Doesn't the management of McDonalds know what kind of food their customers need to maximize satisfaction? Should McDonalds be compared with Stalin? Or is this actually the opposite (free enterprise providing quality products)?

    - TAE

  3. Any artist worth their salt would throw up at being compared to McDonalds.

  4. Anony,

    Business is business. Any artist who doesn't want to be part of a business should not work at Pixar or most any company.

  5. Matt,

    If you have your own idea that you think is worth fighting for, and you're not willing to listen to John Lasseter, then you should definitely fight for your own idea... at your own company.


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