Ten Things You May Not Know About Remy
1. Animating Remy in the Pixar classic Ratatouille presented the production team with some unique challenges. As the main character, it was important that Remy show a wide range of expressions. According to director Brad Bird, “…a rat’s face doesn’t necessarily shoot well from all angles. Because rats have such a long snout, the mouth can be kind of hidden underneath…if Remy’s head is angled down, for example.” In the end, the modelers ended up creating about 160 individual controls for Remy’s face.
2. Another challenge was to convey the notion that Remy was trying to balance the fine line between being a rat and being a human (in spirit anyway). One of Bird’s early decisions was to have Remy primarily walk on two legs (the better to keep his hands clean of course), while the rest of the rats in the movie would mainly walk on four legs.
3. Remy is voiced by comedian Patton Oswalt, who came to Brad Bird’s attention when he heard Oswalt performing on the radio. “In one of his routines he was actually talking about food. Besides being hilarious, I was really impressed by his passion, exuberance and volatility. He has a great voice that sounds like it’s coming from a smaller being…”
4. In order to assist the animators in creating an accurate look for the rats, a vivarium (a small, enclosed artificial habitat much like an aquarium or terrarium) containing several rats was placed in the hallway for over a year so animators could study the movement of the animals’ fur, noses, ears, paws, and tails.
5. Debbie Ducommun, an internationally recognized expert on rats (known to her colleagues as “The Rat Lady”), was brought in to offer her assistance. She brought in several of her pet rats, and under her direction, several changes were made to the look of the animated rats, primarily the nose and ears.
6. Animating Remy’s fur also presented a special challenge. It wasn’t the first time that the animators at Pixar had to deal with fur; they had previously developed new techniques for animating Sulley’s fur in Monsters Inc. But in Ratatouille, the animators had to deal with thousands of furry creatures, and that led to the development of even more sophisticated software to meet the challenge.
7. How much fur are we talking about? Well, Remy himself has 1,150,070 individual hairs (that’s more than double the number of hairs on an actual rat, who typically have around half a millions hairs). So how does that stack up against the human characters? Colette has 115,000 hairs, about the same as an average person.
8. The motion of the hair wasn’t the only challenge the animators faced; they also had to deal with coloring. Art Director Belinda Van Valkenburg explains that “Each of the rats has their own palette to make them even more appealing and interesting. We used pointillism to mix different colors for each character. So if you look very closely at Remy’s hair, he’s got purple, yellow and green hair. But if he’s far away, he’s just a nice shade of blue.” Curiously, the animators looked to a piece of fruit for inspiration in order to accurately depict the fuzz on the rats’ noses, ears, and tails. Which fruit? Why, a fuzzy peach of course!
9. At one point, Guests visiting Epcot could see Remy in the Chefs de France restaurant in World Showcase. Debuting in 2009, a life-sized Animatronic Remy was brought around to Guests as they sat at their tables. The Animatronic figure was the smallest ever produced by Disney’s Imagineers at the time, and Guests delighted in seeing the “little chef” come to life right before their eyes. Sadly, Remy left in October of 2013, but will be making a reappearance at this year’s Food & Wine Festival at Epcot! (Not to mention a Ratatouille-attraction is in the works for the France pavilion, c’est manifique!)
10. Eagle-eyed fans can spot Remy in the Pixar film WALL-E. Look closely in the garbage chute aboard the Axiom and see if you can spot a robot named REM-E!
Tim Foster is the founder and editor of Celebrations Magazine, as well as the author of the Guide to the Magic for Kids. For him, Disney is all about sharing the magic…whether it be with friends, family, or even fellow Guests wandering about the parks. Speaking of parks, you’ll likely find him in Epcot’s Japan pavilion or riding “it’s a small world” for the 12,324th time (and still singing each and every time).