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OK, it's not entirely original, but I should've been clearer in my earlier post: I appreciated the Roy Disney parallel -- even though I'm not quite sure I followed every jot and tittle in the linked piece -- because the Gabler biography of Walt makes clear just how hugely important Roy was to the Disney empire.

I remember a few years ago when Roy -- I believe it was Roy, who was still active at the studio -- fought hard against the Eisner regime (somebody correct me if I'm wrong). At the time, I didn't understand Roy's case to be much more than preserving the good name of his brother. I didn't realize just how essential he had been to getting the studio off the ground and sustaining it during some very dark days.

But this aspect of the analogy is probably better suited to a thread about the studio, or the Gabler bio, than it is to this thread about a particular movie.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Christian wrote:

: I just finished Neal Gabler's biography of Walt Disney -- very good, by the way! -- and think it helped me appreciate this analysis of Ratatouille as a metaphorical history of Disney and Pixar.

Cute, but the biggest hole in the analogy is the comparison between Walt's nephew Roy and Gusteau's illegitimate son. Roy Disney was instrumental in getting Michael Eisner (the Skinner figure) hired in the first place -- a fact that I remember reading about in Time magazine back in the 1980s, and a fact that Roy reminded Eisner of during their tiff a few years ago -- whereas Gusteau's son has never met Skinner before and has no idea of his parentage and certainly played no part in bringing Skinner into the empire.

I do not mean to suggest that the author of this analysis is wrong to see parallels between Ratatouille and the Disney-Pixar relationship. I'm not at all surprised that there may be some parallels there, especially since Ratatouille is the one and only Pixar film that was greenlit without Disney's' approval, when Pixar's contract with Disney was about to expire and it looked like Pixar might be parting ways with Disney. But the situation is a bit more complex than "Eisner stole the family business away from the Disneys", etc.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Ah, I have my Roy Disneys confused. I was thinking of Walt's brother, but the stockholder who was part of the Eisner dispute was Walt's nephew of the same name. Or so it appears from my brief Google search.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Roy Disney was instrumental in getting Michael Eisner (the Skinner figure) hired in the first place -- a fact that I remember reading about in Time magazine back in the 1980s, and a fact that Roy reminded Eisner of during their tiff a few years ago . . .

I just remembered that Time magazine has a complete archive of all its back issues online. So here, from April 1988, is the paragraph I specifically remember reading way back when:

Yet when Roy Disney proposed a new management with Eisner as chairman and Wells as president, some company directors objected. According to Journalist John Taylor in his 1987 book, Storming the Magic Kingdom, they saw Eisner as an idea man who would be too inexperienced as an administrator and financier to handle a large corporation. The directors came close to rejecting Eisner in favor of an older, more buttoned-down candidate. But then Roy Disney's attorney, Stanley Gold, made an impassioned speech to the directors: "You see guys like Eisner as a little crazy . . . but every great studio in this business has been run by crazies. What do you think Walt Disney was? The guy was off the goddamned wall. This is a creative institution. It needs to be run by crazies again."

That meeting, and the appointment of Eisner and Katzenberg etc., took place in 1984. And when Roy Disney resigned from the board of directors in November 2003, he wrote this in his letter of resignation to Michael Eisner:

In conclusion, Michael, it is my sincere belief that it is you who should be leaving and not me. Accordingly, I once again call for your resignation or retirement. The Walt Disney Company deserves fresh, energetic leadership at this challenging time in its history just as it did in 1984 when I headed a restructuring which resulted in your recruitment to the Company.

Roy Disney also referred to his role in bringing Michael Eisner on board at the top of his letter to the cast members in December 2003.

Gosh, I love being able to footnote stuff like this. Viva la web!

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Yes! That's the exact incident I was thinking of, Peter. Thanks for finding it, and for the broader context about Eisner's arrival at the studio in addition to his departure.

EDIT: I've pulled from recent posts and added to the discussion of the Gabler bio here.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 3 months later...

"Critic" is a four-letter word

I think Anton is too hard on critics, although perhaps he is writing autobiographically. Is he correct that "average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so?" I would suggest that the average piece of junk is not meaningful at all, apart from the way it conditions the minds of its beholders to accept more pieces of junk. How important is criticism of it? Powerless, usually. Why do critics bother with it? I will appoint myself spokesman. We had to endure it and want our revenge. We enjoy writing scathing and witty prose. We know we are rarely writing for those who seek out junk. Perhaps we hope we entertain, and encourage the resolve of those who avoid it.

Anton says something I agree with when he speaks of "the discovery and defense of the new." By "new" I would mean not something unique, although if we are lucky we sometimes come across such things. I was lucky to write the first reviews of films by Martin Scorsese, Mike Leigh, and Gregory Nava. But I was not therefore especially gifted. All I had to do was look at what was before me, and describe what I saw. Scorsese, Leigh and Nava had to create their work. They discovered the new. A critic can defend it, publicize it, encourage it. Those are worth doing.

Roger Ebert, September 18

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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As usual, Ebert does a fantastic job of getting to the point, especially when he quotes the French critic, "It is not enough to like a film. One must like it for the right reasons." My first reaction is, "Exactly right. You have to actually have some substantive insight." My second thought is, "How unhelpful. It's terribly vague to tell someone to get it 'right' but not lead them to what 'right' might be." But you can't really teach "the right reasons", can you? That's what Ebert seems to be getting at when he says that "there is no correct answer. There is simply the correct process."... which I think I can agree with. There are certainly incorrect answers, but there's not one correct answer for matters of artistic taste.

That said, when he says that "I would suggest that the average piece of junk is not meaningful at all," I strongly disagree. I cannot think of a single movie, even those I would most vehemently oppose as powerfully poisonous to our culture, or as mediocrity incarnate, which doesn't have some good in it. Really. Can't think of one.

(Methinks this thread may be headed for a split?)

Edited by David Smedberg

That's just how eye roll.

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David Smedberg wrote:

: That said, when he says that "I would suggest that the average piece of junk is not meaningful at all," I strongly disagree. I cannot think of a single movie, even those I would most vehemently oppose as powerfully poisonous to our culture, or as mediocrity incarnate, which don't have some good in them. Really. Can't think of one

Even if that is true, does it necessarily follow that the "junk" is more meaningful than the critique which designates it as such?

When I interviewed some dietician students at university, they told me that they don't use the term "junk food" because ALL food has nutritional value of some sort. But does it necessarily follow that the average piece of "junk food" is better for you than the critiques which designate it as such?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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David Smedberg wrote:

: That said, when he says that "I would suggest that the average piece of junk is not meaningful at all," I strongly disagree. I cannot think of a single movie, even those I would most vehemently oppose as powerfully poisonous to our culture, or as mediocrity incarnate, which don't have some good in them. Really. Can't think of one

Even if that is true, does it necessarily follow that the "junk" is more meaningful than the critique which designates it as such?

When I interviewed some dietician students at university, they told me that they don't use the term "junk food" because ALL food has nutritional value of some sort. But does it necessarily follow that the average piece of "junk food" is better for you than the critiques which designate it as such?

Is this a question for me? :) I didn't say that I agreed with Ego, just that I disagreed with Ebert's particular way of disagreeing with Ego.

For instance, I like SDG's review of American Beauty a lot more than I like American Beauty itself. That's just one example, I could list many more.

I like your dietician example, partly because it's thought-provoking. Does a bowl of Cocoa Marshmallow Frostie Puffs need to have no nutritional value whatsoever to be considered "junk", or can it have a little and still not have enough to escape junkdom? Or, in terms of movies, can I defend Patrick Warburton's scenes in Bee Movie as fitfully amusing while still calling the movie as a whole "unfunny"? Generalizations are like teenagers, they have a worse reputation than they deserve. :P

Edited by David Smedberg

That's just how eye roll.

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David Smedberg wrote:

: I like your dietician example, partly because it's thought-provoking.

Yeah, me too, partly because it's kind of an apples-and-oranges thing, isn't it? Is it more "meaningful" to eat junk food or to accept the advice of those who call it junk? Well, if I'm starving and there's nothing else around, bad nutrition is still better than no nutrition, and nutrition of ANY kind is still better for my stomach than mere words. But of course, words can shape the way we eat, and the way we think about eating, to the point where we no longer eat certain things if we can help it at all. So, you tell me, which of these things is more "meaningful"? I'd say it depends on the context, and on the scope of that context.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 1 year later...

Animated Views interviews Jan Pinkava, the guy who conceived and directed Ratatouille until he was replaced with Brad Bird:

AV: How did the pitch to John Lasseter go? Was he immediately enthusiastic?

JP: When I pitched the three stories to Pixar

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 8 months later...

Richard Brody @ The New Yorker ponders the negative box-office effects of realistic hair in animation, and adds this postscript:

P.S. It’s worth recalling the “Ratatouille” effect: the, er, tail credits of the movie were hand-drawn—and they had all the spontaneity and vibrancy that the movie itself was missing. But in those drawings the fur looked, indeed, rattier, and I suspect that, had the entire feature been hand-drawn in the style of the credits, it wouldn’t have proven as profitable—in part, simply because CGI has become something of a standard expectation, but, more precisely, because the movie’s subject matter is sanitized by CGI.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Ratatouille getting 3-D re-release ... including "some changes, you know, some very subtle changes but slight reframings"?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 3 years later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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