"Ratatouille" is Disney/Pixar's first joint venture since the acquisition, and the movie--and its associated merchandise -- is exactly why Disney wanted to snap up Pixar. The film's opening on Friday but I got a sneak peak at the premiere a week early, and I was seriously impressed. Call it "Cyrano de Spice Rack", it's the story of a rat who loves to cook, and befriends the garbage boy in the best restaurant in Paris, becoming his secret chef. I was really impressed. Not only is the animation more amazing than ever--the scenes with rushing water and the animal fur looked especially realistic--but the story line was particularly well thought out, character development and all.
This combination of high-wattage visuals and solid story is exactly what Pixar is so good at-- and what can play well to all audiences. And for one thing, this is a nation increasingly obsessed with gourmet food--just take a look at the spread of high-end restaurants and the sky-high ratings on the Food Network. And "Ratatouille" does French restaurants right--by hiring Thomas Keller (from French Laundry in Northern California and Per Se in New York) and with tons of research at the top restaurants in New York.
And now Disney is parlaying its this cousin of Mickey's gourmet expertise into consumer products dollars. In a first for the family-friendly brand, they're launching a line of Ratatouille-branded wines to sell at Costco (which is in fact one of the nation's largest wine retailers) in addition to gourmet cheese plates. And since Pixar chief John Lasseter himself owns a vineyard in Northern California, he's personally vested in making sure these wines are good. Disney is expanding its high-end products with fancy tableware and cookware for kids (and adults) at the pricey homeware chain Sur La Table.
And Disney will also hawk "Ratatouille" wares at Wal-Mart and there are plenty of books (including a Thomas Keller-fronted kids cookbook) on Amazon.com already.
"Ratatouille" may not be fodder for the kind of sequels and franchises that Bob Iger so loves to use all across the company's properties, but there's definitely enough here to keep the consumer products division growing, and happy.
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