Amongst many odd and controversial moments, a backhanded remark caused a small uproar at this year’s Oscars: When introducing the award for Best Animated Feature Film, the show’s writing staff included a joke that suggested animated films are for kids to watch “over and over and over,” with presenter Naomi Scott then adding that “some parents know exactly what we’re talking about.”
While there is certainly some truth to the idea of kids exclusively latching onto animated films, director Phil Lord put it best when he tweeted “Super cool to position animation as something that kids watch and adults have to endure.” Indeed, many in the animation field expressed disappointment at the idea that animated films only exist for these “formative moments” for children, diminishing their overall value.
Super cool to position animation as something that kids watch and adults have to endure
— Phil Lord y Betancourt (@philiplord) March 28, 2022
What the Oscars joke fails to consider is that animated movies are a unique opportunity for filmmakers to create with the fullest scope of their imaginations, to offer stories that cannot be replicated in a live-action production, and to create visual and cinematic ideas that push far beyond the novel and into a surprisingly profound space — one that people of all ages can appreciate. In other words, great art can come from anywhere, in any form, and can reach anyone with an open mind.
These principles are at the core of Pixar’s eighth film, Ratatouille, which celebrates its 15-year anniversary today (June 29th). Sure, Ratatouille’s premise has always been a bit absurd: a food-loving rat named Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) is separated from his colony and winds up cooking at the finest restaurant in Paris. But throughout the film is a universal message that hasn’t lost its potency, even after 15 years: Anyone can cook.
Pixar films rarely miss when it comes to their thematic thesis statements — this is a studio that has sought to represent the largest human emotions in imaginative, nuanced ways, from the separation trauma reflected in Finding Nemo to the toxic family dynamics of The Incredibles. But what makes Ratatouille’s message so remarkable is its fearlessness in approaching art and our society’s attitudes around it.
Though the film doesn’t lean as heavily into the fraught capitalist commentary and iconography of The Incredibles (also helmed by Ratatouille’s director, Brad Bird), it is indeed a smartly-constructed argument towards dismantling the classism surrounding art, and it’s a film that gave way to one of Pixar’s most courageous eras of storytelling… so far.