DVD Rating: ***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Read Tony Sullivan's film review of Ratatouille

And so, as the Chinese Year of the Rat kicks off, Pixar's latest animated feature is released on two-disc Collector's Edition DVD and Blu-ray.

Collector's Edition. Now there is a phrase to conjour with. What does it mean, really? It implies 'special edition'... so why not say that? Perhaps, because, this double disc dose of Remy the Rat is a whole lot less sparkly as the posh title suggests.

Copy picture

But, before getting on to what is conspicuous by its absence here, we should concentrate on the good stuff. Firstly, the picture and sound are both terrific, with subtitles throughout the main feature very clear. There is also an audio descriptive track available.

Among the extras, is Lifted, the original short that preceded the film when it was shown in cinemas. It's great and - it could be argued - packs more laughs into its short runtime than the entire tale of one kitchen boy and his rat.

A second 10-minute animated short is also included on the first disc of this set. Your Friend The Rat is basically a potted history of the furry critter, how it came to Europe and the distinction between Black Rats and Norwegian Brown Rats. Most of this animation is in 2D, bookended with introduction segments from Remy and brother Emil. It's fine, educational and will probably stand up to repeat viewings, although youngsters are still likely to prefer to watch the movie or Lifted.

What is missing from disc one, however, is the gaping hole where you feel the commentary track should be. Sure enough, if you check out the Blu-Ray extras, there it is, a full commentary with Brad Bird and Brad Lewis (packaged within its Cine-Explore feature). It is, of course, all the rage to include Blu-Ray exclusives in a bid to get us all to 'trade up' to the new format, but surely there can be little excuse for not including such a mainstay of DVD extra output as a commentary track on something purporting to be for 'collectors'.

Rounding out Disc One instead, we have the rather dull Fine Food And Film: A Conversation With Brad Bird And Thomas Keller. Producer Brad Lewis provides the interview links in this short which attempts to draw parallels between Bird's work on the film and Keller's work as a top chef. While some of what Bird says is of interest, such as his discussion of the risks of spontaneity and his admission that he can be "enthusiastically demanding", the chef element never really gels as it should. It is hard to know who this 13-minute extra is aimed at - certainly it will be a complete turn off for youngsters in the audience and it doesn't really hold enough meat for adults either.

Over on Disc Two are the best of the extras. The featurette Building Paris (5 mins 47secs) sees the art directors, designers and animators talk about the pleasures of Paris and their field trips to gain inspiration for th film. There words are intercut with storyboards and it makes for a pleasant and informative watch.

Next up are seven Character Profiles, each lasting around a minute each. Bird talks about each of the main characters in turn as images showing storyboards, animation tests and the like are shown to reveal how each character became the finished product.

By far the most interesting extra on the second disc, however, are the deleted scenes. Lasting 20 minutes in all, there are four scenes Chez Gusteau, Meet Gusteau, First Day and Heist/Fantasy. All are, essentially, animated black and white storyboards - with a little, judicious use of colour - and they offer a real insight into the editing process and how fluid the plot, and even the characters, were at the outset of the project. Bird reveals why the first two scenes were cut and explains how Gusteau was originally going to still be alive when the film was first conceived. The second two segments feature bookend comments from Jim Capobianco and Brad Lewis, again discussing why they came to be cut.

The Progression Reel: Rapids, is also interesting, taking one segment of the film - in which Remy finds himself tumbling through the sewers - and presenting it from storyboard to completion.

Behind The Scenes is a series of five, brief featurettes - Designing The Movie, Animating A Rat's World, Aninmating With a French Flavour, Brad Bird: The Big Cheese, Cooking 101 - these are of varying interest (Cooking 101 is especially dull) and on the short side. Again, there is a gaping hole where input from the voice cast should be. With only Patton Oswalt having any real presence in the extras, this feels like an opportunity missed. There is barely even any footage of the actors laying down their lines, with only the briefest clips of Oswalt and Peter O'Toole. There surely must be more of this somewhere... perhaps when the 'special edition comes along?

There are, apparently, a further five featurettes exclusive to the Blu-Ray disc, but it seems rather mean not to include them here.

Rounding out the package are a positive raft of promotional puff pieces and trailers. Remy's Incredible But Edible are segments from the Disney Channel - esssential teasers for the film, while in the Ratatouille Around The World section, we are treated to trailers from elsewhere in the globe. The Japanese one is well worth a look since it has a completely different tone to those shown to Western audiences, being much more contemplative in nature than the frenetic offerings for the Americas.

Finally, there is an obligatory set of sneak peaks for The Aristocats, Tinker Bell (yes, it's still coming and it still looks dodgy), Sleeping Beauty, Enchanted, plus a trailer for Disneyland Paris (parents beware).

Ultimately, although this is by no means a badly put together package, it still feels rather light for a double disc set.

Reviewed on: 15 Feb 2008
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Product Code: BUA0047101

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.39:1

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0

Extras: Lifted, Your Friend The Rat, Fine Food And Film, Building Paris, Characer Profiles, Progression Reel: Rapids, Deleted Scenes, Behind The Scenes featurettes, Remy's Incredible But Edible, trailers,

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