Ratatouille is one of the greatest animated movies of our generation. Bold statement, right? After delving into the world of Remy the rat with a more analytical eye, I may be able to convince you. Perhaps one of the most memorable parts of the Ratatouille experience is the award-winning music, written by Michael Giacchino, the man who brought Jurassic World, The Incredibles, and Up alive through his composition. While the movie’s title comes from a simple vegetable dish, the sound that accompanies it is incredibly complex and nuanced. Rather than just describe one song, I thought I’d take you through the whole experience. Sit back, put on some headphones, and let the soundtrack wash over you.
We’ll start with Le Festin, the only lyrical song from the entire album. What better way to introduce a movie about a French rat than with a song in French? This theme has gained popularity on TikTok over the past few months, and there is no doubt to why. The gentle guitar, the flowing melody, and the well placed vocal harmonies create more than just a song; rather they create a soundscape that introduces the entire film.
This is Me, the third song of the album, is percussion heavy, creating a sneaking sound that perfectly describes Remy the rat’s position in the colony (which consists of over one hundred rats). Listeners can almost feel the scurrying of little rat feet as the notes change quickly and precisely. A lazy interlude midway through the piece perfectly mirrors Remy’s uneventful lifestyle. As the colony’s poison checker and a kind of rhythm day in and day out is only further emphasized by the warm brass in the background.
100 Rat Dash. The name says it all. At this point in the movie, the entire colony is confronted by poison gas-wielding Granny and must flee the attic they call home. From the get-go, 100 Rat Dash is action-packed, increasing the already-palpable tension. The strings truly make this piece, and Giacchino conducts with precision and force to draw listeners into the plight of the rats. At the end of this scarcely 90-second song, the background instrumentals drop out, and those who have seen the movie can easily tell that this is the point in time in which Remy loses his family.
Wall Rat, despite being one of the shorter pieces of this soundtrack, has, in my opinion, the most dynamic melodies and shifts throughout. The melancholy cello really sets the somber mood that the movie takes on after Remy’s tragic abandonment. Subsequently, Remy’s scurrying through the attics of buildings is perfectly illustrated by syncopated rhythms in the background, combined with flute melodies that rise and fall quickly in pitch. My favorite part, however, is at 2 minutes, when the piece is dominated by strings, accompanying Remy’s discovery that he is, in fact, in Paris.
Giacchino transitions the soundtrack easily to Cast of Cooks, a nonchalant yet subtle piece that truly exemplifies the creative nature of the kitchen. The complex intertwining of rhythm embodies the complex flavors that are created in Gusteau’s Restaurant. High up above, Remy effectively, fluently, and correctly identifies the members of the kitchen. Despite how far he is, the audience can feel the heat of the frypan, the bubbling of boiling pasta water, and the chop-chop-chopchopchopchopchop of a rapidly cut onion.
A Real Gourmet Kitchen brings watchers into uncharted territory as Remy the rat dives into the culinary world- literally. After plunging into a tub of soapy water, he races through the kitchen searching for safety from the understandably angry chefs. Giacchino expertly keeps the audience on their toes by weaving dramatic instrumentals with the intense animations. Wherever Remy is, from the oppressive heat of the oven to the slippery tiles of the floors, the instruments add to the imagery and perfectly underscore the small chef’s peril. Perhaps the most prominent feature of A Real Gourmet Kitchen is the soothing waltz which provides emotional refuge from Remy’s dangerous exposure to the kitchen and concludes the piece.
You know Souped Up is going to be a wild ride from the moment our tiny friend begins to add his culinary twist to the pot of soup on the kitchen’s stove. The tension builds with a repeating melody, the tempo increasing alongside the addition of new instruments. This has got to be my favorite part of the movie. Remy, who is just starting to live out his dreams of being a chef in the kitchen is lost in the passion of food and flavor. And simultaneously, listeners of Souped Up have their minds whirling with the ecstasy of a rat following his dreams.
Remy Drives a Linguini is by far the most fitting song to any part of any movie I have ever witnessed. The casually whistled melody helps to create an atmosphere of trust, not only between Remy and Alfredo Linguini, but between the audience and the characters. As I type this article, I am literally having to stop myself from snapping along to the rhythm. That’s how you identify a good piece. The use accordion is a spot-on choice by Giacchino, because no instrument screams camaraderie more than the quintessential Italian instrument.
Colette Shows Him Le Ropes is firey, like its namesake, a female chef who brings excellence to Gusteau’s. This song has rhythm. This song has spice. This song packs almost as much of a punch as Colette’s food. The sheer atmosphere that Le Ropes brings to my kitchen on a weekend when I am frantically meal prepping is enough for me to recommend it to anyone. Giacchino truly masters the art of combining unlikely instruments together to make one cohesive sound that transcends the work of any single instrument reinforcing the common saying that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Dinner Rush. No spoilers about what’s happening in the movie, so all I can say is that we’ve reached a point of optimism, of hope, of overcoming what we once thought impossible. Straight off the bat, Michael Giacchino only wastes about 15 seconds building up to a particularly exuberant melody. The swells of string solos accompanied by militant percussive parts and lower brass instruments are vaguely reminiscent of a really solid march from the 1800s. This song is what I call “straight fire,” and for good reason too. This is one of those pieces that you can aggressively bop your head to, and to be honest, I literally am struggling to find the words to express the raw emotion I feel when I hear this song. I’ll throw out the words spirited, unrestrained, and clamorous just to give you a vague idea. When you, the listener, are listening, you identify with the rat. You think like a rat. You feel like a rat.
The soundtrack to Ratatouille is Oscar nominated, but Michael Giacchino’s work is only part of the magic. Ratatouille is about overcoming adversity, finding love, following your dreams, and stresses that no matter where you come from, you can do great things. We can all find an internal conflict to relate to, from Linguini’s crush on the talented Colette, to Remy’s search for his father’s support, to Chef Skinner’s fear of the unknown. So, if you have an hour and fifty one minutes to spare, sit down, relax, and take in the sights, and most importantly, sounds, of Pixar’s Ratatouille.