Ratatouille: A Musical Reframe

October 3, 2018

            No film scoring blog would be complete without talking about some Disney/Pixar films! Ratatouille is one that I still love quite a bit, and going back to it as an adult really helps you understand some of the plot’s undertones you just don’t get as a kid (Gusteau’s infidelity, namely…oh, & Skinner trying to get Linguini drunk. Not sure what I thought that was as a kid).

            But no great animated movie is complete without fantastic score moments. Ratatouille, scored by Michael Giacchino, has one towards the beginning that I particularly love. In fact, when I truly understood what I was hearing for the first time, it reminded me why I love scoring film in the first place.

            But that’s enough talk. Here’s the scene I’m talking about in a nice short clip:

           Let’s go to 30 seconds—play for a little bit. Hear the theme that comes in for the strings, just as Remy’s in danger of getting stepped on? We hear it again & again as Remy is put into more & more various dangers around the kitchen (& outside it!). At first glance, one might think “Alright, that’s our ‘this character is in danger’ motif for this scene”.

           But, it isn’t that simple.

           Fast forward to 3:20, as Remy decides to take the plunge & make more substantial changes to the soup. Listen—hear what comes in? That’s right. It’s the same theme from when Remy was running from the various dangers around the kitchen, & though the accompaniment is different, the theme itself is the same as before.

           And this sameness means there’s only one thing this theme could represent—our setting.

           At first, when Remy’s dropped into the kitchen, he’s understandably scared by the sudden turn of events & the unwelcome dangers around him. So, when the theme comes in, it’s surrounded by instrumentation that illustrates Remy’s fearful emotions. But, when Remy sees the soup, he sees an opportunity to cook, to pursue his long-time passion in a relatively safe area of the kitchen. And so, when our theme plays again, completely unchanged from its first appearance, it’s showing how Remy’s feelings toward the space have been reframed. Instead of seeing it as a place of danger, it’s a place for creative experimentation; instead of being afraid of this place, he’s overjoyed he can cook here.

           Michael Giacchino uses a musical theme’s reappearance to show a character’s reframed view of a place, & that is an amazing thing.

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