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Last Updated: Monday February 11 2008 09:01 GMT

NR chats to Ratatouille animator


Rat movie Ratatouille has become a hit around the world - and Lizo got to talk to top animator Mark Walsh who worked on the film.

He works for Pixar in America, the company which also made other cool films like Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.

Lizo asked him all about animation.

How long does it take to get from a first drawing until we see the final film?

Well for Ratatouille it took five years from start to finish.

At the start, we had to decide what the characters would look like and then all the way through to what colour their hair would be at the very end.

It takes a long time and a lot of talented people and a lot of art to make the whole movie.

How did you become an animator?

When I was a kid I liked everything. I liked to play, I liked to act, liked writing my own stories, loved to draw and instead of doing my homework I loved to watch cartoons.

Mark Walsj
My parents thought 'What job can this kid get when he gets older?' and I thought 'Gee Whizz, I don't want to give anything up.'

So when I took a closer look at cartoons I realised that an animator gets to draw characters, may do their voice and see how the characters move - so dance is helpful - and if you're working on your own story you get to write it too.

It combined all the things I really liked together.

When you were at school did you draw a lot?

It's something I had to work at in my spare time. If you have a need inside to create characters or draw, it's something you've got to do so you make the time for it.

Which bits of Ratatouille did you work on?

About 80 animators work on the same film at the same time. Specifically I worked on the scene where the health inspectors - who moves very slowly - answers the phone very slowly.

Characters like that are great as you get to act out what they're like, so you might be a rat or a chef!

Did you have to study real rats or did you just use your imagination?

Remy from Ratatouille
What we like to do is research what we're animating. So for chefs, we went to kitchens and saw real kitchens and also we studied real rats.

And then, as artists, we decide how much real rat we put in and what we make up.

Rats are actually not as gross as you think. They're actually pretty cute pets.

Is there a difference between animation and cartoons?

Animation can be many things. A cartoon is a form of animation where things are really silly and fun, like Tom and Jerry or Bugs Bunny.

Animation can be something that looks really realistic, like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park or a rat in Ratatouille.

What advice would you give someone who wants to become an animator?

Go for it! It's the philosophy from the movie Ratatouille - about someone who wants to do something really crazy and everyone thinks 'That's crazy and you shouldn't do it'.

A lot of the animators identified with this, as that's what their parents used to think when they drew cartoons.

It can be seen as an odd thing to want to do but if you really love it and have ideas for stories and characters, then write them down.

You might think it's dumb at the time, but go back and look at it in a few weeks or months and you might think that it really was pretty cool.

Have you got a favourite part of the film?

I love the part when Remy is crawling through the sewer up to Paris. It starts off he's very depressed and he doesn't know what he's doing.

You see everything from a rat's point of view, and see what it's like to be in the walls of a building.

He crawls and finally gets to the top and sees the whole of Paris and for me that's everything I wanted in the movie - you see a real character but also he's a real rat.

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