Friday, July 23, 2010

Ultimate Opening

It always surprises me where I can learn about writing. One of the most interesting sources is watching deleted movie scenes and hearing what the screenwriter/director says about why the scene was deleted. Even in animated movies.

Last night we watched Ratatouille. After the movie we watched the deleted scenes. One of the scenes was an alternative opening. It was impressive in terms of scope and touched on many of the characters, place, and themes of the movie. But it was deleted. Why? The screenwriter acknowledged that the scene worked on many different levels, but there was one level it didn’t work on. It wasn’t from the main character’s point of view.

As a fiction writer I understand the problem. One of the first things a writer needs to do is establish compassion for the MC. We need to get the reader rooting for the MC, even if the MC isn’t the most likeable person.

In Ratatouille, the MC (Remy) is a rat. He has a limited experience of the world. In order to cheer for him and experience the overwhelming grandiosity of a Parisian restaurant, we need to identify with him and see his life beforehand. So the movie starts with Remy in a rural setting trying to scavenge food all the while dreaming of haute cuisine. We see/experience his passion, which is so consuming that he gets struck by lightning while trying to properly cook his mushroom/cheese/rosemary entrĂ©e. Yep, at that point I’m rooting for him (plus he is cute, for a rat, and has a snarky sense of humor). Now we’re ready to go to Paris, to be overwhelmed, and to see him conquer the world of haute cuisine. And all because we’ve fallen for Remy and his passion. That's the power of a great opening.


  1. I remember watching that featurette and thinking similar things! I love that Pixar doesn't stop short with adequate storytelling. Only the best for them.

  2. I love that movie!
    I know, I hate how certain books/movies shove the MC in your face expecting you to love him/her without a foundation of sympathy. Really annoying.

  3. i loved the opening for that movie! Now I'll have to rent it again and see the deleted scene. Loved the quote from your earlier post about style, too!

  4. I love ratatouille! I want to watch it now :)

    It's always so interesting to watch deleted scenes and think about why they were cut, and then take the lesson back to writing.

  5. That is one of my favorite kid movies of all time. I love to cook so I appreciated all the funny little witticisms about cooking.
    I may have to force my kids to watch it with me tonight!

  6. Andrew McPhersonJuly 23, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    Pixar always has the best features for it's films. It never fails to entertain, even after the initial film has ended.

  7. I like your new blog look! It very classy. :)

  8. Connie we have the movie and you have made me want to see it again. Thanks for your insight and suggestions.