Remy is an idealistic and ambitious young rat, gifted with highly developed senses of taste and smell. Inspired by his idol, the recently deceased chef Auguste Gusteau, Remy dreams of becoming a cook himself. When an old French woman discovers Remy's colony in her house and attempts to exterminate them, they are forced to flee, and Remy becomes separated from his family in the panic. He ends up in the sewers of Paris and eventually finds himself at a skylight overlooking the kitchen of Gusteau's restaurant.
As Remy watches through the window, a young man named Alfredo Linguini is hired as a garbage boy by Skinner, the restaurant's paranoid current owner and Gusteau's former sous-chef. When Linguini spills a pot of soup and attempts to recreate it, Remy recognizes that he is ruining it instead, and repairs Linguini's mistakes. Linguini catches Remy but hides him when he is then confronted by Skinner for tampering with the soup. As the two argue, the soup is accidentally served and proves to be a success. Colette Tatou, the staff's only female chef, convinces Skinner to retain Linguini, who is assumed to be the soup's creator. When Skinner catches Remy trying to escape, he orders Linguini to kill the rat, but Linguini discovers Remy's intelligence and decides to keep him instead.
On Linguini's first day as a chef, he and Remy find a way to communicate: Remy guides Linguini like a marionette by pulling on his hair while hidden under Linguini's toque, while Skinner assigns Colette to train his new cook.
Suspicious, Skinner learns that Linguini is Gusteau's illegitimate son and the rightful heir to the restaurant, which jeopardizes Skinner's control of the restaurant and the lucrative packaged food enterprise he formed using the restaurant's reputation after Gusteau's death. Remy discovers the evidence of Linguini's inheritance and, after eluding Skinner, gives it to Linguini, who deposes Skinner as owner. The restaurant continues to thrive, and Linguini and Colette develop a budding romance, leaving Remy feeling left out. Remy finds that his clan has come to Paris as well, and is taken to their new lair, but despite his father Django's attempts to rid his son of his admiration of humans, Remy leaves.
France's top restaurant critic, Anton Ego, whose previous negative review cost Gusteau's one of its stars, announces he will be re-reviewing the restaurant the following evening. After a disagreement with Linguini, Remy leads his clan to raid the restaurant's pantries in retaliation, but Linguini catches them and sends them out. Having now discovered Remy's skills, Skinner captures him in an attempt to use him to create a new line of frozen foods. However, Remy is freed by his brother Emile and Django. He returns to the restaurant, only to find Linguini is unable to cook without him. Linguini apologizes and reveals the truth to the staff, but they leave in disbelief. Colette later returns after recalling Gusteau's motto, "Anyone can cook."
Django arrives with the rest of the clan, offering to help after seeing his son's determination. Remy has the rats cook, while Linguini waits tables. For Ego and Skinner, Remy and Colette create a variation of ratatouille, which reminds an astonished Ego of his mother's cooking. During the meal, the rats are forced to tie up Skinner and a health inspector to prevent them from revealing the rats' involvement in the cooking. When Ego requests to see the chef, Linguini and Colette make him wait until the rest of the diners have left before introducing Remy. Ego is stunned and leaves the restaurant, deep in thought. He writes a positive and thoughtful review for the newspaper the next day, stating that Gusteau's chef (Remy) is "nothing less than the finest chef in France."
Despite the positive review, Gusteau's is shut down, since Linguini and Remy had to release Skinner and the health inspector. Ego loses credibility as a critic but funds a popular new bistro, "La Ratatouille", created and run by Remy, Linguini, and Colette; Ego frequents the bistro for Remy's cooking. The rats settle into their new home in the bistro's roof.
Jan Pinkava came up with the concept in 2000, creating the original design, sets and characters and core storyline, but he was never formally named the director of the film. Lacking confidence in Pinkava's story development, Pixar management replaced him with Bird in 2005. Bird was attracted to the film because of the outlandishness of the concept and the conflict that drove it: that rats feared kitchens, yet a rat wanted to work in one. Bird was also delighted that the film could be made a highly physical comedy, with the character of Linguini providing endless fun for the animators. Bird rewrote the story, with a change in emphasis. He killed off Gusteau, gave larger roles to Skinner and Colette, and also changed the appearance of the rats to be less anthropomorphic.
Because Ratatouille is intended to be a romantic, lush vision of Paris, giving it an identity distinct from previous Pixar films, director Brad Bird, producer Brad Lewis and some of the crew spent a week in the city to properly understand its environment, taking a motorcycle tour and eating at five top restaurants. There are also many water-based sequences in the film, one of which is set in the sewers and is more complex than the blue whale scene in Finding Nemo. One scene has Linguini wet after jumping into the Seine to fetch Remy. A Pixar employee (Shade/Paint department coordinator Kesten Migdal) jumped into Pixar's swimming pool wearing a chef's uniform and apron to see which parts of the suit stuck to his body and which became translucent from water absorption.
Ratatouille was originally going to be released in 2006, however, in December 2004, the date was changed to 2007. This happened because Disney/Pixar changed the release date of Cars, from November 2005 to June 2006, thus pushing Ratatouille to 2007.
A challenge for the filmmakers was creating computer-generated images of food that would appear delicious. Gourmet chefs in both the U.S. and France were consulted and animators attended cooking classes at San Francisco-area culinary schools to understand the workings of a commercial kitchen. Sets/Layout department manager Michael Warch, a culinary-academy trained professional chef before working at Pixar, helped teach and consult animators as they worked. He also prepared dishes used by the Art, Shade/Paint, Effects and Sets Modeling departments. Renowned chef Thomas Keller allowed producer Brad Lewis to intern in his French Laundry kitchen. For the film's climax, Keller designed a fancy, layered version of the title dish for the rat characters to cook, which he called "confit byaldi" in honor of the original Turkish name. The same sub-surface light scattering technique that was used on skin in The Incredibles was used on fruits and vegetables, while new programs gave an organic texture and movement to the food. Completing the illusion were music, dialogue, and abstract imagery representing the characters' mental sensations while appreciating food. The visual flavor metaphors were created by animator Michel Gagné inspired by the work of Oscar Fischinger and Norman McLaren. To create a realistic compost pile, the Art Department photographed fifteen different kinds of produce, such as apples, berries, bananas, mushrooms, oranges, broccoli, and lettuce, in the process of rotting.
According to Pixar designer Jason Deamer, "Most of the characters were designed while Jan [Pinkava] was still directing... He has a real eye for sculpture." For example, according to Pinkava, the critic Anton Ego was designed to resemble a vulture. Rat expert Debbie Ducommun (a.k.a. the "Rat Lady") was consulted on rat habits and characteristics. A vivarium containing pet rats sat in a hallway for more than a year so animators could study the movement of the animals' fur, noses, ears, paws, and tails as they ran. The cast members strove to make their French accents authentic yet understandable. John Ratzenberger notes that he often segued into an Italian accent. To save time, human characters were designed and animated without toes.
Promotional material for Intel credits their platform for a 30 percent performance improvement in rendering software. They used Remy in some of their marketing materials.
Brad Bird reteamed with Michael Giacchino on the score for Ratatouille since they got along well during the scoring of The Incredibles. Giacchino had written two themes for Remy, one about his thief self and the other about his hopes and dreams. He also wrote a buddy theme for both Remy and Linguini that plays when they're together. In addition to the score, Giacchino wrote the main theme song, "Le Festin", about Remy and his wishes to be a chef. Camille was hired to perform "Le Festin" after Giacchino listened to her music and realized she was perfect for the song; as a result, the song is sung in French in all versions of the film.
The music for Ratatouille gave Giacchino his first Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score as well as his first Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album. Giacchino returned to Pixar to score their 2009 blockbuster Up.
Ratatouille's world premiere was on June 22, 2007, at Los Angeles' Kodak Theater. The commercial release was one week later, with the short film Lifted preceding Ratatouille in theaters. Earlier in the year, it had received an Academy Award nomination. A test screening of the film was shown at the Harkins Cine Capri Theater in Scottsdale, Arizona on June 16, 2007, at which a Pixar representative was present to collect viewer feedback. Disney CEO Bob Iger announced an upcoming theatrical re-release of the film in 3D at the Disney shareholders meeting in March 2014.
The trailer for Ratatouille debuted with the release of its immediate predecessor, Cars. It depicts an original scene where Remy is caught on the cheese trolley in the restaurant's dining area sampling the cheese and barely escaping the establishment, intercut with separate scenes of the rat explaining directly to the audience why he is taking such risks. Similar to most of Pixar's teaser trailers, the scene was not present in the final film release.
A second trailer was released on March 23, 2007. The Ratatouille Big Cheese Tour began on May 11, 2007, with cooking demonstrations and a film preview. Voice actor Lou Romano attended the San Francisco leg of the tour for autograph signings.
Disney and Pixar were working to bring a French-produced Ratatouille-branded wine to Costco stores in August 2007, but abandoned plans because of complaints from the California Wine Institute, citing standards in labeling that restrict the use of cartoon characters to avoid attracting under-age drinkers.
In the United Kingdom, in place of releasing a theatrical trailer, a theatrical commercial featuring Remy and Emile was released in cinemas before its release to discourage obtaining unlicensed copies of films. Also in the United Kingdom, the main characters were used for a theatrical commercial for the Nissan Note, with Remy and Emile watching an original commercial for it made for the "Surprisingly Spacious" ad campaign and also parodying it respectively.
Disney/Pixar were concerned that audiences, particularly children, would not be familiar with the word "ratatouille" and its pronunciation. The title was therefore also spelled phonetically within trailers and on posters. For similar reasons, in the American release of the film, on-screen text in French was printed in English, such as the title of Gusteau's cookbook and the sign telling kitchen staff to wash their hands, though in the British English release, these are rendered in French. In Canada, the film was released theatrically with text in English, but on DVD, the majority of the text (including Gusteau's will) was in French.
Disney released Ratatouille on high-definition Blu-ray Disc and DVD in North America on November 6, 2007. A new animated short film featuring Remy and Emile entitled Your Friend the Rat was included as a special feature, in which the two rats attempt to entreat the viewer, a human, to welcome rats as their friends, demonstrating the benefits and misconceptions of rats towards humanity through several historical examples. The eleven-minute short uses 3D animation, 2D animation, live action and even stop motion animation, a first for Pixar.
The disc also includes a CG short entitled Lifted, which screened before the film during its theatrical run. It depicts an adolescent extraterrestrial attempting to abduct a sleeping human. Throughout the sequence, he is graded by an adult extraterrestrial in a manner reminiscent of a driver's licensing exam road test. The entire short contains no dialogue, which is typical of Pixar Shorts not based on existing properties. Also included among the special features are deleted scenes, a featurette featuring Brad Bird discussing filmmaking and chef Thomas Keller discussing culinary creativity entitled "Fine Food and Film", and four easter eggs. Although the Region 1 Blu-ray edition has a French audio track, the Region 1 DVD does not, except for some copies marked as for sale only in Canada.
It was released on DVD on November 6, 2007, and earned 4,919,574 units (equivalent to US$73,744,414) on its first week (Nov. 6–11, 2007) during which it topped the DVD charts. In total it sold 12,531,266 units (US$189,212,532) becoming the second best-selling animated DVD of 2007, both in units sold and sales revenue, behind Happy Feet.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 96% approval rating with an average rating of 8.4/10 based on 241 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Fast-paced and stunningly animated, Ratatouille adds another delightfully entertaining entry -- and a rather unlikely hero -- to the Pixar canon." Another review aggregation website Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 96 out of 100 based on 37 reviews, the highest of any Pixar film and the twenty-first highest rated film on the site.
A. O. Scott of The New York Times called Ratatouille "a nearly flawless piece of popular art, as well as one of the most persuasive portraits of an artist ever committed to film"; echoing the character Anton Ego in the film, he ended his review with a simple "thank you" to the creators of the film. Wally Hammond of Time Out gave the film five out of five stars, saying "A test for tiny tots, a mite nostalgic and as male-dominated as a modern kitchen it may be, but these are mere quibbles about this delightful addition to the Pixar pantheon." Andrea Gronvall of the Chicago Reader gave the film a positive review, saying "Brad Bird's second collaboration with Pixar is more ambitious and meditative than his Oscar-winning The Incredibles." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B, saying "Ratatouille has the Pixar technical magic without, somehow, the full Pixar flavor. It's Brad Bird's genial dessert, not so much incredible as merely sweetly edible." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "What makes Ratatouille such a hilarious and heartfelt wonder is the way Bird contrives to let it sneak up on you. And get a load of that score from Michael Giacchino, a perfect compliment to a delicious meal." James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three out of four stars, saying "For parents looking to spend time in a theater with their kids or adults who want something lighter and less testosterone-oriented than the usual summer fare, Ratatouille offers a savory main course." Christy Lemire of the Associated Press gave the film a positive review, saying "Ratatouille is free of the kind of gratuitous pop-culture references that plague so many movies of the genre; it tells a story, it's very much of our world but it never goes for the cheap, easy gag." Justin Chang of Variety gave the film a positive review, saying "The master chefs at Pixar have blended all the right ingredients -- abundant verbal and visual wit, genius slapstick timing, a soupcon of Gallic sophistication -- to produce a warm and irresistible concoction."
Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune gave the film four out of four stars, saying "The film may be animated, and largely taken up with rats, but its pulse is gratifyingly human. And you have never seen a computer-animated feature with this sort of visual panache and detail." Rafer Guzman of Newsday gave the film three out of four stars, saying "So many computer-animated movies are brash, loud and popping with pop-culture comedy, but Ratatouille has the warm glow of a favorite book. The characters are more than the sum of their gigabyte-consuming parts -- they feel handcrafted." Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel gave the film three out of five stars, saying "Has Pixar lost its magic recipe? Ratatouille is filled with fairly generic animated imagery, a few modest chases, a couple of good gags, not a lot of laughs." Scott Foundas of LA Weekly gave the film a positive review, saying "Bird has taken the raw ingredients of an anthropomorphic-animal kiddie matinee and whipped them into a heady brew about nothing less than the principles of artistic creation." Colin Covert of the Star Tribune gave the film four out of four stars, saying "It's not just the computer animation that is vibrantly three-dimensional. It's also the well-rounded characters... I defy you to name another animated film so overflowing with superfluous beauty." Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "With Ratatouille, Bird once again delivers not just a great, witty story, but dazzling visuals as well." Bill Muller of The Arizona Republic gave the film four and a half stars out of five, saying "Like the burbling soup that plays a key part in Ratatouille, the movie is a delectable blend of ingredients that tickles the palette and leaves you hungry for more."
Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Ratatouille is the most straightforward and formulaic picture to date from Pixar Animation Studios, but it is also among the most enchanting and touching." Jack Mathews of the New York Daily News gave the film four out of four stars, saying "The Pixar magic continues with Brad Bird's Ratatouille, a gorgeous, wonderfully inventive computer-animated comedy." Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Fresh family fun. Although there are those slightly noxious images of rodents scampering around a kitchen, the movie doesn't stoop to kid-pandering jokes based on back talk and bodily gases." David Ansen of Newsweek gave the film a positive review, saying "A film as rich as a sauce béarnaise, as refreshing as a raspberry sorbet, and a lot less predictable than the damn food metaphors and adjectives all us critics will churn out to describe it. OK, one more and then I'll be done: it's yummy." Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film four out of four stars, saying "Ratatouille never overwhelms, even though it's stocked with action, romance, historical content, family drama and serious statements about the creation of art." Richard Corliss of Time gave the film a positive review, saying "From the moment Remy enters, crashing, to the final happy fadeout, Ratatouille parades the brio and depth that set Pixar apart from and above other animation studios." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of four stars, saying "A lot of animated movies have inspired sequels, notably Shrek, but Brad Bird's Ratatouille is the first one that made me positively desire one." Peter Howell of the Toronto Star gave the film four out of four stars, saying "Had Bird gone the safe route, he would have robbed us of a great new cartoon figure in Remy, who like the rest of the film is rendered with animation that is at once fanciful and life-like. It's also my pick for Pixar's best."
Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal gave the film a positive review, saying "The characters are irresistible, the animation is astonishing and the film, a fantasy version of a foodie rhapsody, sustains a level of joyous invention that hasn't been seen in family entertainment since The Incredibles." Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times gave the film four and a half stars out of five, saying "Brad Bird's Ratatouille is so audacious you have to fall in love with its unlikely hero." Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "Ratatouille is delicious fun sure to be savored by audiences of all ages for its sumptuous visuals, clever wit and irresistibly inspiring tale." Miriam Di Nunzio of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "Ratatouille will make you wonder why animation needs to hide behind the mantle of 'it's for children, but grownups will like it, too.' This one's for Mom and Dad, and yep, the kids will like it, too." Michael Booth of The Denver Post gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "Writer and director Brad Bird keeps Ratatouille moving without resorting to the cute animal jokes or pop-culture wisecracking that ruined so many other recent animated films." Tom Long of The Detroit News gave the film an A, saying "Ratatouille has the technical genius, emotional core and storytelling audacity to lift it into the ranks of [the best] Pixar films, the crème de la crème of modern animation." Liam Lacey of The Globe and Mail gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "No sketchy backgrounds here -- Ratatouille's scenes feels like deep-focus camera shots. The textures, from the gleam of copper pans to the cobblestone streets, are almost palpable." Desson Thomson of The Washington Post gave the film a positive review, saying "Ratatouille doesn't center on the over-familiar surfaces of contemporary life. It harks back to Disney's older era, when cartoons seemed part of a more elegant world with less edgy characters."
In its opening weekend in North America, Ratatouille opened in 3,940 theaters and debuted at number one with $47 million, the lowest Pixar opening since A Bug's Life. However, in France, where the film is set, the film broke the record for the biggest debut for an animated film. In the UK, the film debuted at number one with sales over £4 million. The film has grossed $206.4 million in the United States and Canada and a total of $620.7 million worldwide, making it the seventh highest grossing Pixar film.
Ratatouille was nominated for five Oscars including Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Screenplay and Best Animated Film, which it lost to Atonement, The Bourne Ultimatum (for both Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing) and Juno, respectively, winning only the last one. At the time, the film held the record for the greatest number of Oscar nominations for a computer animated feature film, breaking the previous record held by Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo and The Incredibles at four nominations, but tied with Aladdin for any animated film. In 2008, WALL-E surpassed that record with 6 nominations. As of 2013, Ratatouille is tied with Up and Toy Story 3 for animated film with the second greatest number of Oscar nominations. Beauty and the Beast still holds the record for most Oscar nominations (also 6) for an animated feature film.
Furthermore, Ratatouille was nominated for 13 Annie Awards including twice in the Best Animated Effects, where it lost to Surf's Up, and three times in the Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production for Janeane Garofalo, Ian Holm, and Patton Oswalt, where Ian Holm won the award. It won the Best Animated Feature Award from multiple associations including the Chicago Film Critics, the National Board of Review, the Annie Awards, the Broadcast Film Critics, the British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA), and the Golden Globes.
If magazine described Ratatoing, a 2007 Brazilian computer graphics cartoon by Vídeo Brinquedo, as a "ripoff" of Ratatouille. Marco Aurélio Canônico of Folha de S. Paulo described Ratatoing as a derivative of Ratatouille. Canônico discussed whether lawsuits from Pixar would appear. The Brazilian Ministry of Culture posted Marco Aurélio Canônico's article on its website. In the end, Pixar reportedly did not seek legal action.
The primary video game adaptation of the film, titled Ratatouille, was released for all major consoles and handhelds in 2007. A Nintendo DS exclusive game, titled Ratatouille: Food Frenzy, was released in October 2007. Ratatouille is also among the films represented in Kinect Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure, released in March 2012 for Xbox 360.
A Disney theme park attraction based on the film has been constructed in Walt Disney Studios Park, Disneyland Paris. Ratatouille: L'Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy is based upon scenes from the film and uses trackless ride technology. In the attraction, riders "shrink down to the size of a rat". At the 2017 D23 Expo, Disney announced a similar, Ratatouille-based attraction would be built at the France Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase by 2021.