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Ratatouille The Video Game

Since the dreadful events that took place last week at Virginia Tech, several experts, political personas, and government officials have attempted to explain the devastating actions of Seung-Hui Cho. Of course it was just a matter of time before video games reared its head in the slew of reasons behind his actions. Our favorite lobbyist, Jack Thompson appeared on some news programs stating that the violent nature of video games, especially the one Cho was allegedly playing, is a major contributing factor.

Well perhaps Walt Disney and Pixar can offer a reprieve from the alleged violent content in "many" video games.

Whether it's running through a busy kitchen, a congested marketplace, the serine French countryside, the malodorous sewers or bustling city streets of Paris, Remy, the rat and star of the film, "Ratatouille," shows that sometimes it's best to just follow your senses.

Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios, the creators of hits such as "Toy Story," "A Bug's Life" and "Cars," have done just that by teaming up with Heavy Iron Studios, a company of THQ, to bring together the magical world of animation to the navigable world of video games.

2"Ratatouille," the Disney Pixar film due to be released June 29, tells the heartfelt story of Remy, a rat who has an exquisite palette and a peculiar affection for gourmet French cuisine.

In a quest to follow his dream of becoming a refined gourmet French chef, Remy goes on a risky adventure, which ultimately leads him to self-discovery and acceptance. Remy also rediscovers the true meaning of relationships between friends and family while following his life's passion.

Disney Pixar and Heavy Iron Studios have captured this culinary adventure in the "Ratatouille" video game, which is due to be released June 26.

Recently, members of Disney Pixar and Heavy Iron Studios introduced versions of the "Ratatouille" video game for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PSP, Nintendo Wii, GameCube, Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS, PC and Mac, as well as wireless devices.

A "Ratatouille" event was held at an appropriately themed venue, the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, where attendees viewed clips from the film, played the video games and learned how to cook French cuisine, which included ratatouille on the menu.

In the video game, players take on Remy's persona as they experience mini-games, cooking challenges and head-to-head multiplayer.

As Remy, your senses guide you as you follow the aroma of food, which has a visible trail onscreen. Some of the objects are also outlined in red to help guide the gamer so he or she can maneuver more easily.

While navigating in the dream world or real world sequences, Remy picks up points by obtaining food or collecting culinary stars. He also dodges chefs, crabs, lobsters and watermelon - or whatever obstacle may come in his way.

Lyle Hall, vice president of product development and general manager of Heavy Iron Studios, was thrilled to collaborate with Disney Pixar Animations and make "Ratatouille's" transition from a movie into a video game.

"First and foremost we really want to offer people the same quality of experience that they had with the film, obviously in a different context, where you are actually playing, driving and controlling the experience," Hall said. "I like to call it living the moments between the film."

3One of the highlights of the video game is the way it allows a gamer full reign of the world in which they are exploring. Hall commends the authenticity of the characters, which THQ was able to cross over to their video games.

Both lead voice actors, Patton Oswalt, who is the voice of Remy, and Peter Sohn, who is the voice of Emile (Remy's older brother) shared their enthusiasm for their involvement and their admiration for the film and video game.

Sohn, a Pixar story artist, animator and voice actor, began working for Pixar Animation Studios in September 2000. Sohn split his time between the art and story departments for "Finding Nemo" and continued onto the art, story and animation departments for "The Incredibles."

According to Sohn, the "Ratatouille" video game voiceovers took eight hours to complete with "pages and pages of lines" for each scene.

Sohn's favorite aspects of the "Ratatouille" game are the "mini games" that are within the video game.

"I love the real interactivity with the vegetables," Sohn said. "I love the design. It's really fun to me. I like the simplicity of it. It's not machines guns or anything like that. It's just clean kind of fun."

Sohn grew up around a grocery store environment in New York City, where he didn't practice the most ideal eating habits.

"I grew up in a grocery store here in New York - eating SPAM and Vienna sausages, canned foods, soups and microwave dinners," he said. "In this film, they bring in chefs and cooks and show you how to cut something up and prepare food. It really changes the view of what you eat and what's fresh and what's not fresh at all."

Oswalt, a comedian, writer and actor, felt right at home when making "Ratatouille" because he has been a longtime comic book and animation aficionado.

"I am definitely a better cook through this experience and I can relate to his (Remy's) being enthusiastic. Especially with me - with comic books and old movies, it's that same kind of fanatic's enthusiasm that he (Remy) has for food," Oswalt said.

Oswalt is no stranger to creativity with spoken or written words - he was a writer for MadTV and did standup comedy around the country, which included specials on Comedy Central and HBO. His resume strengthened when he obtained roles in popular films and TV shows, such as "Magnolia" and "The King of Queens," among many others.

"It's nice to have a job that you can do in your pajamas. It's also exciting to do because I still love cartoons," Oswalt said.

Oswalt and Sohn add the human element to Remy and Emile with their energetic, down-to-earth voices in both the film and video game. However, it wouldn't be possible to bring these characters to life in the first place without the collaboration of Disney Pixar and THQ.

"They (Disney Pixar) are such amazing storytellers. They really understand the relationships between people, between characters and they infuse those characters with their relationships. They (the characters) are so human," Hall said. "They (Disney Pixar) have such heart to their films. You can't write down exactly how to make that happen, it's something that happens through that creative process. We (Heavy Iron Studios/THQ) really want to try and have that same heart and make it a really authentic experience. I want to put you in that movie, not so that you can replay the movie, but so you can live the movie."

Not quite sure how this game would stack up against the Cooking Mama's of the world but if you're into Pixar and you like food, this could be a game you might appreciate.

The Entertainment Software Board gave the "Ratatouille" video game an "E" for everyone, which is considered suitable for ages 6 and up.
By Melissa Castellanos
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