Amid all the Live Free or Die Hard hoopla, it's been easy to forget there's another potential box-office monster opening this week: Ratatouille, the newest film from Pixar, the geniuses who have delivered a nearly uninterrupted string of artistic and commercial triumphs since 1995's Toy Story. Six Pixar movies have broken the $200 million box-office barrier since then, and one (Finding Nemo) broke $300 million. Perhaps even more amazing, they're all really, really good.
But last week Deadline Hollywood speculated that despite a projected $60 million opening, in line with such Pixar hits as Cars and Monsters, Inc., Ratatouille, about a rat who wants to become a gourmet chef, won't get anywhere near those films' final tallies. Among Nikki Finke's reasons are some that seem totally plausible (a lack of the free publicity licensing provides, not to mention the lost revenue — can you imagine McDonald's putting a friendly rat inside a Happy Meal?) and some that seem sort of … not ("it's about gourmet cooking" which is "not accessible to the heartland").
Now Disney-watchdog blog Jim Hill Media picks up the ball, citing Disney sources in reporting tension between "Pixar people" and "Disney people" inside the studio. Apparently the "Disney people," annoyed that Pixar's John Lasseter has been given the keys to the Disney kingdom, are rubbing their hands over internal projections of Ratatouille final ticket receipts in the $150 million range. Which would, of course, be a blockbuster hit for almost any other movie, but by inflated Pixar standards would place Ratatouille alongside A Bug's Life ($162 million) as the studio's worst-performing films. (And that was in 1998 dollars.)
Of course, critics are crazy for Ratatouille, including New York's David Edelstein, who declares the film Brad Bird's best. We at Vulture haven't seen it yet, but we don't doubt it's great; we consider Bird (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant) the best pop filmmaker currently working today. If Ratatouille performs poorly — and we kind of think it might, even though we will love it — will Disney overreact and unseat the Pixarians in its midst?
Tracking: Harry Is 'Transformers' Huge; 'Rat' Big, 'Die Hard' Good, 'Captivity' Zero [Deadline Hollywood]
Monday Mouse Watch [Jim Hill Media]
Related: David Edelstein's Review of Ratatouille [NYM]