Is This Where the Idea for Ratatouille Really Came From?


The other day I was watching an old “Remington Steele” episode (for those of you who don’t know, it was a popular romantic comedy 1980s American TV show about private eyes). It was a 2nd-season episode called “Scene Stealers” (1983), and the plot was about investigating murder attempts on the two stars of a series of TV commercials made to sell frozen TV dinners. The actors in the story, of course, know that the TV dinners are trash and taste terrible, but they’re trying to sell these TV dinners as wonderful, supreme cuisine (even though it’s junk).

So here’s where it got weird.

The name of the (fake) Frozen TV Dinners the actors kept trying to push in this episode was “Chef Gaston’s” TV dinners – and the name “Chef Gaston” must have been said at least 50 times in this episode.

So wait a second… “Chef Gaston?” Sounds pretty close to Ratatouille’s “Chef Gusteau” – who’s not only a major character in Ratatouille, but – exactly as in this TV episode – you have a character (in Ratatouille’s case, Skinner) trying to peddle junky, terrible “Chef Gaston/Gusteau” Frozen TV dinners!

I’m thinking to myself "Wow… I wonder if Jan Pinkava (or later, Brad Bird) saw this episode, and somehow got the idea for “Ratatouille” from it. But I answer myself by saying “Nah… probably just a coincidence.”

And then a minute later, I hear the main character in the episode (Remington Steele himself) say this line: “Where do you suppose Mildred keeps the numbers for car rentals? I looked through ‘A’ for automobiles, ‘C’ for cars, ‘R’ for rentals… and all I came up with so far is a recipe for Ratatouille!”

Wow. That was just a little too coincidental for me.

Obviously, there was an entire movie in Ratatouille (an absolutely wonderful film) that had to be thought up and created… but watching this “Remington Steele” episode from 1983 that’s about “Chef Gaston’s Frozen TV Dinners” – and then mentions “Finding a recipie for Ratatouille…” Well… I wonder if maybe I stumbled across something that might have been one of the original, early inspirations for the movie!

At the very least, it’s a pretty funny coincidence…

Hmm, sounds interesting. Maybe they could have taken inspiration from that show. I too sometimes think Pixar may have had some outside sources of inspiration for some movies and characters when they might remind me of a character I’ve seen somewhere else.

Hi. I’m a scriptwriter. What I do for living is to create stories and characters for movies and series. I often ask myself the classic question starting with “What if”. Last week I asked myself “What if someone couldn’t fulfill themselves because of any circumstances for example social), so they had to act through someone else as an avatar so the job was done with better results”. And I thought about Remington Steele!: a smart female detective can’t get a job because of sexism, so she pacts with a man who will take the credit for her. And then I said: A smart rat chef can’t cook because of prejudice, so he pacts with a man who will take the credit for him. Oh, and btw, the rat’s name is REMI… REMI… REMIngton. When I came up with this theory, I looked it up on the web. I found nothing (which made me feel very proud of myself), except for your post, which comes from a very different place, but maybe there’s some truth in both of us. Greetings.

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You have an amazing job actually. Is it hard to be a scriptwriter?