Rodents we love

Claire Faggioli July 6, 2007

Most of us talk to our pets, but very few of us tell our Camrys or toasters about our days. That’s where animation fills an important niche, our need to fantasize about our interactions with animals. Of course, for 2006’s “Cars,” the SF Bay Area’s very own Pixar Animation Studios decided to take the least warm and fuzzy movers on the planet (for which our affection was already waning thanks to global warming) and tried to make a relatable film…. Perhaps they went too far. Thankfully, this time around, Pixar has returned to the animal realm for anthropomorphizing fun, and returned to form, with the delectable “Ratatouille,” a film about a rat who happens to be a culinary genius. As we here at breathe a collective sigh of relief, we feel obligated to pay tribute to the great stars that came before Remy and his kin, characters that taught us that rodents can be humans, too.

5. Luke and Bruno, “The Witches” (1990)
Head itch turned mad scientist Anjelica Huston wishes to transform the world’s children into mice. Thanks to some Jim Henson puppetry, she gets one step closer when she feeds two unsuspecting boys potion-tainted chocolate. Luke and Bruno must maneuver as mice through the human world, giving us a rodent-eye view at the adversity these brave little creatures must face on a daily basis (cats, traps, and horrified screaming).

4. Algernon, “Charly” (1968)
Algernon got a rough deal in this adaptation, even taken out of the title between short-story/novel (Flowers for Algernon) and film. Algie never said a word, but I’m sure if he had he would have been just as tragic a figure as Charlie Gordon. Humans get all the best roles.

3. The Rats of NIMH, “The Secret of NIMH (1982)
Genetic testing can’t be all bad; these rats got injected with some brain power. Tired of “living as rats,” they’ve not only harnessed an understanding of electricity, they’ve developed social ethics that drive them to abandon their thieving ways. Too bad some have also developed the same human tendency toward dictatorship.

2. Ben, “Willard” (1971)
Only an ostracized mama’s boy can get excited over befriending an army of basement rats. Willard’s that guy. When the man-boy realizes that these new friends might be inhibiting his social normalization (particularly when he uses them as assassins), Willard forgoes the exterminator and kills them himself. It’s the feisty Ben who fights for his life, stalking Willard through the house like a Tell-Tale Heart with sharp teeth. Ben’s star power was so strong that he even went on to headline in the self-titled sequel.

1. Mickey Mouse (1928-probably forever)
The Disney icon, he paved the way for rodents both live and animated. Friendly and high-pitched, he and his girlfriend sacrificed their primal edge to bring some much-needed glamour to the animal kingdom. A little outdated but always recognizable.