Disney's Ratatouille
Alfredo Linguini

Ah, Linguini. The flat, narrow pasta can be quite tasty, especially when teamed up with his buddy Alfredo. But in the new film by Pixar, Ratatouille, Alfredo Linguini is the main character, a young man trying so hard to just get by.

Okay, he's not really the 'main' character, since Remy the rat is da man. Or da rat, depending on your point of view. But without Linguini, Remy would never realize his dreams - and without Remy, the same would be true for Linguini. Their fates are inseparable.

Linguini is voiced by Lou Ramano. Who? Right. That's the beauty of Pixar films - using voice talent that isn't big names. In this case, it's one of the Pixar artists, and in fact was the Production Designer on The Incredibles. And he did a far better job at voice acting than the majority of Hollywood stars.

There are a few toys out for the film from Mattel (I reviewed the PVC sets awhile back) but the the few action figures they've done have, as Bart would say, defied physics and both blew and sucked at the same time.

But the Disney store has also produced their own line of figures, much like they have with other Disney films. There are five currently in Disney Stores nationwide - Linguine, Skinner, Colette, Remy and Emile. The two rats are quite large, and not in scale with the three humans. However, each of the three human figures comes with a much smaller rat as an accessory.

These sell for $12.50 each right now, although like most of the Disney Store action figures, I foresee sales in their future. I'm covering just Linguini tonight, but I suspect I'll be picking up the other two in the near future.

Packaging - **
These figures come in HUGE round cylinders, with tons of wasted space. That's been my major complaint for all Disney packaging so far. Yes, it's their peg space, so I'm sure they have much more latitude in making large packages that fill up the shelf. But just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD. The packages are wasteful, and therefore bad for the environment and annoying for me to fit in the garbage can.

Just to show you how oversized these packages are, the button to activate the sound on the back of Linguini is so far from the back of the cylinder where they cut a hole to use the 'try me' feature, that they had to engineer an interior plastic 'finger' that you press and then it presses the button. On all the ones I've seen, this finger has come loose and is rattling around in the package, useless. And unless you're an alien, reaching the button without it is impossible. 

Even if you could reach it, you couldn't hear it very clearly. That's not a fault of the talking feature, but the huge package with a ton of dead airspace, plastic and cardboard that the sound has to travel through.

On the plus side, they have a nice insert showing the Paris skyline, which you might find a use for in your display. 

Sculpting - ***1/2
While the sculptors have had some issues with getting the rats down perfect, they've done a remarkably good job with the humans. Linguini looks very much like his on screen counterpart, especially the head sculpt. They've also done a terrific job capturing the personality of the lovable but goofy guy with the expression.

The hands are sculpted to hold the accessories, and work pretty well in that function, but look decent just hanging at his sides as well. He has some trouble standing, because the leg articulation doesn't work particularly well with the sculpt, but I hit them up on that in the Articulation section.

Scale on these is pretty big, with Linguini standing 8 inches tall (including the hat). He's the tallest of course, with the other human characters I saw on the shelf fitting in pretty well scale-wise.

Paint - ***
The paint looks decent, although some of the pieces are cast in the actual color and not painted. That means they have the tell tale slightly glossy finish, but there's something about this figure that allows it to work reasonably well.

There's a little slop here and there, like the whites of the eyes, and not all the cuts are perfectly straight, but it's above average if you're thinking mass market. Of course, the price is specialty market, but I'll hit that up later.

They used some blue coloring on the shirt - a common technique for creating a shadowing or highlighting effect with largely white areas. They didn't do it on the hat or apron though, which makes it look a little out of place.

My biggest paint issue with the figure himself is the stripes on the pants.  These vary in thickness and quality quite a bit, so you'll be better off keeping those legs covered with the apron.

Articulation - **1/2
These are articulated - but we're not talking anything major. There's a couple missing joints that are pretty critical.

The neck is a cut joint, and of course I'd prefer a ball. I'll live.

The shoulders and hips are ball joints, but jointed only at the torso. I know it looks like there's also a joint on the limb side of the ball, but there isn't - the upper limb is one solid piece. That limits the usefulness of the joint, and means you can't turn the limb in or out from the body very well.

This is particularly an issue with the legs, where there is no kind of cut joint on the leg or ankle. There's a pin knee (and pin elbows as well), but the lack of cut joints on the arms and legs hurts the poseability quite a bit. And yes, that means no cut wrists or forearms either.

There is a cut waist though. Okay, so it's not much, but it's better than nothing. The articulation is adequate, but not particularly exciting.

Accessories - ***
Linguini comes with the large, copper pot, a wooden spoon, his apron, and Remy.

I like the inclusion of the smaller rats with each figure. Remy is still a hair big, scale-wise, but it's not too bad. Unfortunately, he has the same likeness issues as every other version I've seen so far. No one has managed to come close to capturing his look on screen, and while this one isn't bad, it's not outstanding either. The small scale allows you to cut them some slack though, and the paint application is decent. He's not articulated.

The inclusion of the pot and spoon makes complete sense too, considering how critical the soup that was in this pot (and stirred by this spoon) really was to the overall story. These are scaled pretty well, and the copper look of the pot is great. They don't pull of the look of the spoon quite as well in terms of color, but it's acceptable.

Finally, there's Remy's apron. It fits around his waist, and is made from soft rubber. It comes off a tad too easily, and you're probably not going to display him without it a whole lot (the shirt and hat don't make much sense without it), but it's an option.

Talking Feature - ***1/2
Past Disney Store lines - like Pirates of the Caribbean, The Incredibles, or Chronicles of Narnia - have not included any sort of talking feature. The Ratatouille figures have added this, and I have to say I'm quite impressed.

I just reviewed the Simpsons figures with their sound feature, which also cost about the same as these (if you buy them online). However there, the sound is coming from the base, not the figure. Here, we have a very skinny guy, and yet, the speaker, button and chip are all built into his torso. You won't be able to hear these very well in the store, but that's not because the speaker isn't loud and clear, it's because of the huge package and wasted airspace within it that blocks the sound.

And the lines are also quite long. Linguini says: "Hey, little chef!  They like the soup!  You think you could do it again?"; "I don't handle pressure very well, which is bad for me...and for most of the people around me, too." and "So let's do this thing!".

These appear to run off the small watch type batteries, and it can be replaced in a compartment at his lower back. It's quite impressive, and one of the better implementations of the sound feature that I've seen in awhile.

Value - **
The figures at the Disney Store are never cheap - at least initially. At $12.50 a pop, you'll be hard pressed to convince yourself to buy Skinner, Linguine and Colette. The only thing saving these from losing another half star is the talking feature, something we haven't had in the earlier Disney figures.

It won't take too long though before these go 2 for $20, the common price for most lines once the movie has been out for awhile. It's just a few bucks, but at $10 each these are a much better value.

Fun Factor - ***
The articulation is a little wonky, and getting poor Linguini to stand can be an issue, but these are reasonably fun figures. To be completely honest though, I can't see many kids buying these or being all that interested. This isn't a 'conflict' movie, so there's not much for 'action' figures to do in the hands of a child. Plush Remy's? Sure. But a Colette action figure? It's really designed for the adult fan.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Not much. I couldn't try out the Linguini sound at the store on any that they had, because the odd plastic 'finger' they had on them had come loose, but that's probably a good thing - it keeps the batteries from wearing down.

Overall - ***
Like the Pirates of the Caribbean figures, these Ratatouille figures are well done if not exceptional. They'll look good on the shelf, particularly the three humans, and I'm happy they included small versions of the main rats with them to round out the display.

The price is going to be the big detriment, but the talking feature goes a long way to making them more in line with the cost. Still, getting them for $10 each (very likely with the usual 2 for $20 sales that the Disney Stores run on their action figure lines) gets them much more in line with what you'll feel they're worth.

Score Recap:
Packaging - **
Sculpt -   ***1/2
Paint - ***
Articulation - **1/2
Accessories - ***
Talking Feature - ***1/2
Fun Factor - ***
Value -  **
Overall - ***

Where to Buy -
Disney Stores are the place to be! They should have them in stock with the rest of the Ratatouille merchandise.

Related Links -
Earlier this month I reviewed the Mattel set of PVC's.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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