In the end credits of most movies there will be a batch of names under “Thank you” or “Special thanks.” These are people who performed some service too small, or too unusual, to get their own job title. The producers still want to acknowledge them in some way.
At the end of Pixar’s Ratatouille, the special thanks group includes the name John Gilkey.
Who is John Gilkey? Here is a video of him in action:
John Gilkey is a clown. Wait… a physical comedian and actor. That video is from Cirque du Soleil’s touring show Quidam. That was where I first saw him perform. Note how much noise he makes on his entrance. You have to look at him.
I have seen him in Cirque’s Quidam, Dralion, and Varekai, and on some small stages in San Francisco. He is one of the best comedians in modern circus, and the sort of performer animators should be watching. As a fan, I happened to stop by his website, JohnGilkey.com and I noticed he had a tailer from Ratatouille on his page of videos. I contacted him to ask what that was all about, and it turns out he was invited to Pixar to work up ideas and act out reference for the artists. He also consulted on the Pixar short La Luna. That is exactly the kind of thing I like to hear. If anyone from Pixar would like to talk about this, I would be very interested in learning more.
Here is a 2-part radio interview with him, where he discusses his career and mentions the Pixar experience. He was invited by the story department because they were having difficulty visualizing the kind of physical comedy they were hoping to achieve. I suggest you listen to the entire interview to hear all that he has to say. He has a sage bit of advice about learning to be funny.