Brad Bird recently spoke to EW about the Blu-ray release of The Incredibles and his upcoming film, Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol. Bird has directed only three films Pixar's The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and The Iron Giant. He's won the Best Animated Feature Oscar twice, and his films have grossed a combined $1.3 billion worldwide. Bird will direct his first live-action feature with Tom Cruise's fourth Mission: Impossible movie, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (due in theaters Dec. 16). The Incredibles was the first Pixar film with human protagonists, its first PG rating, at that point its longest feature (115 minutes), and its first movie directed and written by only one person.
In the inteview, Bird discusses The Incredibles influence on the animation industry, the biggest challenges in getting it made, and about his first live-action film.
Here is what Bird had to say when asked what he was most proud about The Incredibles:
"I think we changed a little bit what people thought these [animated] films should be about. There are a number of things that were considered against the grain at the time. First of all, the last time anybody spent money on an animated superhero [movie] was the very first superhero movie — the animated Superman [shorts] done by the Fleischers [Fleischer Studios released 17 shorts from 1941-43]. Every bit of animation on superheroes done since then has been on television kind of budgets, and nobody had really thought about doing a feature animated film about superheroes, so that was thing No. 1.
Thing No. 2 was that one of the things generally acknowledged as difficult to do well in CG animation was humans, and so you would just basically try to minimize their role and not keep them on screen too long. When [humans] had been done, a lot of animators thought they looked pretty lousy. There was too much attention to the wrong kind of details with the pores, the skin, and each individual eyelash — it starts to look photorealistic and yet disturbing at the same time.
So I think we changed the trend. We deliberately simplified a lot of things with the humans. We simplified the musculature, we simplified details like the farther away you got from the face, the more we minimized the ears [so that] there are no details inside of the ears. There was a lot of thought put into how we could caricature our characters — Bob has big hands and tiny feet. I think that a lot of CG films that you see now are drafted off this stuff that we did back then. If you look at the style of humans, it’s definitely been affected, or infected [laughs], by what we did."
Bird goes on to talk about what it was like to come into Pixar with his own team as an outside filmmaker:
"They knew who we were. I think the weird thing for me was the animators at Pixar were kind of cloistered at that point. They considered themselves off on their own in this little offshoot environment. They were the underdogs not too many years before I arrived. They still had a little bit of that status, and when I came in, they were strangely insecure, like, “Brad has his guys and they’re just gonna not use us.” And what they didn’t really grasp at that point was how good they were. They thought I was going to bring in guys with more years in the animation industry, and they were feeling insecure about that because, for a lot of them, their first jobs were at Pixar.
It was all kind of silly. The monsters are always scariest before you see them. I think they pretty soon relaxed and knew how much I respected the work that they had done prior to our arrival, and that I was really grateful to have such a wonderful pool of talent to draw from."
Bird also talked about resistance from Disney when working on the recently released four-disc Blu-ray One Disney executive went as far as to say, “There are things that animation can and can’t do.” Here's what he said:
"What was crazy was, things had gone well up until that point. Another person underneath that person had already seen the presentation and liked it, so we thought this would be a nice love fest. We went into this meeting and could hear [the executive] coming down the hall, just shouting ahead of himself before he even got in the room: “I don’t know why we’re doing this” and “It’s a live-action film!”
Here is what Bird had to say about making the move to directing a live-action film:
"...It’s just a matter of following where your interest lies. I’ve wanted to make a live-action film for a long time. I’ve tried to make live-action films almost as long as I’ve tried to make animated films. I had a period of time where half the projects I was trying to get off the ground were live-action. It was just that animation was the first one that went, and then once you do one, you kind of find yourself rolling into another one. So it was time for me to do [live-action]. I have many projects I want to do. Some of them are live-action, some of them are animation, and some of them are a blend. It’s just about what’s the best medium for a story."
Here is what he had to say about shooting the film:
"It was a very challenging shoot. It’s a big film and we had to move around a lot. We were doing a lot of physical effects live — we weren’t using special effects. And so it was physically a real challenge."
Here is his response when asked if there were times he wished it was an animated film?
"Yes and no. The wonderful thing about animation is you have absolute control over every frame. The nightmare of animation is that you have absolute control over every frame. Literally, you have to decide upon everything, and you don’t get anything for free. You can’t go to a location and simply say, “This looks good,” and shoot there. You have to discuss what kind of trees, is it a railyard, how wide are the tracks, are the tracks new or old? The amount of planning you have to do is just jaw-dropping.
So that part of it I’m not sorry to be away from [laughs]. But there are pleasures to be had in both mediums. With live-action, you’re trying to catch little moments of lightning in a bottle. In animation you’re trying to do that too, but you’re doing it one volt at a time."
For the full interview head over to EW.com at the reference link below. The Incredibles is one of my favorite Pixar films aside from Up and Wall-E. I am very interested in seeing it on Blu-ray. I am also very excited to see Bird's take on the Mission: Impossible universe. I am huge fan of Cruise and a fan of the franchise and think his animation experience will help make the film even more larger than life.
What are your thoughts?