Brad Bird’s Passionate Stance on Traditional Animation and Animated Horror

With Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant: Signature Edition being released soon, director Brad Bird is making the press rounds to promote it. The Iron Giant was one of the last great traditionally animated films. Those have now become a rarity. Studios don’t want to make them anymore because CG animation has taken over the business, and it’s sad. 

In an interview with Collider, Bird says that he hopes to direct another hand-drawn animated film one day and that he’d also like to see a traditionally animated horror film someday, which would be amazing! When asked about his thoughts on 2D animation he says,

“I actually think it’s a lot more valid than other people do. I think the industry tends to like to think in the narrow sort of mindset of a businessman, and businessman absolutes, and movies really exist in a much grayer region of dreams and stuff like that, and instinct is prized in movies, it’s not prized with the businessmen in movies, but movies themselves often reward instinct rather than pie charts. And what has not been done is that there’s been no American animation done on Disney-level quality that has really gone into different genres.”

I personally prefer hand-drawn animation over CG. There's something more pure and soulful about it. Not everything needs to have that sharp and clean look at the CG animation provides. I would love to see Pixar one day create a hand-drawn animated film one day because there’s no doubt they would do something amazing. Bird goes on to talk about that hand-drawn animated horror film he'd like to see:

“For instance, there’s never been a horror movie in animation executed at Disney-level quality and hand-drawn, I’m not talking about CG I’m talking about hand-drawn, but it doesn’t take a lot to imagine how cool that would be. If you think of the scariest parts of Snow White or Pinocchio or Fantasia with Night on Bald Mountain, you could do something really scary in animation and I think if you did it right, if you did it with all the art that Spielberg did Jaws, I think that it would be an amazing experience because there’s something intuitive about when people are drawing directly with their hands.”

That would be spectacular. It would be an incredible thing to see an animated horror movie with the kind of quality he is talking about. He goes on to explain what it would take to see something like that happen:

“The problem is that every time people have deviated from the Disney playbook in hand-drawn animation, they’ve done so with staff that are nowhere near Disney-level talent or Disney-level budgets. So you have things like Heavy Metal, which not all of them are great, but a couple of them are really interesting, but they didn’t have the money or the artists to pull them off at the level that maybe they should’ve been pulled off. Where as in live-action film there are all kinds of new films being done in different genres where people can really execute an idea at a top level.
“It’s just that animation rewards grooming a team and keeping a team in place. That’s why when studios try to emulate Disney on the quick-and-cheap they always fail, because Disney has refined their animation team over years, they have a history of it, people go to Disney and know that there’s going to be a job after the movie, there’s going to be another movie. And when you assemble animation teams the way you do a live-action film, you’re often struggling a bit to get a cohesive team together, so if you have a team that works well together, you’re hoping for another film so that you can refine the team.”

In regards to making another traditionally animated movie some day, he says:

“But for someone like me who wants to move back and forth between animation and live-action, that becomes its own challenge, but I absolutely think that hand-drawn animation is valid and I actually hope to do one in the future with a large budget and a longer schedule than we had on Iron Giant.”

You know what? If Laika Studios can pump out one great stop-motion animated film after another, why can someone start a traditional animation studio with the caliber of talent that Bird is talking about here? It’s possible! Laika has also had fun making horror type animated films as well, so it’s very possible that one day we could see a hand-drawn animated film rise from the ashes and blow people away!

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