Brad Bird is absolutely, positively one of my favorite directors around. Period. His The Incredibles is a flawlessly executed superhero movie that set the bar for movies of the same ilk (animated or not); Ratatouille followed and showed a different side to the director. Though it was less flashy, the high concept premise was pulled off in a heart felt, perfect way. His first foray in to live action proved he wasn’t just a director chained to an animation desk; he made the quintessential Mission Impossible movie with Ghost Protocol, arguably THE strongest and most enjoyable of the series. And say what you will about Tomorrowland, he took a chance on an original idea with so many wonderful beats, it’s a shame the movie din’t do better with audiences.
But for me, there’s a special place in my heart for The Iron Giant; Brad Bird’s feature debut. Animated or not, hand drawn or not, the movie is a perfectly executed story about a boy and his robot that conjures to mind comparisons of E.T. and the movies Spielberg produced under his Amblin banner.
So you can bet I listen when Brad Bird speaks about a return to hand drawn animation. I know we are clearly, smack dab in the middle of the golden age of computer animated movies because of the technology available to us; but I would be remiss if I didn’t say how much I actually miss the medium. It is an actual art, you know; hand drawing frame by frame and capturing on film. Sure, there are elements of hand drawn animation in the computer side but I can’t help but miss the look of a hand drawn movie; one that whisks me away into a simpler time when I was a kid.
Yes, I am a true romantic when it comes to the genre.
Collider had a chance to sit down with Mr. Bird to discuss his thoughts about 2D animation and judging from his response, he misses it too.
Per Collider and journalist Matt Goldberg:
Goldberg: What are your thoughts on where 2D is right now? Do you think it feels like it’s vanished completely?
Bird: 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. 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.
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.
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. [emphasis mine]
Anyone else love Brad Bird as much as I do and want to hang with him at Disneyland or something? Cause, yeah. I really want to hang with the guy.
His comments on hand drawn animation pair with my own dreams of seeing a return to hand drawn animation. And rather than put the medium exclusively in to a Disney movie, I love how he considers it a style of story-telling and offers up different genres where it could work – an animated horror movie on the level of hand drawn Disney style animation is a genius idea I could get behind.
Brad Bird knows the business of Hollywood, obviously, and it’s sad but true: the suits on top, the business men in Hollywood, are narrow minded in their thinking. I only wish they knew that it is the story not the computer graphics audiences want to see.
Though we may not get a hand drawn animated movie anytime soon, especially from Bird who has The Incredibles 2 coming next; I hope, maybe, possibly, that Brad Bird might lead a new revolution and come back to the art form that launched his career.
Iron Giant 2, anyone?
Iron Giant the Signature Edition presented by Fathom Events will be shown in limited release September 30th, 2015 and October 4th, 2015. Buy your tickets here.
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