ByChris Jaser, writer at
Chris Jaser

For those who have read previous articles about how traditional animation might be making a come back, you know that I been advocating for the return of 2D animation for a long time. Though a lot of people and studios have dismissed the notion that people would be interested in a traditional animated film, I am one who always believed that someday it will happen. In previous articles I have stated that there are signs that studios might be leaning towards possibly doing a traditional animated movie. With shorts like Paper Man, Get a Horse and Feast using a mixture of 2D and 3D animation. The studios might be even more inclined to try a traditional animation movie by one person: Brad Bird.

On yesterday's Bancroft Brothers Animation Podcast interview. After just finishing up Tomorrowland, Brad Bird talked about his intentions to do another Incredibles movie and also mentioned that he wanted to do another hand drawn movie.

He stated:

"A lot of the projects that I want to do beyond [Incredibles 2] are both live-action and animation, and I would love to do another hand-drawn thing.

As wonderful as CG is and can be, and I really enjoy it, and I enjoy being able to move the camera, and I enjoy the control over lighting, and really tiny movement that you have in computer generated stuff, there’s an itch that is not scratched that only hand-drawn can really scratch in me.

There’s a sense of wonder that’s very specific to me about hand-drawn animation where it kind of announces its artificiality at every moment, and yet, if you do it right, you can make people disappear into that world just as well as you can into CG. I miss that, and I would love to do somewhere down the line, to return to a hand-drawn film." - Brad Bird, The Brancroft Brother Podcast interview

I am sure a lot of you are wondering: what would make Brad Bird the man for the job to revive traditional animation to the big screen? Possibly convincing big studios to help make it? Well, let's look at his credentials:

Brad Bird started his career as a traditional animator.

He went to college at CAL Arts, that Walt Disney helped set up to help better train his artists. He was part of the same graduated class as John Lassester. In fact, they were part of the group of artist and animators who always hung out in room A113. Who later helped build Pixar. This is why you see little easter eggs of A113 in every Pixar films. Though just because he knew some of the founders of Pixar doesn't mean Brad wasn't as talented. In fact, his student film show what sort of potential he really had:

After graduating, Brad went to go on to work on Animalypic, The Fox and the Hound and The Plague Dogs as an animator before he landed a job at one of the most iconic shows on television today.

He was the Creative Consultant and Director for The Simpsons!


Yes, Brad Bird worked on one of the longest running TV shows of all time. Though he was grouped with other well-known writers, artists and directors (like Conan O'Brien, Mike Reiss, Sam Simon, Matting Groening, etc.), Brad helped create some of the most beloved Simpsons episodes that people still enjoy to this day:

-22 short films about Springfield
-Like Father, Like Clown.
-Krusty Gets Busted
-Treehouse of Horror VII
-The City of New York vs Homer Simpson
-The Secret War of Lisa Simpson
-Homer vs The 18th Amendment
-Hurricane Neddy
and 180 more!

These episodes were some of the most iconic and quoted episodes of the series. Brad was able to apply what he learned from Simpsons storytelling and to use in his first feature animated film.

His directing debut was The Iron Giant!

The Iron Giant
The Iron Giant

Brad Bird's feature film debut was a cult classic for animation enthusiasts and movie-goers alike. Based upon the 1968 story,'Iron Man,' by Ted Hughes, Brad Bird was able to put his own spin on the story while keeping the essence of the original. In a interview he said:

"I'd read the Ted Hughes book and loved it for its poetic simplicity... but I also had some new ideas of my own on what the film could be about. I'm a huge fan of Pete Townshend's work, but I really didn't see Giant as an animated musical. The meat of the story, to me, was the relationship between this little boy and the Giant. My main problem with the book was that it veered away from that relationship about halfway through, and became a contest between the Giant and this Giant Space Bat flying back and forth to the sun.

I came back to Warner Bros., said I was interested in IG, but wanted to a go a different direction with it. Then I asked them: "What if a gun had a soul and didn't want to be a gun?" - Brad Bird Talks 'Iron Giant' 10th Anniversary

The man understands how to tell a good story and make characters likable. The problems with previous attempts at reviving traditional animation (like Disney's Princess and the Frog) was that they were using a formula that worked back in the mid 1990s. Brad Bird doesn't worry about whether or not it follows a formula but whether the audience will connect with the characters. If the audience is engaged with the character they will be engaged with the rest of the story.

"Hey Brad, it's me John"... Brad Bird goes to Pixar.

In Hollywood, they say that it's who you know that will help you make it big. Though Brad was well established, he still got a friend in John Lassester. Brad was called up to Pixar to help direct some of Pixar most well known films. Including the fan favorite The Incredibles. Most people know him best for The Incredibles and who can blame them. The film is one of the top grossing films in Pixar's history. Check out this interview with Brad on the development of The Incredibles and his process of creating characters:

Afterwards Brad had become one of the tiers of Pixar, continuing to work on Pixar films like Ratatouille, Brave, Up, Monster University, and Toy Story 3 as part of the senior creative team. Most people would consider this an achievement on itself, but for Brad there is more to be done.

OK, we get it. He has a lot of accomplishments but how would he revive something that to the public seems outdated? Enter Ghost Protocol.

Now Brad in the past has worked in live action movies. He worked as a screen writer for Batteries not Included and Amazing Stories. Though Brad Bird in 2011 took on a franchise that most people have grown tired of and made it entertaining again: Mission Impossible. It's a bit of a shocker to see a person who started out as an animator and became a director for live film. However, he is not the first to do so (Tim Burton was an animator at Walt Disney before he started directing). Brad took on Ghost Protocol and brought the excitement back to a franchise that was losing its edge with Mission Impossible II and III. Brad was able to revamp the characters and storyline. Allowing the audience to connect with these characters again like they did in the first one. While also making it a fun adventure without it being the cliche action film.

So why Brad Bird?

Not to say Brad Bird is the only one who will help bring traditional animation back to the big screen. However, I feel like he will be the final push to release the flood gates of traditional animated films. Brad Bird understands great storytelling in any genre of film and his love of animation has helped build his career. He is well known throughout the animation industry and has friends in high places. There is no hesitation from the studios when Brad Bird has an idea on how a film will look and feel. Not to mention he misses traditional animation.

"There’s a sense of wonder that’s very specific to me about hand-drawn animation where it kind of announces its artificiality at every moment, and yet, if you do it right, you can make people disappear into that world just as well as you can into CG. I miss that, and I would love to do somewhere down the line, to return to a hand-drawn film." - Brad Bird, The Brancroft Brother Podcast interview

For me there is enough support out there for traditional animation that will merit a return to the big screen. Brad Bird will certainly be at the forefront of the revival of traditional animation.

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