Magazine article Variety

Brad Bird on an Incredible Career

Magazine article Variety

Brad Bird on an Incredible Career

Article excerpt

It's hard to believe 14 years have passed since Brad Bird wrote and directed "The Incredibles" for Pixar. If this were the real world, Dash would be done with college, and Jack-Jack would be almost old enough to drive. If he waited any longer to make a sequel, Bird, who is receiving Variety's Creative Impact in Animation honor on May 8, feared audiences would start to forget the computer-animated superhero family - although "The Iron Giant" (Bird's 1999 directorial debut) is more popular now than ever, earning an extended cameo in Steven Spielberg's "Ready Player One" this year.

"Incredibles 2" picks up shortly after the previous film. Technically, "supers" are still outlawed in America, but society is starting to reconsider, and super-parents Bob and Helen Parr are approached with a chance to win over the public. Whereas Bob wrestled with the thought of hanging up his cape and tights, Helen had no problem making the family her priority before. So, for the sequel, Bird asked the question, "What if they switched roles? What if the first mission went to Helen instead of Bob?" Meanwhile, when it came to the three kids, Bird says, "I knew I had the unwrapped present of the family discovering Jack-Jack's powers. The audience knew it from the first movie, but his parents haven't seen what he can do."

For Bird, who was among the earliest graduates of CalArts' Character Animation program, "Incredibles 2" was as good an excuse as any to return to the realm of animation. Immediately after the 2004 original, he started developing "1906," an ambitious live-action project set against a massive San Francisco earthquake of that year, before the powers-that-be at Pixar persuaded him to take the reins of "Ratatouille," overhauling the anyone-cancook rodent-chef cartoon in time for a 2007 release. But after that film wrapped, he shifted his attention to live-action for nearly a decade.

Bird never intended to turn his back on animation. Rather, he recognized an opportunity to embrace a fresh challenge and took it. "Tom Cruise saw 'The Incredibles' and said, 'If you ever want to make a 'Mission: Impossible' movie, let me know,'" he says. Sure enough, after further efforts to revive "1906" stalled, Bird agreed to direct Cruise in "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," bringing a fresh energy to the franchise.

Even though that meant leaving his job at Pixar, Bird stayed in contact with the studio, offering his feedback and advice on projects along the way. "When I was in town, if they had Brain Trust meetings, I would show up and throw my hat in," he says. …

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