Phillip Bradley "Brad" Bird (born September 24, 1957 in Kalispell, Montana) is a director and screenwriter from Kalispell, Montana. His experience lies mostly within the realm of animation, and he's also known as one of the directors to actually bob and weave his way around the concept of the Animation Age Ghetto, due to most of his works looking aesthetically cartoony, but having a maturity and depth that rivals most live-action pieces.
Bird got his start working as an animator on Animalympics, Disney's The Fox and the Hound and Martin Rosen's The Plague Dogs, and moved on to work with Steven Spielberg in his Amazing Stories anthology series, notably with a short titled "Family Dog" (which later got turned into a TV series). He got his big break after he managed to grab the attention of Tracey Ullman, and began work alongside Matt Groening on a crude animated series that premiered on The Tracey Ullman Show, called The Simpsons.
Bird's later claims to fame include two films that captured his love of the classic comic book stories, The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, the latter of which was the beginning of his tenure at Pixar. His next animated film was the Pixar-produced Ratatouille. He then moved into live-action by directing Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, the fourth installment of the Mission: Impossible films, which is his live-action debut. The film has received extremely positive reviews, particularly for its action scenes. His most recent live-action project is Tomorrowland, a film for Disney inspired by the area of the Disney Theme Parks, and in 2018 he directed the long-awaited Incredibles 2.
Other credits include:
- *batteries not included: Co-writer and executive producer
- The Critic: Executive consultant
- Garfield on the Town: Animator
- Jurassic World: Voice of the monorail announcer
- King of the Hill: Creative consultant and storyboard artist during seasons 1 & 2
Tropes demonstrated by Brad Bird and his works include:
- Author Appeal: Optimistic mid-century science fiction, with several of his animated films being set in the 1950s and 1960s and Tomorrowland being all about asking what happened to that brand of futurism.
- Berserk Button: Bird has vowed to punch out the next person who calls animation a "genre", as he believes it is a medium that can tell any kind of story.
- Creator's Oddball: In addition to being his first live-action film, Ghost Protocol is his only film where he didn't write the script, and his only film to be in a pre-existing franchise.
- Crossdressing Voices: Originally, Edna Mode of The Incredibles was to be played by a woman, though Pixar struggled finding an actress they liked. Eventually Lily Tomlin was asked, but when she heard Bird do his impression of how he wanted the voice to sound like, she suggested he do it instead.
- Descended Creator: For The Incredibles, as he was the only one who could properly do Edna's accent.
- Deconstructor Fleet: It would appear that Bird loves to take his childhood to pieces and play with the bits.
- Reconstruction: But then he puts them back together better than ever.
- The Incredibles: In the first few minutes, he shows the negative effects of superheroes/villains on society, buries them Watchmen-style, then shows how difficult normal life is for supers like the Silver age. Then he gives them a villain to fight and shows that heroes aren't the problem.
- Reconstruction: But then he puts them back together better than ever.
- The '50s: Two of his movies take place in the fifties and deal with specific sentiments of the period. The Iron Giant involves the looming fear of the Cold War and also invokes a bit of the classic sci-fi made during then. The Incredibles, while not explicitly set in the 1950s, borrows heavily from the aesthetic, namely what people living in the decade thought the future would be like, while also criticizing the value of the nuclear family.
"If I were one of these people, I'd be like 'HEY!! I JUST MADE A MIRACLE HAPPEN!!'"
- Making-of videos show him at his most passionate (which you really need to be for filmmaking).
- His praise of Pixar's software engineering department, whom he considers their true unsung heroes, borders on Large Ham:
- Objectivism: Bird's films have a... complicated relationship with these ideas, with central themes which read as distinctly Randian, albeit with a humanist touch. Despite Bird identifying as more of a centrist (though he'd later lean more towards liberal), this article neatly explains how and why his work is very popular among libertarians.
- The Iron Giant: On the surface, it's a charming cartoon about A Boy and His Alien Robot. Yet the film spends an awful lot of time and energy developing a deep mistrust of government forces, especially military bureaucrats whose sole purpose is to destroy something they don't understand, something spectacular.
- However, a review from the New York Post in 1999 accused Bird of being a Communist sympathizer, arguing that the film's treatment of Cold War paranoia was him saying "Maybe the Soviet Union weren't the bad guys after all." Bird denied this in a 2015 interview.
- The Incredibles: Here, an ungrateful (i.e. complacent, average, worthless) public bands together to force superbeings into a life of mediocrity, so terrified are they of anything powerful or special. The film's villain, who embraces envy as much as Rand rejected it, also has a half-cocked scheme to mass-produce superpowered weapons, laying out Bird's guiding philosophy in one tidy pull quote: "When everyone's super, no one will be."
- Ratatouille: That film "employed lush speeches on the importance of elitism and the dangers of complacency, albeit speeches delivered by a talking rat." Hertz could have done better than that: ex-reason staffer Julian Sanchez wrote in 2007 that "Ratatouille is essentially an animated version of The Fountainhead, except that cooking replaces architecture, Ellsworth Toohey eventually has a Grinchian change of heart, and Howard Roark is a rodent."
- Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol: doesn't really count, since Bird didn't write the script. Still, Hertz asks, "isn't Tom Cruise's superspy, Ethan Hunt, just an ass-kicking John Galt?"
- Tomorrowland: Hertz characterizes it this way: "Tomorrowland was constructed by the world's 'best and brightest,' who were able to realize their visions only by being 'free from government, bureaucracy' and other forces of mediocrity that would quash the gifts of the exceptional." Basically the Galt's Gulch the films didn't have the budget to show. Better yet, the people of Tomorrowland even choose to let the world destroy itself for the exact same reason Galt's Gulch did; because it refused to value them and the future they offered. And that destruction is even their fault, albeit for entirely opposite reasons - where Galt spent decades Walking the Earth headhunting the world's dreamers right out from under an apathetic world after it declared him a slave, Nix tried to warn the world of what was in store only for it to choose destruction, so he withdrew from it in disgust. This actually makes Tomorrowland an amazing Objectivist movie; where Galt gave the world the opportunity to change right 'til the very end, Nix is literally crushed by his altruistic warning - a giant sphere he refused to shrug off! In the end, Frank and Casey go back to Galt's plan of recruiting dreamers while asking the world to change.
- Incredibles 2: Pushes the themes of the first movie that the "extraordinarily gifted" should be allowed to use their talents to help society for the greater good. The film's villain argues that by allowing such individuals to exist in society, it will make everyone else lazy by default.
- Signature Style:
- His animated films feature classically animated (i.e., full, Disney-quality animation) characters with broad, graphic designs. Unlike most CGI movie characters, the characters in his two Pixar films actually look as though they were drawings first before being modeled in the computer.
- He has a distinct way of directing dialogue that succeeds at the difficult task of making the animated character and the voice appear one and the same. He supposedly does this by telling his actors to give performances that will directly inspire the animators.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: All his films are heavily on the idealistic and heartwarming end.
- Take That!: Has this to say about other studios who try to be like Pixar:Everyone in Hollywood says they wish they could do it like Pixar, but they really dont. Theres no secret at Pixar, but there is a belief in letting people pursue something with passion and take chances, and most of Hollywood, really, doesnt like that. Its too scary. Some studio executives will say they love obsessive creators who take risks, but really most of them would rather play it safe. Projects cost a lot of money and people would rather follow patterns they know and make things safe and accessible. Hollywood wants there to be a math formula for making hit films. To make something really great and different and interesting means taking risks and following these ideas in your head.
- He's also done this to Disney of all companies on a number of occasions during his time in making The Iron Giant, as seen in the Blu-ray's documentary.