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The Incredibles - Brad Bird Q&A (Part Two)



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. The Incredibles was clearly a mammoth undertaking, what was the biggest hurdle?
A.
The truth of the matter was that there were ten huge hurdles and the scale of the project demanded that we all get over all ten.
Humans are considered the toughest thing to animate because everybody knows how they move. But we had to simulate fabric, we had to simulate hair, we had to simulate fabric and hair underwater and blowing through the air, we had four times the number of sets of any Pixar movie, it was our longest film - hair and water and fire.
So, it was just one big car crash of a film and, miraculously, we survived.

Q. Do you think that we're now reaching a point, in terms of technology and attitudes of the entertainment industry, that we're bringing comics to life?
A.
Certainly we are now seeing a number of ideas that film-makers are wanting to do for quite a while but have been stymied.
I don't think Lord of the Rings would have been attempted until recently just because of the scale of it and the incredible complexity of the world.
I think a lot of studio films are happening now, not because people are suddenly wanting to do them, but because they can present the stuff that you read in comic books in a convincing manner.
So I think it's just a matter of resources. We've now reached a point were we can put any idea on screen and make it convincing.

Q. You started animating as a kid ­ what drew you to it?
A.
I started drawing at the age of three and I didn't figure this out until later but the the first drawing I did were sequential.
I would tell the story while I was doing this and I think in my own crude three-year-old way I was trying to do movies.
I loved animated shows when I was a kid. I saw movies many times when it was not very common for people to see movies, before video.
Around the age of 11, it occurred to me that someone was making these things happen and there was an actual job that people went in with adult intelligence and analyse what a stuffed panther might look like.
It flabergasted me and it amazed me and it made me think that adults weren't nearly as dull as I thought they were.
I asked how do you do that, how would someone like me do that, and I happened to be with a guy who took an animation class at college and he explained to me that you need an animation camera that shots a single frame at a time.
So my dad got a camera that shot single frame and I started shooting a movie. It was called The Tortoise and the Hare ­ it was the same story but it was more like a Road Runner film.
The tortoise was the bad guy trying to catch the hair and it ends in a five-way tie so it's not the usual version. It took me three years to make that film and it's 15 minutes long.
So you can see me learning animation over the course of that. And I sent it to Disney and it just went from there.

Q. The theme of the film seems to be that if everyone is special then no one is ­ where did this come from?
A.
Basically I watch my kids play soccer and we have these elaborate ceremonies where everyone gets a trophy and the kid who never gives his all and slept his way through the practices and whined a lot and didn't do anything for the team gets the trophy along with the kid who killed himself to do his best, listened to everything the kid said and ran in front of bigger players and really gave his heart out to it.
And that ticked me off! In this effort to make every one special we've devalued achievement and it ticks me off. So I put it in the movie.

Q. Did working on The Simpsons for eight seasons influence the way you developed the family dynamic on The Incredibles?
A.
Actually I got the job on The Simpsons because of this thing that I did on Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories Family Dog which already had a dysfunctional family in it and they responded to that because they saw some common elements with the show they were about to start.
Certainly, Matt Greoning has a similar sense of humour. I loved his comic strip Life from Hell.
He's from Oregon and I'm from Oregon and so there's a similar sense of humour. I'm also a big fan of Jim Brooks' stuff.
So it was an opportunity to work with those guys. I learned a lot from those guys, but it wasn't so much about the family dynamic. It was more about the process of seeing more that 160 episodes go through the growth and birthing process.
In TV, you have to move quickly. You can't linger over decisions. That helped me tremondously when Iron Giant came around because we had half the time and a third of the money of other animated features so we still had big ambitions.
So I think the very fact of having to make decisions quickly and then Iron Giant helped me tremendously because we were trying to make a much larger film than we had resources and it allowed us to do a number of tricks to make us look bigger than we were.

Q. Was the footage from the teaser trailer purely designed for the teaser or was it ever a part of the film?
A.
Yeah, for the teaser. It was the only set we had built at the time. So if we didn't do something with that, there would have been nothing out there.
So that was designed to come out with Finding Nemo. Our story supervisor, Mark Andrews, came up with the idea of doing a play on the idea of the Superhero suiting up and then not being able to fasten the belt.
Once we had that idea, I knew how to lead into it. Then I knew if I threw this idea to the animators, I knew they'd come up with 25 ways to make it funny. I picked the best eight and then we had the first teaser.

Q. Did you plan the ending to set it up for sequels?
A.
No I just tried to make a satisfying ending and when you have a satisfying ending people always think: "You're setting up a sequel."

Q. Having worked on this scale, could you see yourself ever going back to working on something smaller?
A.
The world may not view me as a film-maker yet, but as some sub-species of animation, but I refuse to stay there. But I plan to do a lot of different things.
There are different styles of animation, I hope to do live action, I hope to do blends of the two.
I have some small ideas and I have hugely ambitious, crazy ideas. Unfortunately, those always tend to influence me more, at least at this stage in my life. All of the crazy impossible ones attract me and it's the bane of my existence.

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