Feature by: Jack Foley
EVER since bursting onto the animated scene with the brilliant
Toy Story, Pixar have been setting the standard in family entertainment
and breaking box office records the world over.
Last year's underwater adventure, Finding
Nemo, has become one of the most successful animated movies
of all-time, while previous hits, Monsters
Inc and A Bug's Life, have all registered strongly with children
and parents alike.
Yet with the chasing pack continuing to up the stakes with the
likes of Shrek and Shark
Tale, the challenge for Pixar to maintain its high standards
becomes more and more difficult.
Enter Brad Bird, the director of Pixar's latest animated offering,
The Incredibles, who brings with him a wealth of experience from
films such as The Iron Giant and television show, The Simpsons.
The result? Another monster triumph for the animators, but one
which marks a bolder direction for the company.
Bird, himself, confesses there were many hurdles to overcome
in bringing his super-hero tale to the big screen, not least of
which was exploring darker territory.
The Incredibles is the first Pixar film to deal with human characters
and to feature death on-screen.
Its super-heroes, although initially retired, must fight tooth
and nail to save the world from its latest threat.
And speaking at a recent London press conference for the film,
Bird said that it was something that had been discussed at an
early stage of the production process.
"We had some discussions with Tom Schumacher, who was the
head of the animation division at the time, about either having
to tone this down, so it's what everyone expects, or holding hands
and saying that we're doing something different and it's a flat
out adventure and we're going go for it.
"But I like genuine jeopardy in movies. I think sometimes
people are so well-intentioned about protecting their children
that they create these shows that are designed around super-heroes
bashing each other about for half and hour, but there's no consequences
"The show's built around violence but no one ever gets injured,
and no one ever dies.
"So to me, that's a far worse message to give a kid than
to have a world where there's actual jeopardy and prices are paid.
"I think there's no more traumatic movie to a kid than Bambi
because mom dies.
"But, you know, I wouldn't change a frame of Bambi. And
I think the ultimate message of Bambi is that life goes on in
spite of great, terrible things happening. I like a bit of bite
Having overcome the first hurdle, however, there were still many
more to tackle, especially given the technical challenges of creating
many of the characters and the world in which they inhabit.
Indeed, the film has been a part of Bird's life for the past
"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," he explained.
"Humans are considered the toughest thing to animate because
everybody knows how they move.
"But we also 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, and it was our longest
"So, it was just one big car crash of a film and, miraculously,
The ensuing film has already broken box office records in America,
and enjoyed a strong opening weekend in the UK as well, all of
which has helped to make Bird something of a hot commodity.
But he clearly isn't one to rest on his laurels and is already
looking to the future.
"The world may not view me as a film-maker yet, but as some
sub-species of animation, but I refuse to stay there - 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."
Bird's enthusiasm for film-making has been with him since an
He started animating at the age of three when, curiously, much
of his work was 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.
"But 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,
"So, 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
Now, however, Bird can pretty much pick his projects, especially
if The Incredibles continues to set the world box office alight.
Indeed, such is the film's critical and commercial success, thoughts
have already turned to a sequel, especially given the nature of
But Bird refused to reveal too much about the possibility, stating
merely: "I just tried to make a satisfying ending and when
you have a satisfying ending people always think: "You're
setting up a sequel."
The Incredibles is now playing in cinemas.