Brad Bird On The Value of Bringing Disney-level Quality to Hand-Drawn Animated Movies

Brad_Bird_Iron_Giant_Special_Edition_TrailerToonzone News reports on Brad Bird’s (The Director of The Iron Giant and The Incrediblesrecent Collider interview: Bird “thinks traditional, 2-D, hand-drawn animation is poised for a comeback, but the only way it can do so is if it breaks into different genres than the musical format that dominated it until the advent of CG.” Bird thinks traditional animation could do any genre, including an effective horror film:
Via Collider:

“[T]here’s never been a horror movie in animation executed at Disney-level quality and hand-drawn. I’m not talking about CG; I’m talking about hand-drawn, but it doesn’t take a lot to imagine how cool that would be. If you think of the scariest parts of Snow White or Pinocchio or Fantasia with Night on Bald Mountain, you could do something really scary in animation, and I think if you did it right, if you did it with all the art that Spielberg did Jaws, I think that it would be an amazing experience because there’s something intuitive about when people are drawing directly with their hands.”

Bird makes some interesting points in the interview, including praising Disney’s old practices, for theatrical hand drawn animation, of keeping together a cohesive production team from one film to the next in hand drawn animation:

The problem is that every time people have deviated from the Disney playbook in hand-drawn animation, they’ve done so with staff that are nowhere near Disney-level talent or Disney-level budgets. So you have things like Heavy Metal, which not all of them are great, but a couple of them are really interesting, but they didn’t have the money or the artists to pull them off at the level that maybe they should’ve been pulled off. Where as in live-action film there are all kinds of new films being done in different genres where people can really execute an idea at a top level. It’s just that animation rewards grooming a team and keeping a team in place. That’s why when studios try to emulate Disney on the quick-and-cheap they always fail, because Disney has refined their animation team over years, they have a history of it, people go to Disney and know that there’s going to be a job after the movie, there’s going to be another movie. And when you assemble animation teams the way you do a live-action film, you’re often struggling a bit to get a cohesive team together, so if you have a team that works well together, you’re hoping for another film so that you can refine the team.

There’s certainly validity to that outlook. Having said that, I think Bird is speaking on more of a feature-film tier of quality to require a groomed, cohesive Disney-level team to tackle a genre film. I don’t think the absence of a tight-knit, seasoned Disney level crew should preclude hand-drawn animated genre films from being produced. Given the outlets available to audiences these days with home video, rental services like Redbox, television, streaming services like Netflix, and digital download, among other avenues, I think the future yields more and more chances to see a variety of well-financed hand-drawn animated genre films. With the advent of and continued strength of crowd funding like Kickstarter, studio-financed films aren’t the only game in town to “execute an idea at a top level.”

Collider has their “full interview” with Brad Bird coming soon. Also coming soon? My graphic novel Intercept Now! Also, also coming soon is The Iron Giant: Signature Edition theatrical release, which hits cinemas on September 30th and October 4th via Fathom Events. If you haven’t seen the film before, you really should treat yourself and see it on big screen to get the best viewing experience possible. This is one of the best theatrically-released hand drawn animated films ever, and it was indeed produced with Disney-level animators, offering up some truly amazing and inspiring animation; not to mention some truly iconic character design and production design: