“Great animators are great observers, just like actors,” says animator and director Brad Bird, who is being inducted into Variety’s Home Entertainment Hall of Fame on Dec. 4. He should know: Bird is behind such films as “Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille” and, most recently, “Incredibles 2,” with a domestic gross of $608.5 million and the year’s No. 3 movie.
He created his first animated film when he was just 11 and was mentored by Milt Kahl, one of Disney’s core “Nine Old Men” animators. Bird also was part of the earliest graduating classes of the California Institute of the Arts, along with John Lasseter and Tim Burton.
Bird says it bothers him that many actors consider animation a technical medium. “Actors, I wish, would start viewing animators as fellow actors, because the really good ones go through the same process,” he says. “Good actors make you forget you’re watching an actor, and animators have the same challenge. When I approach a film I want people to have the same kind of emotional attachment that they have with characters in live-action films.”
Bird also is keen on the home entertainment side of the business — particularly the Blu-ray disc and its new 4K Ultra HD incarnation. As a filmmaker, he considers the disc release of a movie “the version of record, like a book on a shelf,” and that is why he is intimately involved in the transfer process. “I always want it to be done at the highest bit rate, and I always sit through the near-field mix,” he says.
Preparing a film for disc release also gives filmmakers the chance to correct little mistakes, such as the scene in “Ratatouille” in which Remy’s hair wasn’t reacting to the wind as much as Bird would have liked. “We had to get it into theaters,” he says, “and I said, ‘OK, it’s good enough, but not good enough for eternity.’ ”