At Variety’s 10 Animators to Watch event in partnership with Nickelodeon, “The Incredibles 2” director Brad Bird spoke about animated films finally receiving the respect they deserve while accepting Variety’s Creative Impact in Animation Award.
In addition to Bird, Variety honored 10 animators at the event, including “Bao” director Domee Shi, Ami Thompson of “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2,” and “Victor and Valentino” director Diego Molano.
On the red carpet, Bird spoke about the relatability of “The Incredibles,” the limitless nature of animation, and his favorite emotional moment from an animated movie at Nickelodeon’s Studio in Burbank, Calif.
Despite a 14-year gap between the original film and the sequel, Bird said audiences will still connect with the Parr family in “The Incredibles 2” because “everyone has been in a family in a way” or had a “circle of people that you trust.”
Bird added that viewers become emotionally invested in animated movies because there is an “element of caricature” that connects them to the characters through their distinctive traits. “I think animation not only does that graphically, but it does it with movement as well,” Bird said. “I think it’s a very childlike, but wonderful way to look at life.”
He recalled a moment in “Peter Pan” that always makes him emotional. He described the scene where Peter and Wendy are flying through the sky and said the shot “captured the feeling” he has had in dreams of flying and was “beautifully executed.”
Before Bird was presented with his award, Mr. Incredible himself Craig T. Nelson introduced the director to the stage. Nelson shared memories from his recording sessions with Bird for his Mr. Incredible role, and said Bird recited the other characters’ lines. “I just kind of get entranced watching him do Edna, and Elastigirl, and Vi and Jack Jack,” Nelson said. “I go, “Well hell, why don’t we just film you?”
In his speech, Bird addressed the misconception that animated films are only meant for children, causing animators’ work to be “relegated to a second tier apart from the rest of filmmaking.”
“I don’t like [animation] being considered a genre or separate,” Bird said. “I think that we’re an amazing method of telling a story and that we should be respected as such.”
He said animation is now being seen as a “viable and vital medium to tell stories” to moviegoers of all ages.
He ended his speech with advice to future filmmakers interested in animation. “Don’t make a film for any audience that doesn’t include you,” Bird advised. “Too many bad films are made for them.”