What do The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and the upcoming fourth Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol all have in common? Brad Bird was the creative force who directed all of these incredible films. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, already being considered the best of the franchise, will be in cinemas Wednesday Dec. 21, 2011 (watch the trailer), and will be Mr. Bird’s first time directing a live-action film.
The Iron Giant (1999) was a Warner Bros. animated film, whose anti-war story with a loveable robot and boy friendship at its center, was widely considered a masterpiece and made with half the budget of a Disney animated film. Unfortunately the movie went widely unnoticed because Warner Bros. did not promote the film as much as they should have and many of the people involved, including Brad Bird, felt let down by the studio for not promoting a film whose story many thought was superior to the films of the bigger animation studios.
The film’s powerful emotional and heart felt story won over many fans that heard about it through word of mouth and it eventually became a classic of animation. Even people in the industry working for competing studios noticed the excellence on display and admitted that The Iron Giant was one of their favorite films.
John Lasseter, the head of Pixar, and a good friend of Brad Bird from the days when they both attended a Cal Arts character animation school in 1976, which was Disney’s brainchild, decided after seeing The Iron Giant and hearing his idea for a new project, that Brad would be a great person to have at Pixar Animation, who were now working on Toy Story 2 (1999), and Monster’s Inc. (2001).
So in 2000, after reconnecting with each other, Brad was hired by Pixar to start work on his idea for a new super-hero story that he had been working on years before. The Incredibles (2004) was a story about a super-hero family forced to live in hiding after being outlawed by society, who sees them as a menace. Most of the story had already been developed by Brad Bird when he joined Pixar and the movie went on to become one of Pixar’s most beloved films. Critics loved it, praising Brad Bird for giving a new freshness to the super-hero genre and calling it the smartest and most enjoyable for the whole family of all the Pixar films so far. The Incredibles won the Academy Award for best animated feature giving Pixar its second win in that category.
At about the same time as The Incredibles was being made someone else at Pixar, Jan Pinkava, came up with the idea of a rat who aspired to become a gourmet chef in Paris. The idea was so bold and risky that only one man could do it justice. Pixar approached Brad Bird again to direct a film called Ratatouille (2007).
Ratatouille set another high-water mark for animation at the innovative San Francisco based studio and became an instant classic, going on to win another Academy Award for best animated feature and Brad Bird was nominated for best original screenplay. He even topped himself with Ratatouille, which is hard to believe considering his unsurpassed work to this point. Brad has always been a talented animator and director but he has really flourished at Pixar, doing some of his most brilliant work there.
The inspiring theme that seems to run through all his movies is that no matter whom you are or where you come from or what you are born into, you can choose to be what you desire most. Whether you’re a military weapon doomed to a life of destruction, or a super-hero family forced to live an ordinary life, or even a rat living off garbage aspiring to be a chef. All these characters made the choice to follow their passion no matter what their circumstances.
It should be very interesting, to say the least, to see how he does with his first live-action movie; Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011). Watch for it coming Wednesday Dec. 21, 2011.