The director of The Iron Giant and Pixar’s The Incredibles offers his thoughts on the art of animation.

Top image via Mondo

Editor Kees van Dijkhuizen Jr has put together a wonderful video essay on the animation work of writer and director Brad Bird. The video pulls excerpts from the commentary of Bird’s The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille.

Bird offers insight to the writing process and how he directs animation. He also explains how so many studios get it wrong with their nonsensical screaming and fast-paced action. (I’m looking at you, Minions!)

If you’re curious to know how Brad Bird knows so much about animation, well, it’s because he learned from the best. Alongside John Lasseter and Tim Burton, Bird studied visual and performing arts at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and graduated in one of the first classes.

He went on to work as an animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios, where he studied under the likes of Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas, and Ollie Johnston — three of Disney’s legendary Nine Old Men. Bird was considered Kahl’s protégé, often being pushed by his mentor to hone his skills.

Animation is not a genre! It’s an art form. It can do any genre. — Brad Bird

Brad Bird would begin working for Klasky Csupo, where he developed animated shorts for The Tracey Ullman Show.  Those shorts became The Simpsonswhich he worked on as a creative consultant during the first eight seasons. He left the show to work on his first animated feature, The Iron Giant.

During the production of The Iron Giant, Bird would constantly seek advice from the remaining Nine Old Men — Frank and Ollie. Bird would continue to do so until Frank’s death in 2004 and Ollie’s in 2008. The duo were immortalized in their cameos in both The Iron Giant and The Incredibles.

Frank: “Hey you see that? Huh? That’s the way to do it. That’s old school.”
Ollie: “Yeah. No school like the old school.”

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Images via Disney / Pixar

Hopefully you find the inspiration you need to get out there are create. Here’s one more to keep you motivated.

Animation is not a spontaneous art form. It has to be very carefully done, very meticulously done — and if you do it right, people are not aware of the complexity — Brad Bird

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