|Director Brad Bird arrives at the premiere of Disney's Tomorrowland in Anaheim, Calif. (David McNew/AFP/Getty Images)|
It wasn't long ago that I met with Brad Bird- Her is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, and actor, who began his career as an animator. If you didn't know, he directed several films, including Tomorrowland! Many of his films include: The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, 7 Ratatouille, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Jurassic World and coming in 2019, The Incredibles 2 and many more. He also started his first short film, animated at the age of 11. Check out our interview below. Our group had a bit to pick his brain, and I want to share it with all of you!
I know when the movie was in production there was a lot of secrecy surrounding it and it was very important, now that it's out do you feel more free to talk about it or are you still trying to keep some of that under wraps?Brad Bird:
Well, I think that I can talk about it but obviously we didn't, for everyone that's seen the movie there are a lot of people that haven't. And so the–– the Catch-22 that you find yourself in as a filmmaker is that marketing wants to show as many things as they can from the movie to get people excited about the movie, and oftentimes that starts to tell too much of the story. And so the filmmaker goes, "I don't want to dah dah dah," and then people come at you two years in advance and they go, "Hey what's the story? Tell us every twist and turn!" "I know–– know what it's like to have a film, um, not marketed, which is what happened with Iron Giant."
Right. Well, like you mentioned Iron Giant, which is a film that didn't really get a huge opening in the theaters...Brad Bird:
...but was discovered later on at Home Video and now has a huge following in tons of people, do you see that as something that might happen with this film as well?Brad Bird:
I'm hopeful. I don't think you ever know what's gonna happen, um, many of my favorite movies, um, the ones that I return to again and again, Wizard of Oz, Pinocchio, you know, from this place, um, even Big Lebowski, are films that didn't succeed at the box office initially. Um, Wizard of Oz did okay but it was very expensive and it didn't return its costs until the late '50s when it went on television. And that's when people started, like every year they were waiting for The Wizard of Oz. And that's when it got this reputation of being this "amazing classic." Um, so I think time is the only critic who's right 100 percent of the time and, uh, we'll see. But I–– I, we remain hopeful, um, that, uh, time will be kind to this movie.
So you started really young doing, you know, creative things. What was your inspiration? Why did you go the creative route?Brad Bird:
You know, I don't think you choose it, I think it chooses you and, um, I was blessed with really great parents who, um, didn't want to interfere with it but were doing anything they could to add fuel to it. So when I started doing a lot of drawings I had lots of paper and lots of pencils all the time. And, when I started getting into animation they made sure that I could get a camera that could shoot one frame at a time. And my dad bought a used enlarger and kinda we kinda kluged it together, and stuffed the camera inside the enlarger with some newspapers and I didn't have pegs so I took two pieces of tape and I laid down about four layers this way and four layers that way and I shoved the drawing into the corner of the paper and that's how I registered it. And so it was just, you know, the parents were incredibly supportive.
And, then there was, there were people like Walt Disney who were in your living room every week and they always seemed to be introducing something new and different. I mean, one week he would be talking about animals in the wild. The next week it would be, uh, "a historical drama like Scarecrow a Brahm Eating Marsh and, uh, then there would be cartoons or something about the history of fairytales or outerspace.
So did you try to channel that into Tomorrowland?Brad Bird:
I had some connections to it because, in the movie the–– the kid is , sort of this world, this secret world is opened up to him and it's kinda behind-the-scenes of imagination and I had that experience myself because, um, uh, I got adopted by Disney guys at an early age and mentored by them. And, they made a big impact on me. And the memory, it just seems surreal to remember it was kinda like being into acting and getting to work with Brando, you know, it was–– was, uh, my schoolmates didn't know who these guys were but to me, you know, I'd read the books and they were legends. "And there he is and he's gonna tell me something that I need to hear," you know? So it was great.
The theme of dreamers and the possible dream seems to run through your films. Can you talk about how you relate to that as a theme?Brad Bird:
Uh, on a really organic level my parents, again, they were both kind of leaders in their own way, and they had very pragmatic approaches to very grand things. They very much said that, you know, "that thing" that oftentimes sounds kinda Hallmark-y and fake but that "if you–– you work hard enough and you stay focused you can get there."
"When I did my film and it took me three years to make it, I mean, it's like 15 minutes long. And the drawing gets better as the film goes on. But, when I finished it there were, and I entered it in contests and won a couple of contests, or won some awards, and I'm like, "What should I do now?!"
"And they said, "Who do you admire most?" And I said, "Disney, they're the best." And they said, "Go for the best. If they turn you down then go to the next best." If they turn you down, and they said, "That way whatever person stops what they're doing to–– to engage with you will be the highest you could have gotten." But they said, "Start at the very top and you, you're not guaranteed that it's gonna work but it might work and it did work. AndI went to the top and they responded and opened their doors and it was just amazing. So I got really weird feedback in kinda believing these impossible things as a kid. "
Is there a place that we could see your original animated film, do you have it up anywhere?Brad Bird:
I have it but I don't have it, uh, it's not online or anything. It, they showed a little tiny bit of it on, uh, 20/20, yeah, so there's a little bit of it on 20/20. It's just, it's the Tortoise and the Hare but...
But it still would be interesting to see especially knowing the other titles you've done since that.
It is. Well, and it's a weird version of the Tortoise and the Hare, the–– the tortoise is kinda the bad guy. [ALL LAUGH] And the movie, and the race ends in a five-way tie. So it's kind of its own version of the Tortoise and..
But you were 11?Brad Bird:
I was 11 and I finished it when I was almost 14, so, between 11 and 13, yeah.Question:
Do you know what direction you're going when you start a project, or do you...?Brad Bird:
I usually have a pretty good idea but, um...Question:
I mean does it follow through to the end?Brad Bird:
It's not all I could say is that every time is unique. And sometimes you–– you have a character that's on your mind and you then go, "well, what story would bring out that character?" And at other times you have the ending and, um, you–– you think, "What can I get, how can I get to this ending in a way that makes it meaningful?" And every thing has its own route, you know what I mean? Yeah.Question:
Did you visit Disneyland a lot as a child?
Not a lot, we lived in Oregon so we didn't get down here a lot but I was here several times when I was a kid, um, probably three times as a kid.
Do you have any memories from your trips?
Oh sure, yeah, yeah absolutely, yeah, uh, yeah I mean...
Or favorite experiences from your childhood?Brad Bird:
Uh, well, it, this, the experiences are kind of set, you know what I mean? They're, um, I just think that, I remember the first time going on Pirates Of The Caribbean I could not make sense out of how did this whole world, "How is that contained in this building?" You know like, here's this building and I just went in there and I was in a swamp in Louisiana and then I went down a waterfall and now I'm in a cavern and there's a storm and then I'm in-between a ship and a–– a fort and they're shooting cannonballs and the village is burning up and now I'm going up the waterfall and this is in this building, you know? It's, it, I couldn't make sense out of it. But it was absolutely magical to me.Question:
When you were working on this film Walt Disney was originally a part of the script from what I understand and sort of involved in the...?
"Not really, uh, uh, no, there was, um, no, uh, he was, he's involved in the backstory. But he was just one member of this sort of, uh, Secret Society of Geniuses, uh, so there was 100 years of people that got into the Secret Society of Geniuses and they were artists and writers and designers and scientists and he was just one."
So for this movie the final scene where they were passing out the different [WORD?] and stuff like that and then they were doing the thing and then they all touched it all at the same time in the same cornfield place or whatever. I was looking at that and wondering like why put everybody in the field and not actually in where like everything else was?Brad Bird:
We have a very complicated idea for that but we didn't want to explain it. We wanted that image of everybody in the field. I think that it's–– it's setting the dream off and, but you have to go to the dream. You, the dream doesn't come to you. You've gotta, you, it's there, you know where it is, you see it, but you have to go toward it. And–– and that's part of the idea of the future is "We have to imagine what it is, say that we want to go there, and then take the steps." It's not gonna happen, I mean, everybody says, "Dreams are–– are important." They are, but they're only Step One. Dream is what is the easy part, it's–– it's the important part but it's the easy part because all you have to do is "have it." To then pursue it is the hard part. And that's part of what it is, is then you have to go toward it. And you might, there might be a lion hiding somewhere in there,Question:
I always question what their family thinks 'cause they all just kind of oop disappear.Brad Bird:
They don't actually disappear, though, as you see in the movie. They're actually still in their place, but they're implanted with the vision of the place. And the idea is that you implant everybody with the vision first and then as people get comfortable–– comfortable with the vision then the vision starts coming to them. You know what I mean?And that is the end of our interview. I don't know about you, but I think that Brad Bird is quite interesting! I wish we could have talked with him longer. I can't wait to see what he has up his sleeve next!
Tomorrowland Comes out on Blu-ray 10/13! Pre-order on Amazon today!