Just forget the words and sing along

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, Family Dog

I've been wanting to post this for a while, and since there's no Targ this week (just got home from my Easter break), tonight seems like the night to do it.

I'm sure I've mentioned that one of my favourite filmmakers working today is Brad Bird. Bird was fascinated by animation ever since he was a child. He started making his first animated short when he was 11, and finished when he was 13. This got the attention of Disney, and he got to spend his weekends hanging out with Disney's legendary Nine Old Men. After high school, he went on to the California Institute of the Arts, and their world-famous animation program. His classmates included John Lasseter and Tim Burton. After school, he got himself at job as an animator at Disney. Eventually growing disillusioned with what he was animating at Disney, he went on to work in television, a gig that eventually got him the job of "executive consultant" on The Simpsons. With the explosion of animation in the 1990s, thanks to Disney's resurgance, Bird was eventually hired on at Warner Brothers Feature Animation, where he wrote and directed my all-time favourite movie, The Iron Giant. After that film, Warner Brothers ended their feature animation department, and Bird got a call from his old classmate John Lasseter to join the crew at Pixar. The first film Bird made with Pixar was the Best Animated Picture winning The Incredibles, again, serving the role of writer and director.

And that brings us to the present day. Bird's next film with Pixar, Ratatouille, hits theatres this summer. In some early interviews for Ratatouille, Bird's been hinting that he'd like to try his hand at live-action next. And, occasionally, I read snippets online of his pet project, a sci-fi/film noir/comedy called Ray Gunn. Think Sin City mixed with Blade Runner, and featuring characters named "Venus Envy."

But we're going back to the beginning. After he left Disney and before The Simpsons. In that period - the late 1980s - Bird got a job with Steven Spielberg. Spielberg was putting together an anthology show called Amazing Stories. Think The Wonderful World of Disney, only except Walt Disney, it's Steven Spielberg. And, as one of his first TV gigs, Bird got himself a job as a writer on Amazing Stories.

And, it was on Amazing Stories, that Brad Bird finally got to write and direct something by himself. In effect, it was first film. It was this animated episode of Amazing Stories that established Bird as one of the rising young stars of animation. To this day, many still hold it up as the best episode ever of Amazing Stories.

And thanks to the miracle of YouTube, I finally got a chance to see it.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present, Family Dog.

Written and directed by Brad Bird.

Executive produced by Steven Spielberg.

And featuring character designs by Tim Burton.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Here's some miscellany about Brad Bird:

- In addition to The Simpsons, he also got to be an executive consultant on the Critic and King of the Hill.

- Was once attached to do the animated movie version of Curious George. When the film finally came out a year ago, I read in interview with one of the film's producers, who described Bird's work on the film as "absolutly brilliant", but Bird left the project to go do The Incredibles.

- Family Dog was turned into a TV series in the early 1990s. Bird had nothing to do with it, even though he was offered it. In Bird's opinion, it wouldn't work as a series. And since the series only lasted 2 episodes, Bird was right.

And may as well end this Brad Bird love-fest with the new Ratatouille trailer.

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