The Iron Giant's Brad Bird on the lost art of hand-drawn animation

Though he’s gone on to make some fantastic live-action and CGI movies over the years, Brad Bird still holds a special place in his heart for his breakthrough film The Iron Giant. So, what does he make of the absolute dearth of hand-drawn animation these days?

It’s an interesting topic, and as the man behind one of the greatest animated films in history, Bird (The Incredibles, Tomorrowland) has a unique opinion on the matter. He opened up to Collider about hand-drawn animation, and said he “absolutely think(s)” it is still a fantastic, viable way to make a successful film. Even better? He wants to make another one, hopefully with a bigger budget than The Iron Giant. Yes, please.

Bird also touched on the untapped potential for animation in other genres (i.e. horror), and the types of creative projects that could be created if a company would actually put forth the time, talent and resources to do hand-drawn animation right (again). Check out some choice excerpts from his comments below:

“I think the industry tends to like to think in the narrow sort of mindset of a businessman, and businessman absolutes, and movies really exist in a much grayer region of dreams and stuff like that, and instinct is prized in movies, it’s not prized with the businessmen in movies, but movies themselves often reward instinct rather than pie charts. And what has not been done is that there’s been no American animation done on Disney-level quality that has really gone into different genres. For instance, there’s never been a horror movie in animation executed at Disney-level quality and hand-drawn, I’m not talking about CG I’m talking about hand-drawn, but it doesn’t take a lot to imagine how cool that would be. If you think of the scariest parts of Snow White or Pinocchio or Fantasia with Night on Bald Mountain, you could do something really scary in animation and I think if you did it right, if you did it with all the art that Spielberg did Jaws, I think that it would be an amazing experience because there’s something intuitive about when people are drawing directly with their hands…

Where as in live-action film there are all kinds of new films being done in different genres where people can really execute an idea at a top level. It’s just that animation rewards grooming a team and keeping a team in place. That’s why when studios try to emulate Disney on the quick-and-cheap they always fail, because Disney has refined their animation team over years, they have a history of it, people go to Disney and know that there’s going to be a job after the movie, there’s going to be another movie. And when you assemble animation teams the way you do a live-action film, you’re often struggling a bit to get a cohesive team together, so if you have a team that works well together, you’re hoping for another film so that you can refine the team.”

It’s interesting to hear Bird’s take on the situation, and though Iron Giant did feature some hybrid CGI, it still has the vibe and feel of a classic animated Disney film. What do you think? Is it CGI or bust, or do we need more hand-drawn animation these days?

(Via Collider)

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