Keeping it Fresh

Here is an interesting article in which Brad Bird is interviewed about keeping his work and workers fresh and innovative.

Brad - "Involved people make for better innovation… Involved people can be quiet, loud, or anything in-between—what they have in common is a restless, probing nature: “I want to get to the problem. There’s something I want to do.” If you had thermal glasses, you could see heat coming off them." GOLD.

Found at: The Thinking Animation Blog


Clayton McIntosh said...

I find it hard to believe what Brad bird says about looking for black sheep and stuff like that... I find the whole Pixar-utopia idea hard to believe cause I think there more about having "good" and polished films rather than letting loose cannons fire off something origional. The films still going to be exactly how brad bird wants it regardless if its done by black sheep or the solitary worker. If Brad Bird wants to do something origional then he should get someone else to write his scripts so there not so polished into old man "kids" stories. (like the old man who collects stamps cause he thinks thats what kids like).
In the end who cares if Pixar staff are allowed to play tennis in there break... Bank CEO's are allowed too also. Its nothing increadible.

Dognam Hippy said...

I reckon Mitch and Zac are the twitchy ones that Big Bird describes. Always asking the questions and throwing off solar flares from their brains.

It's fantastic to be near them in the studio but sometimes one has to yell "Shut Up!" to quiet the swirling coulour maelstrom they paint on the internal cinema screen.

I reckon Big Bird must have been like that, just with an American accent.

Ian said...

Hi Clay, nice to see ya here.

I don't think he was saying he intended to let the black sheep write the film. More use their energy in a positive way. Brad Bird films will always be Brad Bird films. That may not make you happy, but it sure dose me :)

Ian said...

Brad says they can be the quiet ones too, I often feel the heat of intensity eminating from Rosie I think.

Its all good.

The flip side is appethy, its death on a stick for directors and teachers.

Clayton McIntosh said...

Yeah he wont do it cause it would be creative and innovative. (getting someone else to write the script)

I just think that whole interview/artical was a load of back patting bull...

Toy Story and Mosters Inc are more creative and inovative than Incredibles and rat movie. Shake things up? Nothing needed to be shaken! Which makes me wonder if Cars was cursed by Brad Birds story ideas... but thats a crazy thing to say so I wont stand by it.

I wonder if Brad Bird wears Nike shoes? (white joggers?)

Ian said...


I've never quite understood your views on Brad Clay.

To start with almost every time he talks he is on about getting back to the way the nine old men did things, the days when they focused on the craft instead of the money. I don't think he pushes for breaking the rules, I think he pushes for remembering what the real rules are. In that sence I agree that he is talking about being creative within a cirtain context.

But I think what needs to be kept in mind is that he invented this style. Brad pre Pixar work and teachings were a major insipation for the Pixar folk. He was one of the ones who created the new benchmark.

AND its not like he is resting on his lorals, as we speek he is making a live action period drama based on a novel (i.e. written by someone else).

Clayton McIntosh said...

I both love and hate Brad Bird... like John K.

frank said...

Clay you sound a bit like a malcontent. Someone Brad would have on his team. Stirring things up.

I like how BB quotes Disney at the end, "Walt Disney’s mantra was, “I don’t make movies to make money—I make money to make movies.”"

I like the way he shoves it up the beancounters and holds core values of creation over remuneration.

He may not appear creative and innovative to some animators but he is a champion for them.

Because I find that I'm like-minded with BB, I'll probably never get to work with him.

But Clay just might?

Personally I do lean toward Monsters Inc as a story over The Incredibles. But, as an animation scholar, I can appreciate the technical animation craftspersonship that BB got his animators to display in the latter.

(This is Dana's chance to ask me, 'Why, did you like Monsters vs Incredibles?').

I learnt something from the interview, so I can't agree that it is all bull patting. The part where BB explains that all scenes are not created equal, that some have to be perfect, some have to be good, and others just have to be good enough to progress the story. That was good stuff.

How about we talk about some of the points raised in the interview in more detail as well as any love/hate thing we've got goin' on?

Clay, is there a specific part of the interview that rattled your cage?

Clayton McIntosh said...

I actually think the incredibles is a better movie than toy story and monsters inc, just not more inovative and creative. It probabley is my fav 3d animation... but 11 mins of spongebob or fosters home has so much more gold than these films. Nothing in particular rattled me I just see it more as talk rather than something that I can see in the end result.

(my spelling gets worse daily...)

frank said...

Is Brad Bird not walking his talk?

I thought he was, that's why the animated features he's involved in stand out from the rest. Well they did until the past two years with Meet the Robinsons and maybe even Horton.

Let's compare apples with apples.

Feature films are not vehicles for innovation when compared to TV or Internet animation where the financial risks are lower.

If we are to compare BB's feature film work, then we should compare it to other studios'(other than Pixar)animated feature films, I think.

In that case my observation is he is doing what he says (in that interview).

The interview tells us BB was brought in because Pixar feared it's own success, so the successful Pixar films before 'The Incredibles' weren't any less innovative or creative than when BB arrived, he just found a way to maintain the key innovation and creativity requirements with his approach.

He might not have renovated the innovation but he didn't allow it to slide. That's where he compares the Disney studios who lapsed as they tried to protect their own success by not taking risks.

But I think Ian said that?

Wouldn't you (you all out there) agree?

Ian said...

Brad has done plenty of work for TV so we can compare apples with apples, The Family Dog is my favourite TV animation of all time, and in a pre Simpsons, Family Guy, Southpark world was one of the most original things I had ever seen. It involves some of the most unique plot twists I’ve ever seen in a TV show at all, let alone an animated one. The bit where the burglars come after he has been trained, they get away, but then suddenly its weeks later and the dog is still attached to the thief’s arm while he is cooking dinner is so good, the plot abandons the family and follows the dog, I can’t remember ever seeing anything like that before. Brad also played a hand in the early years of the Simpsons, which you may take for granted or even be over now, but when it started was a revolutionary idea. I remember thinking, “There’s going to be a cartoon on in the evenings?! It’s about a family??!!? There are jokes about politics and social issues!?!?!?” In the context of the time it was like saying the sky would be green from now on, and many of the other shows I have enjoyed since were made possible by Brads early work in TV.

These shows leave anything cartoon network has managed for dead when looking for innovative story, some may deserve some points for unique character design, and Fosters in particular is very well animated, but the three episodes I have seen were the same old Cartoon Net formula. Things like, a new character visits and everyone likes it, then it starts doing naughty things when no-one is looking and Blue get the blame because he is usually the naughty one, so he sets out to prove its not him, it gets worse and worse until the end where everyone finds out. Or, two of the characters set up some kind of activity or business together, the pressure of the situation and personality clashes lead to tension and in the end they realise that its better to be friends than successful. YAWN! Those same stories have been going around and around since the Flinstones and the Smurfs.

I think with the Increadables it was a matter of, its about time someone did this right, as apposed to lets do something completely new. Or at least the completely new idea was that you would do a really cool action film with great FX and still care about story and character development. It was a film the industry was dieing to make, they had to get it out of its system. The animators on the DVD commentary say I knew I had to treasure this because I was never going to get to work on something like this again, it was an opportunity to get all that nerdy stuff we love out there without it being in a story that stinks. I think of it like therapy for the animation industry. It had to happen or we were all going to burst, Brad seemed to be the only man who could deliver it.

We have talked about the illusion of total creative freedom in feature films in class recently, I think they are fools gold. There so much money involved, in a way you have to play it safe. I started an article on it for the blog, but stopped because I thought I was stating to many thoughts about things I only had a vague understanding of. But my point is that you do have to take the context into account, if bringing Brad into Pixar got them to shift or slide even the slightest bit in one direction or the other, then it’s already more than the previous market leaders Disney have managed since the days of the nine old men. When you are out in front (financially) and in unmapped territory its so hard to know which way to turn next, in 99% of case a company will just go straight on as it did to get out in front in the first place.

That’s why Ed Catmull and John Lasseter deserve major kudos for seeking out and employing Brad in the first place, It’s hard to appreciate how gutsy a move that is. Thousands of jobs depend on the decisions made at the top of an organisation like Pixar. Many of them are people they would know, with families and plans for the future. I was animation director at a Oska as it slid down the sticky film of the bursting internet bubble. I remember feeling an incredible weight of responsibility for the 20ish people working under me. I animated and directed things I thought I would never animate, came up with new inventive ways to milk the skills we already had, I was waking up in the night with stomach pains, I remember speaking to the staff with tears in my eyes one day as I pleaded with them to give that little bit more so they could keep their jobs. it’s a massive burden, in many ways it was that experience that has landed me in teaching today, at the time I finished at Oska I just couldn’t face jumping into anything like that again. I marvel at the courage of these guys, its easy for us to sit back and be critical. If you were faced with two options, one fresh, new and risky, the other safe and recognisable, which would you choose if the careers of your friends were on the line. Its easy to take risks with yourself, but with the future of others that you care about, that’s a different story. Before Pixar Brad had made one feature film, it was a huge flop, what an amazing risk it was to bring him in and give him such a responsibility. For him to come in and then shake up the system they had for approaching the work is also amazing, how many flops do you get before your career is over, many don’t get past one, he knew the Pixar system was already producing hits, but had the courage to change things. WOW!

Frank I see your point though, if Brad Bird was reading this, we would be talking ourselves out of a job, while Clay, he might offer you one. It sounds like he wants staff that challenge him, “I don’t think your so hot, prove to me that you want to be original,” kinda thing.

Clayton McIntosh said...

Ahhh! So much writting...

Yeah Brad Bird is very talented and achived alot but I still dont buy the black sheep/inovation stuff.

Maybe Ill say more later...

Mr. Saeton said...

There is something I feel you may have overlooked Clay. If you read the atricle it quotes BB as saying 'I give them (the 'black sheep') a chance to prove themselves' or something to that effect. He's not saying these freaks become god-kings of the studio, but if they have an idea that's feasable (-and probably not fire related-) then they have the opportunity to show the studio nay-sayers the irrefutable proof that the idea was/is sound. There was nothing mentioned about wether or not said 'crazy-left-wing-hippy-freak plan D' became gospel or not. But then, even this take is subjective and may not be what BB was trying to describe at all. It is awfull late after all.