He’s been called by some Hollywood a modern day Walt Disney. He believes animation is an art form not a genre and he’s the director of the new film Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.
Director Brad Bird with Tom Cruise on the set of M:I – Ghost Protocol. The partnership was started when Bird got a text from J.J. Abrams shortly after the release of The Incredibles that read “Mission?”
Born Phillip Bradley Bird, Bird started training as an animator at the age of 14. Not only is he good friends with John Lasseter, the head of Pixar, in 2007 he was ranked by Entertainment Weekly as #23 on their 50 Smartest People in Hollywood list.
The Young Animator
At the age of 11, Bird was on a tour of the Walt Disney Studios when he announced he would eventually work there. Soon after his tour he started work on a 15-minute short that he submitted to the company. He so impressed the studio, Bird (at the age of 14) would mentor under animator Milt Kahl, one of Walt Disney’s legendary Nine Old Men and continued to follow his dream as he eventually attended the California Institute of the Arts, after he was awarded a scholarship by Disney.
While at Cal Arts, Bird met and became friends with another future animator, Pixar co-founder and director John Lasseter. The two formed a fast friendship which still continues. Bird would go on to adapt and direct the critically acclaimed The Iron Giant for Warner Brothers in 1999, although he’s best known for The Incredibles (2004) and Ratatouille (2007).
Bird also directed The Simpsons‘ episodes “Krusty Gets Busted” and “Like Father, Like Clown” – which is appropriate since Krusty The Klown is his favorite Simpsons character. On the subject of animation, Bird is pretty protective, “People keep saying, “The animation genre.” It’s not a genre! A Western is a genre! Animation is an art form, and it can do any genre. You know, it can do a detective film, a cowboy film, a horror film, an R-rated film or a kids’ fairy tale. But it doesn’t do one thing. And, next time I hear, “What’s it like working in the animation genre?” I’m going to punch that person!”
Brad Bird’s latest is Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and the director put his stamp on that movie too - Ethan Hunt’s code number is A113 – a classroom that Bird and Lasseter attended at Cal Arts.
Inspired by Animation
Today Brad Bird is one of Hollywood’s rising stars – and his star is only going to get brighter. For kids who want to learn how to get started in animation and become animators, it’s easy to get inspired. Disney classics are a great starting as well as artist like Mary Blair, or look no further than you’re own local movie theater. Who knows you could be the next Brad Bird.
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