Brad Bird hand-drawn animation

With The Iron Giant: Signature Edition returning to theaters soon, director Brad Bird has been making the rounds talking about the 1999 animated favorite that found a much bigger audience in the years since the film hit theaters the first time. And he has some hopeful, good news for fans of hand-drawn animation.

While the director has been busy in computer animation with films like The Incredibles (and a forthcoming sequel) and Ratatouille, and his live-action features Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Tomorrowland, he hopes to direct a new hand-drawn animation feature sometime down the road. In addition, he wishes that hand-drawn animation would be used to its full potential, perhaps even venturing into the horror genre.

Find out more about the Brad Bird hand-drawn animation project and his thoughts on the genre after the jump!

Speaking with Collider, Bird was asked about his thoughts on 2D animation, and as you would expect, he had some very passionate feelings on the matter:

“I actually think it’s a lot more valid than other people do. 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.”

Disney has traditionally only done fairytales and adventures, but Bird thinks that someone needs to use that quality of animation to go somewhere darker:

“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.”

There have been attempts to venture outside of the traditional Disney stories while still holding onto their signature animation style, but Bird points out the issue with most of those kind of projects:

“The problem is that every time people have deviated from the Disney playbook in hand-drawn animation, they’ve done so with staff that are nowhere near Disney-level talent or Disney-level budgets. So you have things like Heavy Metal, which not all of them are great, but a couple of them are really interesting, but they didn’t have the money or the artists to pull them off at the level that maybe they should’ve been pulled off. 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.”

The good news is that Bird isn’t frustrated enough with the state of 2D animation to give up, and this is where he plants a seed of returning to hand-drawn animation sometime in the future:

“But for someone like me who wants to move back and forth between animation and live-action, that becomes its own challenge, but I absolutely think that hand-drawn animation is valid and I actually hope to do one in the future with a large budget and a longer schedule than we had on Iron Giant.”

It’s a shame that even a talented animation director like Bird has trouble getting a movie like that off the ground. But if Bird keeps at it, hopefully he’ll convince someone to throw some money down and get another great hand-drawn animated feature film out there sometime sooner than later.

In the meantime, we’ll just have to settle for the return of The Iron Giant on the big screen on September 30th and October 4th. Get more details on those Fathom Event screenings right here. And don’t forget that Vin Diesel teased a possible sequel recently. But that could just be a way of hyping the re-release.

Do you want to see more hand-drawn animation being done?

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