Brad Bird 'Tomorrowland' Interview: 'The Iron Giant' Blu-Ray, Epcot, NASA, Space Mountain, 'Incredibles 2' And Disneyland

A couple weeks back I got a chance to chat briefly with director Brad Bird and talk about his newest film Tomorrowland. I asked for an update on the long-rumored Iron Giant blu-ray release, what it means and doesn't necessarily mean to be a live-action Disney film, the super slick modern look of Tomorrowland vs. the retro-futurism of ray-guns, how Space Mountain ended up in the movie, and Bird's earliest memories of Disneyland.

We also talked about how the Space Shuttle Endeavor flying over the Disney Animation building had a huge impact on the film's story, as well as my favorite sequence in the film (an amazing long "one shot" that lets us explore Tomorrowland for the first time), and I jokingly ask if Brad plans to reprise his role as Edna Mode in Incredibles 2. Read a transcript of my Brad Bird Tomorrowland interview, after the jump.

Brad Bird Tomorrowland Interview

Peter Sciretta: Before we begin, I have to ask you whats going on with the Iron Giant Blu-ray Release, I have heard we're in for something really special...

Brad Bird: Warner Brothers I think were not ready to talk about it yet. But yeah, there's some stuff happening, but I think it's gonna be good.

I'm also a big Disneyland fanatic. So a movie like this is very exciting for me.

Oh cool.

Brad Bird Tomorrowland

I wanted to know, did...

Although I think people think it's gonna take place more in Disneyland than it does. Actually none of it takes place in Disneyland. But there is a Disney feel to it or I don't know.

There's definitely a Disney feel. It almost feels like the live-action Disney films I grew up with. The tone and the feel of the film, I mean.

I feel like a lot of people misinterpret what the word Disney means. I mean I guess it can mean a lot of different things. But for me, it didn't mean toothless storytelling. It meant, you know, films like Pinocchio when I was a kid scared the crap out of me. And Disney wasn't afraid to be dark. And there's darkness in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. And it's a really great movie that holds up really well. And so this movie for me was a chance to do what I consider Disney to be in a weird sort of hopefully modern context. But yeah.

Tomorrowland

It's interesting that your Tomorrowland looks very modern and very futuristic, but yet there's retro-looking rayguns and the C.I.A. characters are kind of–

C.I.A.?

C.I.A. or whatever, I don't wanna spoil it for people, the agent characters are...  a little off.

They were from the Agency.

So I'm wondering about the decision to go with an ultra-modern looking future instead of the retro future of the parks, but going retro with aspects like the rayguns?

Well when you're pie in the skying it, you know, when you're first talking about what it should be, it can be this vast ocean of possibilities. But as you start to define your story, which you ultimately have to 'cause it has to fit inside a two hour box and, you know, the amount of time and money you have allotted to it, it has to happen. So you start plucking away at it. And our concept initially was that like any big city, you have buildings from different periods.

And the idea initially, which I still like, but which we didn't really have enough story to show off, was the idea that futurism from the '20s looks different than futurism from the '30s. But they both look like futurism. If you go to the end of the 19th Century and look at what they thought of as the future, it was filled with a lot of iron and airships that were like balloons. You know, but very elaborate balloons. And it was still fantastic and it still looked futuristic in its own way.

But I think our idea initially which we kind of touched on, but we didn't have enough story real estate to get into was that there should be building co-existing from a variety of futures. And the ultimately the interesting thing is that it kind of is the present. If in other words the city that we represented in there is not necessarily the future, it's what the present could be if a lot of roadblocks were taken out of the way.

Space Mountain In Tomorrowland Movie Poster

And you mentioned the buildings that make up your Tomorrowland. There is one from Disneyland, that is Space Mountain. Can you talk about putting that in there? And was it ever a bigger part of the story or...?

No. You know, it was done as more of a nod, but because that building opened or that Space Mountain opened in the '70s, I think '73 or '74, people assume that Walt had nothing to do with it. But it was actually designed while Walt was still alive. And I think it was John Hench I'm not sure who designed Space Mountain, but I think it was one of those guys and the first sketches of it were done with Disney participating. And it's interesting to me that in the last year of his life, he was touching on all these futuristic things.

To me the ultimate version, the best version of Tomorrowland was the one that opened in 1967 six months after he died. And he participated in every inch of that. And it had Adventures Thru Innerspace and these really cool rides. But he was also heavily thinking about Epcot. His version of Epcot, which was that it was an actual city that could actually try out real concepts that would then be really soon to the real world. And the fact that he did these things in his last moments meant something to me. And I thought what if he had lived? You know, what if the alternate universe of him living another 20 years and getting to realize these things? You know. It touched me and I wanted to see if we could kind of represent the essence of it without being that specific.

Brad Bird Tomorrowland

What are your earliest memories of going to Disneyland and Tomorrowland in particular?

Well, what separated Tomorrowland from... well, first of all, I loved going to Disneyland. It blew my kid mind that such a place could exist and that you could have a African jungle just around the corner from the Wild West, which is just a way, little, you know, turn down a few corners and you're in Tomorrowland or Tomorrowland or Fantasyland. I mean, that all of this was in one spot just kind of blew my mind. I also remember going into Pirates of the Caribbean and seeing this kind of large, but normal building and then you go inside and now you're in the bayou and it's night and the clouds are moving in front of the Moon and there's fireflies and a guy playing on a swamp. And suddenly you're going down a waterfall. And now you're in a cave with a bunch of skeletons and there's lightning and a storm. And now you're in the middle of two, you're in the middle of a land and sea battle. And then you come out of the building.

Now how the hell did they make all of that? I saw it. I know, I was there. How does this happen? So Tomorrowland specifically was hypnotizing to me because it wasn't just fantasy. It was done under the idea that all of this is coming. It's actually coming. We're gonna see this stuff in 10, 20 years. You know, it wasn't just Martians, you know, attack you and, you know. It wasn't fantasy. It was all about this is going to happen.

In a way it's almost science fact.

Yeah. And I think that one of the things that I liked about that is by presenting it as coming as a coming attraction, coming to reality near you, that it kind of had a hand in making it happen. Because it removed any roadblocks people had to allowing it to happen. The fact in those wonderful shows that Disney did in the late '50s with Ward Kimball, mid to late '50s, they were all presenting Going to the Moon as if it was a done deal. And went beyond that and talked about alien species of life and presented them in great Disney animation. And I think it also had a small probably unacknowledged hand in making the pursuit of the Moon by the end of the '60s a viable thing. Because it was presented as something attainable.

Tomorrowland damon lindelof and brad bird box

In September 2012, you were on top of the Disney Animation Building watching Endeavor fly over and–

With Damon.

Yeah, with Damon. You Tweeted this quote of him saying it's like an open casket funeral for the space age.

You were working on Tomorrowland at the time. Did that moment affect this film?

Absolutely, because both Damon and I had our own feelings, but we also looked at how many people around us stopped and were both really proud of the achievement that that represented and profoundly sad that it seemed to be over. Is it over? Are we not doing this anymore? And the fact that it affected people so similarly and so deeply felt like there was something real there that we could tap into too. You know what is this yearning? And it's, there was something sort of bittersweet about it.

Tomorrowland

My favorite shot in the movie is when Casey first explores Tomorrowland, it's almost like a one shot. I mean, it isn't a single shot, but how was that accomplished?

Not easily. With lots of planning. But the concept of it was that if you don't cut you're kind of experiencing it like we experience life. And if you load the frame with things that are a lot of interesting things, you understand her state of mind which is I would love to look at that, but if I spend too long looking at that, I'll miss seeing this thing over here. And I wanna see this, but oh my clock's running out. Maybe that means my time is limited. So can I go here? Can I what's there? What's that person saying? Oh my God she's going into outer space. You know. And being overloaded with it and then having it pulled away from her. We, the goal was to make the audience feel like Casey in being overwhelmed with this stuff and then suddenly having it taken away.

How was it accomplished?

Through pain and suffering. Pain plus suffering equals that.

Brad Bird Tomorrowland

I have one last quick important question: can you confirm that you're going to reprise your role as Edna Mode in Incredibles 2?

(laughs) I don't know. (chuckles) I don't wanna talk about what that is. I just wanna write in peace.

I know. I'm sorry to be one of those annoying bloggers to bug you about it, but I really an a huge fun of that film, and all of your work.

It's all right, thank you very much. Way to rock the shirt too. [Brad referencing Peter's Tomorrowland shirt from D23 Expo]