On Tuesday, October 30th, Ben Williams and Josh Dreuth of Blu-ray.com were given the opportunity to sit down with Brad Bird, Director of the acclaimed Pixar films Ratatouille and The Incredibles, at the Blu-ray Festival in Los Angeles. Mr. Bird spoke openly about his impressions of Blu-ray technology, his experiences within the animation industry as well as his latest project.
Brad Bird speaks to Blu-ray.com, October 30, 2007
Below is the complete transcript of the interview:
Ben Williams (BW): Congratulations on Ratatouille - - it's still breaking records all over the world.
Brad Bird (BB): It just keeps on cookin'. We're really happy about that. We thought it might be a little more esoteric being what it is and, uh, but, Disney always anticipated that it would play well overseas because of the enjoyment of food and sort of slowing down and enjoying food is more of an older world way of looking at things. I actually think we could learn a lot from it. But Cars was always seen as being more domestic - - a sort of American thing and Rat is always seen as being more international. So, that part of it wasn't a surprise, you know, how well it's doing and how it just keeps on going is quite a surprise and we're really happy about that.
BW: Have you been doing a lot of work with developing Blu-ray content lately?
BB: No, we're just kind of starting that. I've been looking at it and it's amazing, it is truly amazing and I was totally blown away by the quality of the image. You know, I was just mentioning to somebody that we had it up on a screen - - not quite as big as that wall - - maybe two thirds the size of that wall - - and I had a tough time telling it from the 2k (master).
BB: Yeah… it was just Rick Sayre and everybody did an amazing job with it. He's one of these guys who really drives people nuts. If anybody tries to do the shortcuts that a lot of people do - - edge enhancement and stuff like that - - he comes down on them like a ton of bricks. Which makes the process more grueling, but the proof is in the pudding. He did The Incredibles and I was so impressed by the DVDs, that even though he didn't work on Rat, I said, can you come on in and do the Rat on Blu-ray? He was all over it.
BW: Was Rat a case of you starting on work for the DVD and Blu-ray at the time production began?
BB: Well, definitely it's not like the first time anybody has done this, of course. This was a slightly different process for me because I was entering this movie late, so I had to kind of open it up and let other people handle it. I looked at the stuff and I made my comments, but I couldn't drive it as much as I did on Incredibles. That said, I'm really happy with the extra material on it. It's along the lines of Incredibles in that it's meant to candidly go in some directions other than what sounds like a bit of a puff piece. So, there's really a variety of strange little things that we do that most people wouldn't even think about. You know, there's one called “Tiny Rat Cameramen” that's taken from how I tried to describe to the people doing the camera, where the camera is what the feel of it should be - - almost as if we were filming a movie and there was a cameraman who was a rat.
BW: A Rat point of view?
BB: Yeah, yeah, right… like there's a steadycam running around. So, what does that mean and what is the visual quality of that? So, that's just one little thing that's included. You've seen the list of things that are on the Blu-ray and there's, like, a lot... and that's just one. And, I'm especially happy, and this is true of the Blu-ray and the DVD, that we got into some 2D animation. Jim Capobianco, who did the screen story with Jan Pincava and I, had this idea for a short talking about the history of the rat. But we wanted to do it in like an old-school Disney circa 1950s, 60s style. You know, very stylized, very limited kind of animation, very graphic. Once word got out that he was doing that in the studio, even though everybody was really working hard, people just flocked to it ‘cause there's all these closet hand-drawn animators, guys that love hand drawn. They're happy doing CG, but this was a chance for them to exercise some old muscles and they just flew to the project and it became this labor of love.
BW: Is hand drawn your first love?
BB: Yeah. Well, I like both of them, having done two movies now in CG, there are many aspects to CG that I really like and if I did hand-drawn, I would miss these aspects. There's a iterative process in how you approach animation, meaning that you can lay something out, look at it, and then adjust. You know what I mean? Like, bring up the elbow a little bit or delay this a little more? And it's fairly easy to do that (in CG). But, there's a graphic quality that hand-drawn has, an ability to push things that don't make logical sense, that make, sort of, visual sense that is a little more intuitive. I love that too. I'm not somebody who feels that one is superior to the other. They are both their own thing, just like I don't feel that photography is better than painting.
BW: Each is its own art form.
BB: Yes! And I think that Nick Park, working with clay, god bless him, when he is interested in CG, I'll be interested in what he does. I think its awesome that he wants to keep working with clay because I don't think it looks like anything else. It's a subtle difference, it is 3D, it exists in space and it shares many qualities with CG, but it doesn't look like CG because it has a tactile feel to it that is unique to itself and I love it and wouldn't want him to change a frame of it! I hope we're moving towards a time when all kinds of animation are considered A-OK, when you aren't, you know, discouraged from doing anything that's not CG. There was a period there, and thankfully I think we are moving away from it. I think one of the most encouraging signs to send is that when we merged with Disney and John (Lasseter) became in charge of all animation that one of the first things he did was bring back hand-drawn. They had already gotten rid of the desks and it was like, this is Disney man, you can't get rid of the desks! There is nothing wrong with hand-drawn animation, it is just, you know - - tell good stories and you are A-OK.
BW: So, what's next for you?
BB: What's next? Well, I started on a live-action film right before I got asked to take on Ratatouille and I'm going to return to that. It's a historical-based sort of thing. I'm not really prepared to talk about it, but it's really cool! It's going to be crazy. So, that's what I'm on now and it's a big, complicated kind of thing. I always seem to kind of be throwing myself off the deep end - - jumping out of a plane and trying to figure out a parachute before I hit the ground.
I can't wait til Tuesday to get Cars, The Disney/Pixar Short Films Collection, and of course Ratatouille. The Incredibles is going to look incredible when that is finally released as well. This was a great article written about a great talent.