Since making his debut with 1999’s The Iron Giant, Brad Bird has become one of the most respected and revered figures within the animation world – with his work on a pair of popular Pixar projects, 2004’s The Incredibles and 2007’s Ratatouille, bringing him awfully close to household-name status.
Born to Animate:
Born in 1957 in Montana, Brad Bird has always possessed a passion for animation. He famously announced that he would someday become an animator for the Walt Disney Company while touring their facilities at the age of 11, and just a few years later, the budding filmmaker had completed a 15-minute, hand-drawn short – which he used to attract the attention of several well-known Disney animators (including one of the legendary Nine Old Men, Milt Kahl).
Brad’s Big Break:
After cutting his professional teeth on the 1980 television project Animalympics, Bird finally earned his place among Disney’s roster of behind-the-scenes talent and began work as an animator on their 1981 project The Fox and the Hound. His tenure with the fabled studio was short-lived, however, and Bird soon found himself searching for other opportunities in animation. He eventually landed a coveted gig working for Steven Spielberg on the anthology series Amazing Stories, where he came up with a well-received story revolving around the exploits of a quirky family dog (called, coincidentally enough, The Family Dog).
Brad Goes to Springfield:
It was around that time that Bird was asked to help transform The Simpsons from a series of one-minute shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show into a full-fledged animated sitcom, and the up-and-coming animator, who worked as an “executive consultant” for the show’s first eight seasons, was also tapped to direct a pair of episodes (including “Krusty Gets Busted,” which features Kelsey Grammer’s debut as Sideshow Bob). Bird continued to work steadily over the next several years, taking on behind-the-scenes gigs at shows like The Critic and King of the Hill, but it wouldn’t be long before he’d be tackling his biggest challenge yet.
Brad Goes to the Movies:
In 1999, Bird made his directorial debut with the well-received coming-of-age drama The Iron Giant. Though it wasn’t exactly a huge hit, the movie instantly established Bird as a promising newcomer in the feature-length animation world and it wasn’t long before other studios came calling. Bird eventually took his next idea, about a family with superpowers, to Pixar, where he went on to earn an Oscar for Best Animated Feature for his 2004 smash The Incredibles. The success of The Incredibles won Bird plenty of good will within the offices of Pixar, and in 2005 the filmmaker was asked to take over the production of an in-development project entitled Ratatouille. The movie, which was released two years later, quickly joined Pixar’s list of top-grossing earners, and also emerged victorious in the fight for Best Animated Feature against competitors Persepolis and Surf’s Up.
Brad Tries Live Action?:
For the past several years, Bird has been attempting to make his live-action debut with a story about the legendary 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The filmmaker has been unable to acquire the money – which is reportedly north of $200 million – to bring the epic tale to life, yet rumors have started cropping up that Bird will instead take the helm of the latest installment in Tom Cruise’s ongoing Mission Impossible series.