Best Wishes, Brad Bird

Yet again (see also here, here, and here) we have a letter from the offices of Pixar that further cements their reputation as being incredibly generous to fans, the gracious respondent this time being the great Brad Bird, director of The IncrediblesRatatouilleThe Iron Giant, and, most importantly, the music video for Do the Bartman in 1990. Further credit is due to Bird for his patiently answering, in detail, all of young Zack’s probing questions.

Incidentally, 1906 — the movie mentioned at the end of the letter — is apparently still in production. His first live action film turned out to be Mission: Impossible 4.

Transcript follows.

(Source: Anonymous; Image: Brad Bird, via.)



June 16th, 2009

[Address redacted]

Dear Zack,

I hope this letter finds you well. Thank you very much for your kind words. I’m so glad that you enjoyed RATATOUILLE, and it would be my pleasure to fill out your questionnaire. My answers to your questions are as follows:

Q: Do you have a favorite project that you’ve worked on in your career?

A: Every project that I have worked on has had its own unique challenges and rewards. I truly enjoyed working in television on FAMILY DOG, part of Steven Spielberg’s AMAZING STORIES series, my years on THE SIMPSONS, KING OF THE HILL, and others. I learned a lot during that time because we had move so quickly. I was forced to learn how to make decisions on the fly, a skill that helped me a great deal on IRON GIANT and RATATOUILLE.

While each project I’ve been a part of will always have a special place in my heart, my three films are the most special to me. Of these three, while I love them all, THE INCREDIBLES is probably the most special. It is a gumbo of all my favorite action-adventure, spy movies, TV shows, and comic books from my childhood, and it was also my first opportunity to work at Pixar. At this studio, the founders, John Lasseter, Ed Catmull, and Steve Jobs, granted me total creative freedom. They didn’t abdicate responsibility – they were watching what I did – but they were very good at encouraging me to try new things in a new way. If you were to list the ten most difficult things to do in CG, we did all of them and did a lot of all of them! Not only that, but we were able to do those things while telling a personal, family-based story that was important to me. As to your second question…

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your work with RATATOUILLE? (How the idea came about, how you became involved, etc.)

A: The idea originated with a man named Jan Pinkava, who was working on it the whole time I was making THE INCREDIBLES. Although I wasn’t initially drawn to the idea of making a movie about rats, I always loved it, but I never imagined I would end up directing it. Then, the studio ran into some trouble. Everybody loved the idea, the look of it, the cast of character types, and all the possibilities of the premise, but they were having difficulty getting the story to coalesce. So in 2005 John Lasseter, Ed Catmull and Steve Jobs asked me to take on the project; write a new script, and get it onto the big screen. My respect for these 3 amazing geniuses, who, through some fluke of nature happened to get together and build this amazing company motivated me to help them out in any way I could. I had agreed to the original schedule, and had few resources and even less time to complete this giant project. It was complete fear that drove me through it. I described it to somebody once as driving down the freeway in the wrong direction and just trying to stay alive. I was just trying to make a movie that made sense and fulfilled all the possibilities of Jan’s brilliant premise.

Q: What actor would you most want to be involved with one of your movies?

A: I very rarely write with a particular actor in mind. Sometimes someone’s voice creeps into my head, such as it did with Peter O’Toole in RATATOUILLE, and I start picturing them saying a line as I write it. But most of the time, I try to let myself be free when I am writing something, and when I am finished I ask myself who the best person for that part is. Pixar has a philosophy of trying to find the best voice for a character whether or not that person is famous. During THE INCREDIBLES, for example, we ran the gauntlet of having people that are very well known like Sam Jackson, Holly Hunter, Jason Lee and Craig T Nelson but we also had people like Brett Parker, one of our animators, do the voice of Kari the babysitter. It is more important to me that we get someone who is absolutely right for the character than name recognition.

Q: Any news you can give me on possible future projects of yours?

A: Right now I am working on a script for my first live action film project. The title of the movie is 1906, and it is based on the events that took place during the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of that year. It’s been a challenging process writing this story (there are so many interesting things going on in that place and that particular time period) We are currently looking at places to shoot, and I am very excited to get this project in full swing. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Thank you again for writing Zack. I hope I answered all of your questions. Per your request, I’ve also included a little something with this letter. I hope you enjoy it.

Best Wishes,

(Signed, ‘Brad Bird’)

Brad Bird