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Brad Bird On How Feature Animation Requires More Believable Characters Than Shorts

Brad Bird has always been a huge advocate of animation. To him, animation is just a medium for storytelling, and in no way should be indicative of the audience for the story. If you look at his animated films, in many ways, they are the more mature aspects of feature film animation in America — at least without resorting to strictly being an adult animation comedy (á la South Park or Family Guy).

The Iron Giant tackled the very real threat of nuclear war, Ratatouille had genuine adult romantic relationships woven in, and The Incredibles is just a solid and intricate story about a family. While classics, there are some that could fault his films for not being as funny or goofy as other contemporary films, and I think that has everything to do with his overall philosophy.

RELATED – Brad Bird On Saving Ratatouille: ‘It Was…A Beautiful Car That Was Somehow Not Driveable’

Just because something is a cartoon doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be cartoony. He discussed this point in a recent interview with the Animation Art Conservation and made a comparison to old Looney Tunes cartoons.

“People criticize feature animation for being too literal or not cartoony enough. But that comes with the territory [when you make a feature film]. If you watch a great Bugs Bunny short, it’s an exhilarating thing. You wouldn’t change it. It’s perfectly calibrated for seven minutes. But if you watch two hours of Bugs Bunny cartoons in a row and you’re not just an animation fanatic, if you’re let’s say a normal person, you get tired after a while. Your eyes get tired. You start to become desensitized to the pace and the chaos and all of that. And, you stop being a good audience for all this amazing stuff.

“Believe me, I love animation. I’ve sat through the Warner Bros. [Looney Tunes] collections long before they were available on home video. If somebody would run two hours of Warner Bros. cartoons non-stop, I hated the fact that I got worn out. But I did. A movie audience did, too. They did not laugh in hour two the way they did in the first half of hour one. That’s because the films are calibrated for what they are – seven minutes in length.

“When you go to a feature length, you have other things you need to give to the audience. They have to start believing in the characters more. There has to be a suggestion of a life outside of what you’ve been seeing. Outside of the setup for a gag. Now, I would never say “never.” There is probably some perfect Airplane-type animation movie that has not been made where it never gets serious. It never gets emotional. Look at how many live action comedies have come out and how many of them fail. There are only a handful of films like Airplane that manage to sustain their comedy and their sincerity for an hour and a half and keep the audience with them. It’s a very tough thing to pull off.”

After all his features he’s sent to the big screen (most of which have received critical acclaim, except for Tomorrowland), it’s hard to argue with the fact that the guy knows what he’s talking about.

But what do you think of his comments? Do you agree, or do films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Space Jam prove otherwise? Let us know down below!

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SOURCE: Animation Art Conservation

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