I think it goes without saying that it’s not easy working on any film, let alone a $100 million-plus film. Add in the extra complexities that animated movies bring to the table, and you have a job that’s fit for multiple directors. At big animation studios like Disney or Pixar, they tend to circumvent this by giving a film co-directors — sometimes one main director, and one co-director, to be more specific, though sometimes the directors do have equal standing.
For example, Pixar’s recent Coco had Lee Unkrich as the director and Adrian Molina as co-director. This serves the purpose of distributing responsibilities, but perhaps more importantly, it seems to be a form of mentorship to help ensure that the long-term future of the studio is secure. The last thing you want is for a handful of oldies hogging the directorial duties, and for the studio to fall apart after their eventual passing.
All the same, there is one director who has remained solo: Incredibles 2 director Brad Bird. LRM had a chance to join a press day a Pixar last April, and while there, we attended a press conference, where Bird discussed why he works alone.
“Some people have said, why am I the only Pixar director that works alone? Everyone else, there are a million different ways to make a film and one of the great things about this company is that it allows for that and accommodates that. But I always look at the other filmmakers and I go, “Why would you give up any part of this movie? Why would you give that up? Why would you give it to someone else to do?” And they just wave at me, like “shut up.” You know? So that’s the best way to end, just tell me to shut up.”
Of course, it’s not only with the broad vision that Bird likes to have control. He’s very much a hands-on director who likes to get his hands dirty.
“I’m heavily into choreographing the shots, and I have very strong opinions. That said, I try to create an atmosphere where I will get the shot that I want, but if somebody comes up with an alternate shot that they think would be cool, they can persuade me. But I’m not one of these people who goes, “You’re good at figuring out action sequences; go figure it out.” I’m elbows in. I have very strong opinions about how I like to see things staged. I mean, ask Google.”
From a film fan’s point of view, I always love strong perspectives like this, as they really help to give the film a real fingerprint — like it’s a piece of the director. In a world where these movies tend to be bigger and more expensive than ever before, filmmakers like that are rare, so it’s nice to see that even in a collaborative place like Pixar there is room for filmmakers to have real control of their vision.
Incredibles 2 hits theaters on June 15, 2018.