Monday, February 06, 2006

Brad Bird is doing 'The Spirit' Animated Feature??

Probably Not.

Time Magazine recently reported that Brad Bird was eyeing an animated feature starring Will Eisner's Classic comic character "The Spirit." They don't know what their saying. True Bird had once tried to produce such a project, but right now a live action feature is in production somewhere else. Of course, if the people working on that had any brains, (You know who you are Jeff Loeb!!) they would hand it all over to Bird for the small fee of getting to clean his car once a week. Man! Brad Bird doing The Spirit is like Orson Welles doing the Batman!! A Sweet and painful Pipe Dream!! Here's part of a great interview with Bird that Time must have read. click on the link for the whole story! From .htm

Barrier: I've been astonished by how precise the parallels have been that some people have drawn between the film and certain superhero comic books, like Powers, Watchmen, and Fantastic Four. I gather from other interviews, though, that you really haven't been that much of a comic-book reader, and really haven't been consciously influenced by these comic books. What kind of feedback have you been getting from fans about these supposed influences, and how have you been responding?

Bird: I was not a big comic-book reader. I read a few, when I was little, but I was really much more into things like "Peanuts" and "B.C."—funny strips. I got my heroes secondhand, from television and movies, to a certain extent. When fans ask if I was influenced by issue 47 of Whoeverman, I have no idea what they're talking about. I'm perfectly willing to believe that I'm not the first to come up with certain ideas involving superheroes; it's probably the most well-trod turf on the planet. If there are similarities, it's simply because the same thoughts that occurred to other people also occurred to me. I'd be astonished if anyone could come up with any truly original powers that were at all interesting any more. That's not the part of the story that I'm interested in, anyway. The part that I'm interested in is all the personal stuff. I tried to base the powers on family archetypes. The father is always expected to be strong, so I had him have strength. Moms are always pulled in a million different directions, so I had her be elastic. Teenagers are insecure and defensive, so I had her be invisible and have protective shields. Ten-year-old boys are hyperactive energy balls, so I had him be speed. And babies are unknown—they may have great powers, they may have none.

Barrier: Since the film has come out, and you've heard these comic books invoked, have you read any of them?

Bird: No, I haven't. I'm only now catching up on movies that have come out. I have three kids and a wife, and any moments that aren't dedicated to working on this film in some way, or family, are immediately reserved for sleep. I'm now in a rush to see all these other films that came out this year. I even mentioned on the Dennis Miller show that I met Annette Bening last week, and I told her I thought she was great in Finding Julia—and then I went, "No, no, no! Being Julia, Finding Neverland. It's confusing because I'm gulping them down too fast now. And it's not only films, I'm pretty unaware of anything that's going on in popular culture right now. I'm behind on books, I don't know what's happening in music—I had the Grammies on the other night and I'd only heard a couple of the songs before. I've got to play catchup now. Don't' get me wrong—I'm interested, but the pile of stuff I have to look at is just ungodly.

Barrier: Had you even heard of Powers before?

Bird: No, no. I've heard of Watchmen. Other people have mentioned that aspects of it are similar to Incredibles, I think something about the superheroes being retired. I know it's very highly regarded; if you're going to be compared to something, it's nice if it's something good

Barrier: You mentioned "The Spirit," and I wanted to ask you about Will Eisner.

Bird: "The Spirit" is only comic-book crime fighter I would say I know well. I got interested in that because I was interested in movies. I read an interview somewhere with a film director that I liked [who] talked about "The Spirit" being "cinematic." So I started to read it, and I thought, wow! It was cinematic. I loved the angles, the use of shadow, and the fact that its characters were expressive; they didn't have the rigid facial expressions normally associated with superhero comics. It was kind of cartoony, especially in the years 1946, '47, '48. Eisner also had all the draftsmanship chops. They were like short stories; often the Spirit only came in at the beginning or the end. I liked that; I felt like it was weird and unpredictable and interesting. So I got all the reprints of "The Spirit" I could lay my hands on.

Barrier: You said you'd tried to develop a feature of "The Spirit" some time ago and couldn't make it fly. Is that the sort of thing that would be conceivable now that The Incredibles has broken the ground for it?

Bird: I don't know. I think they're developing a live-action version of "The Spirit." For me, it almost seems like it's past. I blew a lot of energy and time on it, and I kind of think in my mind it should always be a hand-drawn thing, and right now, Hollywood idiocy being what it is, that's considered the kiss of death. I don't think you could get any money for a big animated feature if you insisted on it being hand-drawn. For whatever reasons, people perceive CG as being the magic thing that will turn any bad idea good. Maybe five years from now they'll realize that any medium is fine if the characters draw you in and the story is well told. But right now, I think it's probably very difficult to find financing for an ambitious hand-drawn film. You can probably get a movie based on a TV show and up the per-minute cost a little bit from the average episode. Hand-drawn features that are based on TV shows can happen, but they already have their audience locked in.

Barrier: Having worked in CG, could you return to hand-drawn animation yourself now, without feeling a dislocation?

Bird: I could absolutely do a hand-drawn film. That said, there are certain things about working in CG that I do truly prefer. I love the minute control over facial animation, whereas in hand-drawn, once you get down to the width of a pencil line between drawings it's very difficult to control, because the line itself becomes more active than any movement it's supposed to represent. And I love being able to move the camera in space. That said, there is a look, and a tactile feel, to hand-drawn that computer just can't replicate—computer has its own thing, and it's a wonderful medium, and I would love to do other things with that medium, but hand-drawn is also something that you can't get any other way… so I hate to see it abandoned. Just as I don't wish to see Nick Park abandon clay animation, until he wants to abandon clay. I love "Wallace and Gromit" just the way it is, and I look forward to any stop motion that Henry Selick wants to do. Stop motion is probably the closest thing to CG that there is, and yet it doesn't look the same. It has its own feel, a little more "touchy." I think in the future, people will be combining these things in all sorts of weird ways. If you look at some of the student films that are being done now, they're combining hand-drawn elements with computer with stop motion with clay, and they're all being put on the screen at once. I think that's fascinating, and we're only at the beginning of it. There have been very clear delineations between the arts, and I think those lines are going to be crossed and disappear.

Will Eisner, RIP (1917-2005)

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