Brad Bird was at Comic-Con promoting The Incredibles along with one of the producers and a moderator. Brad Bird was fun to listen to as he riffed on the transition from going from the 2-D animation world to Pixar's version of 3-D animation. My favorite example of the difference between the two worlds was about blowing up planets. In 3-D animation, it's really easy to blow up a planet. Here is my approximation of this anecdote:
- Animators: "You want this robot to crash through and car to go everywhere?"
- Bird: "Yeah"
- Animators: "Okay. How many cars?"
- Bird: [answer]
- Animators: "Okay. What kind of damage do you want?"
- Bird: "A variety of damage."
- Animators: "Variety of damage? Okay, we can do that."
- Bird: "Alright, in this next scene I want him to grab his shirt and--"
- Animator 1: gasps "Does he know what he's asking for?"
- Animator 2: "Do we have a budget for that?"
Animators will go to a movie and yawn at the explosions, but if they see a shirt grab, they immediately go, "I must talk to that man who did that shirt grab." Bird learned to ration his shirt grabs, but he assured us that The Incredibles will have the best shirt grabs.
There was also a big difference in the time delays in doing 3-D animation. Even though everything is done somewhat in parallel, there's a huge gap before you start seeing anything. Bird felt that at meetings he was making "another 1000 decisions for the pit," but wouldn't see anything back, until all of a sudden there were a bunch of images streaming back.
Also, with computer-generated images, the minute you put in detail, it begins to demand more detail. You add in freckles, and then you have to add in eyebrows. And because you've added in eyebrows you have to put in nostrils, and because you put in nostrils, you need to do nose hair, and suddenly you end up with realistic, deformed people.
I found this anecdote interesting because it was Bird basically describing the Uncanny Valley, which I am so fond of finding examples of. This is Pixar's first venture into modeling humans, so they had to work hard to make sure that they're presentation would stay far to the left of the valley, which Bird did by finding the appropriate ways to simplify.
Someone had asked him, "so when are you going to do real movies?" To Bird, animated films have all the same elements. You have characters, staging, cutting. You have to deal with animators the same as you would actors. The animators want to be talked to in acting terms, emotions to express, not in technical computer terms.
Bird had kind things to say about John Lasseter, who threw himself between Bird and the "forces of mediocrity" and made sure that Bird's transition in Pixar went well. He's happy that Pixar isn't trying to play it safe and is doing stories that the directors feel passionate about. Lasseter is passionate about toys (his office is full of toys) as well as cars, which lead to both Toy Story and Cars. Bird was raising a family and ended up projecting those emotions into The Incredibles, which is a story he wanted to do prior Pixar.
Read on for some photos.