Brad Bird, Ratatouille, and the art of directing animation.

The joy of blockbusters.
June 28 2007 3:32 PM

Brad Bird, Animation Auteur

How the director of Ratatouille became the Stanley Kubrick of animation.

Click here to launch a slide show.

Click the launch module to the left for a video slide show on the secrets of Brad Bird, animation auteur.

Quick, name the guy who directed Shrek the Third. How about the co- directors of best picture nominee Beauty and the Beast? * The mastermind behind the animation in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (No, it's not Robert Zemeckis.)

Advertisement

You shouldn't be ashamed if you just went 0 for 3. Ever since Mickey Mouse started whistling, animation has been ghettoized as a children's medium and its practitioners condemned to anonymity. Sure, you know Walt Disney, but that's because he was smart enough to scrawl his name on the company letterhead. Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, and Matt Groening made it big with animated shorts. Ralph Bakshi got some cult fame for ginning up cult cartoons like Fritz the Cat. But what about the poor, faceless animation-feature director? For nearly a century he's been the most anonymous player in mainstream film.

With the rise of Pixar, that's started to change. You might have heard of John Lasseter, the man who directed Toy Story and Cars. The studio's other star is Brad Bird, the writer and director of both The Incredibles and the new rat-in-the-kitchen comedy, Ratatouille. Before he started dabbling in CGI, Bird worked as an animator at Disney, directed episodes of The Simpsons, and helmed the critically praised feature film The Iron Giant. Even as he's flitted from studio to studio and from style to style, Bird has built a reputation inside and outside the industry as an animation virtuoso. Through his screenwriting, his cinematography, his willingness to experiment, and the force of his personality, Bird has shown that an animation director is much more than just a cog in a cartoon factory.

Click here for a video slide show on the secrets of Brad Bird, animation auteur.

Correction, June 28, 2007: This piece originally stated that The Little Mermaid was nominated for best picture. The sentence should have referred to Beauty and the Beast. (Return  to the corrected sentence.)

Josh Levin is Slate's executive editor.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 18 2014 6:00 AM All Shook Up My 11-year-old has been exploring herself with my “back massager.” Should I stop her?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?