Pixar's Brad Bird Talks French Food, Animated Rats And New Film 'Tomorrowland'

Pixar's Brad Bird Talks French Food, Animated Rats And New Film 'Tomorrowland'

10:10am Oct 01, 2015
Pixar's Brad Bird.
Pixar's Brad Bird.
Jason Carter Rinaldi / Getty Images for Disney

Some people were born knowing what they want to be when they grow up. Brad Bird, the mastermind behind Pixar's The Incredibles and Ratatouille was one of those kids. At age thirteen, Bird finished his first animated film, a remake of The Tortoise and the Hare that ends in a five-way tie. He told Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg, "My parents told me to send it to the [most famous] person and work my way down." Luckily for Bird, the most famous person ended up being Milt Kahl, a legendary animator at Disney, who took Bird under his wing (pun intended).

In 2011, Bird made a daring leap into live action films, helming the fourth installment of the Tom Cruise franchise Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Bird's latest project, Tomorrowland, is, like much of his work, intended for adults and children alike.

With all that he's done, it's easy to forget he played a key role in the early development of another animated institution, The Simpsons. Bird directed multiple episodes, and even designed the character of Sideshow Bob. For Bird's VIP game, we see how well he remembers the citizens of Springfield by subjecting him to a speed round about famous Simpsons catchphrases.

Interview highlights

On voicing Edna Mode from the Incredibles

"I was exceedingly cheap and available."

On Technology and the Film industry

It's very difficult nowadays because everyone has a device with which they can ruin your movie. They print things on paper so that nobody can copy them, but they also make them impossible to read when you're on the set.

Heard in Sketchfest 2015: Alex Borstein, Brad Bird and Dan Savage

This segment originally aired on April 9, 2015.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



Let's welcome to the stage the director and writer of the Pixar films "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille" and the upcoming Disney blockbuster "Tomorrowland," Brad Bird.


EISENBERG: Welcome, Brad.


EISENBERG: You seem to know what you wanted to do from the second you were born. I mean, at 14 you were mentored by Mitt Kahl?

BIRD: Milt Kahl.

EISENBERG: Oh, I'm sorry, Milt Kahl.

BIRD: Yeah, yeah. He's one of Disney's nine old men.

EISENBERG: Right, the core animators of Disney. So how did that meeting come about?

BIRD: Yeah, yeah. I had done a film that I started when I was 11, and I finished it when I was 13.


BIRD: And it was about 15 minutes long, and it was animated. I sent it in. My parents said start at the top and then work your way down. And that way, whoever says yes to giving you the time of day will be the best person you can get. So I went to Disney first, and luckily they said yes.

EISENBERG: What was it about?

BIRD: It was a version of "The Tortoise And The Hare," but it ends up in a five-way tie. So it's a little different.


BIRD: Yeah (laughter), yeah.

EISENBERG: Who were the other ones that get involved?


BIRD: Well, there's a bee. There's a horse.


BIRD: You're asking me to defend work I did when I was 13.


EISENBERG: No, I'm not defending. I'm fascinated. I'm fascinated. I think "The Incredibles" is basically the best animated film of all time. And not everyone knows that on top of writing and directing "The Incredibles," that you voiced the costume designer, Edna Mode.

BIRD: I did (laughter).


BIRD: I was exceedingly cheap and available.


EISENBERG: You were right there.

BIRD: Yeah.

EISENBERG: I mean, everyone loves that character so much. I'm sure that when they find that out, they come up to you and they're like, oh, my God. You did the voice of Edna Mode.

BIRD: (Imitating Edna Mode) I don't do the voice, darling, no.


BIRD: (Imitating Edna Mode) Never. I must be paid.


EISENBERG: Now we're all very excited about the upcoming film "Tomorrowland." And I don't like spoilers, of course, but what are you doing to spoiler-proof this project?

BIRD: You know, it's very difficult now-a-days because everyone has a device with which they can ruin your movie.


BIRD: They print things on red paper to make them so that nobody can copy them, but they also make them impossible to read when you're on the set. So you're like, you go over to the (intentionally unintelligible word).


BIRD: And then you (intentionally unintelligible word).


BIRD: You know? And it's like - so yes, it's - security is difficult.

EISENBERG: Have you had a problem in the past?

BIRD: I did "Mission: Impossible." One of the producers was J. J. Abrams, and he had actually had a project kind of blown out of the water because it got leaked too early. And then people critiqued the thought process of the movie before they'd even started making the movie. And it just, you know - so yeah. This stuff, you know - you have to take it seriously.

EISENBERG: And "Incredibles 2" is going to also happen?

BIRD: It's percolating.

EISENBERG: Percolating?

BIRD: Yeah (laughter), yeah. I mean, I'm just starting to write it, so we'll see what happens.


EISENBERG: Well, in the beginning, you were a creative consultant on "The Simpsons" for eight seasons.

BIRD: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Directed some classic episodes.

BIRD: "Krusty Gets Busted" was the first one I did, yeah.


BIRD: (Imitating Krusty the Clown) Hey.

EISENBERG: Perfect because we're going to see how well you remember the show.

BIRD: Oh, God.


BIRD: It was a long - it's been on for so - longer than I was on it, you know? Since I left it, it's been on like twice as long as I was on it.

EISENBERG: Brad, you're going to do fine. You're going to do fine.


EISENBERG: We've asked our puzzle guru Will Hines to dust off some of his "Simpsons" impressions and you have 60 seconds to identify them based on their catch phrase. If you get enough right, Katie Proctor of Hendersonville, N. C., will win an ASK ME ANOTHER anagram T-shirt.


BIRD: Wow.


WILL HINES, BYLINE: And to add to the stakes, Brad, I should say that I can't do impressions, so...


HINES: I'm just going to do the best I can and - good luck.

BIRD: Great.

HINES: (Imitating Homer Simpson) Mmm, doughnuts.

BIRD: Oh, come on. That's Homer.

HINES: (Imitating Bart Simpson) Ay, caramba.

BIRD: Bart.

HINES: (Imitating Ned Flanders) Okily Dokily.

BIRD: Ned Flanders.

HINES: (Imitating Comic Book Guy) Worst episode ever.

BIRD: Comic Book Guy.

HINES: (Imitating Krusty the Clown) Hey, hey kids.

BIRD: (Imitating Krusty the Clown) Krusty.

HINES: (Imitating Professor Frink) Glavin.

BIRD: Frink?

HINES: Yeah, I was trying to.

(Imitating Helen Lovejoy) Won't someone please think of the children?


HINES: (Imitating Helen Lovejoy) Won't someone please think of the children?

BIRD: It's a woman.


BIRD: Oh, Maude Flanders?

HINES: It's Helen Lovejoy.


HINES: I'm sure it's my fault.


HINES: (Imitating Nelson Muntz) Ha ha.

BIRD: Oh, Nelson.

HINES: Yeah.

(Imitating Duffman) Oh, yeah.

BIRD: Otto?

HINES: It should be, but more spokesmany.

BIRD: Troy McClure?

HINES: Duffman.


BIRD: That was a terrible Duffman.

HINES: I know. I know.

BIRD: (Laughter).


EISENBERG: Unfortunately, Will, we're out of time.


BIRD: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Did you want to give us your Duffman just so we have this?

BIRD: Oh, no, no. I'm just - I'm not saying I can do better.


BIRD: (Imitating Duffman) Duffman.

Isn't it more like that?

HINES: Yeah, yeah.



BIRD: I gave it a try.

EISENBERG: That was pretty damn good.

HINES: Hey, man, we all have things we can do. I mean, I edit Wikipedia pages about "Battlestar Galactica." You do your thing. It's good.


EISENBERG: Brad, you definitely got enough right that Katie Proctor is going to get her t-shirt.


EISENBERG: Thank you so much. Let's hear it one more time for Brad Bird.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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