I don’t want to turn this blog into a clip aggregator (more than it already is, I mean), but I had to spotlight this one: Brad Bird received the Annie Awards’ Winsor McCay award for lifetime achievement in animation, and his acceptance speech, starting at 4:30, is a rare case of a speech that is actually better because the winner couldn’t deliver it in person. You’ll see what I mean if you watch to the end.
The first part of the video is good too, since it includes highlights from Bird’s career, and confirms that he’s perhaps the most important figure in modern commercial, for-profit animation — almost everything he does turns out good, for one thing. For another thing he’s repeatedly found a way to bring the values of classic animation to media that didn’t always seem to have time for them: first he helped The Simpsons do characterful animation and visually-interesting storytelling on a TV budget, also animating many of Krusty the Klown’s scenes himself because he loved the character so much. Then he helped get rid of a lot of the stiffness that plagued (and to some extent still plagues, if he’s not directing) Pixar’s animation of humans. And he was in control of his three features to an almost unprecedented extent: big-studio animated features are usually committee things where the personality of the studio is clearer than the personality of the director, but Bird’s movies are Brad Bird films as much as those of any live-action writer-director.
He can joke about it, but one reason a lot of people are disappointed in his decision to switch to live action is the fear that if he doesn’t come back to animation, there’s no one quite as good to take his place. Hopefully he’ll come back eventually.