How many among us can say their childhood dream was realized? When he was 11, young Montanan Brad Bird visited Walt Disney Studios and declared he would join its animation team. After completing his first animation at 13 and working with legendary Disney animators as a hobby, Disney later awarded him with a scholarship to attend California Institute of the Arts. The rest is cinematic history, and to celebrate his birthday, here are some films he’s gifted us with.
‘The Iron Giant’ (1999)
This sweet story of friendship during the Cold War in 1957 focuses on a young boy named Hogarth (Eli Marienthal), and a giant robot (Vin Diesel) that Hogarth finds trying to eat power lines. Once they realize neither has hostile intent, they focus on the more challenging problem of keeping him hidden from the government agent searching for him. As he takes shelter in the local junkyard, the Giant’s softer side is revealed time and time again, whether it’s saving lives, learning about Superman, or processing the concept of death. But all good things, including hanging out with robot best friends and evading the government, must end. Or…do they?
‘The Incredibles’ (2004)
Before the Avengers were dealing with ramifications of tearing up cities in their quest to preserve civilization, there was this family of five living in Metroville. Since bystanders were suing, being a superhero is now outlawed—and the greatest superhero in Metroville, Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), now has to be known as…Bob. He’s selling insurance, although he dreams of going back to serving the public in big, splashy ways, as opposed to quietly helping individuals get their claims settled with his corrupt bosses. Unbeknownst to his wife Helen (Holly Hunter), he has been undergoing secret missions, until he realizes that he’s being played by a new super villain and they need to come save the day together.
Brad Bird figured out how to bridge the great divide between restaurants and rats with the help of Patton Oswalt as Remy, the rat who dreams of being a chef. He seizes the moment when he sees Alfredo Linguini (Lou Romano), a kitchen garbage boy, screwing up a pot of soup he spilled, and steps (Crawls? Scuttles?) in to fix all his mistakes. When it’s a huge hit with the restaurant patrons, they keep Linguini on as a trainee, and Remy takes up residence under Linguini’s toque. Together, through ups and downs and health code violations, they forge a friendship and a glowing review from a cynical food critic (Peter O’Toole).
‘Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol’ (2011)
Five years prior, Mission: Impossible III hit a critical low and what is now the second-lowest lifetime gross in the series. While still considered successful, if ever there was a time to jumpstart a franchise, 2011 would have been it, and Bird and the gang of beleaguered IMF agents delivered. Yet again, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team are disavowed (are they ever avowed?) after a bombing of the Kremlin that gets pinned on Hunt. There’s the usual amount of trickery and action in this film, but certain sequences like the tower in Dubai with Tom Cruise, whipping wind, and a pair of what appeared to be Nintendo Power Gloves were unforgettable.