Stallone Acts: Cop Land (1997, directed by James Mangold)


Garrison, New Jersey is a middle class suburb that is known as Cop Land.  Under the direction of Lt. Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel), several NYPD cops have made their home in Garrison, financing their homes with bribes that they received from mob boss Tony Torillo (Tony Sirico).  The corrupt cops of Garrison, New Jersey live, work, and play together, secure in the knowledge that they can do whatever they want because Donlan has handpicked the sheriff.

Sheriff Freddy Heflin (Sylvester Stallone) always dreamed of being a New York cop but, as the result of diving into icy waters to save a drowning girl, Freddy is now deaf in one ear.  Even though he knows that they are all corrupt, Freddy still idolizes cops like Donlan, especially when Donlan dangles the possibility of pulling a few strings and getting Freddy an NYPD job in front of him.  The overweight and quiet Freddy spends most of his time at the local bar, where he’s the subject of constant ribbing from the “real” cops.  Among the cops, Freddy’s only real friend appears to be disgraced narcotics detective, Gary Figgis (Ray Liotta).

After Donlan’s nephew, Murray Babitch (Michael Rapaport), kills two African-American teenagers and then fakes his own death to escape prosecution, Internal Affairs Lt. Moe Tilden (Robert De Niro) approaches Freddy and asks for his help in investigating the corrupt cops of Garrison.  At first, Freddy refuses but he is soon forced to reconsider.

After he became a star, the idea that Sylvester Stallone was a bad actor because so universally accepted that people forgot that, before he played Rocky and Rambo, Stallone was a busy and respectable character actor.  Though his range may have been limited and Stallone went through a period where he seemed to always pick the worst scripts available, Stallone was never as terrible as the critics often claimed.  In the 90s, when it became clear that both the Rocky and the Rambo films had temporarily run their course, Stallone attempted to reinvent his image.  Demolition Man showed that Stallone could laugh at himself and Cop Land was meant to show that Stallone could act.

For the most part, Stallone succeeded.  Though there are a few scenes where the movie does seem to be trying too hard to remind us that Freddy is not a typical action hero, this is still one of Sylvester Stallone’s best performances.  Stallone plays Freddy as a tired and beaten-down man who knows that he’s getting one final chance to prove himself.  It helps that Stallone’s surrounded by some of the best tough guy actors of the 90s.  Freddy’s awkwardness around the “real” cops is mirrored by how strange it initially is to see Stallone acting opposite actors like Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, and Ray Liotta.  Cop Land becomes not only about Freddy proving himself as a cop but Stallone proving himself as an actor.

The film itself is sometimes overstuffed.  Along with the corruption investigation and the search for Murray Babitch, there’s also a subplot about Freddy’s unrequited love for Liz Randone (Annabella Sciorra) and her husband’s (Peter Berg) affair with Donlan’s wife (Cathy Moriarty).  There’s enough plot here for a Scorsese epic and it’s more than Cop Land‘s 108-minute run time can handle.  Cop Land is at its best when it concentrates on Freddy and his attempt to prove to himself that he’s something more than everyone else believes.  The most effective scenes are the ones where Freddy quietly drinks at the local tavern, listening to Gary shoot his mouth off and stoically dealing with the taunts of the people that he’s supposed to police.  By the time that Freddy finally stands up for himself, both you and he have had enough of everyone talking down to him.  The film’s climax, in which a deafened Freddy battles the corrupt cops of Garrison, is an action classic.

Though the story centers on Stallone, Cop Land has got a huge ensemble cast.  While it’s hard to buy Janeane Garofalo as a rookie deputy, Ray Liotta and Robert Patrick almost steal the film as two very different cops.  Interestingly, many members of the cast would go on to appear on The Sopranos.  Along with Sirico, Sciorra, Patrick, and Garofalo, keep an eye out for Frank Vincent, Arthur Nascarella, Frank Pelligrino, John Ventimiglia, Garry Pastore,  and Edie Falco in small roles.

Cop Land was considered to be a box office disappointment when it was released and Stallone has said that the film’s failure convinced people that he was just an over-the-hill action star and that, for eight years after it was released, he couldn’t get anyone to take his phone calls.  At the time, Cop Land‘s mixed critical and box office reception was due to the high expectations for both the film and Stallone’s performance.  In hindsight, it’s clear that Cop Land was a flawed but worthy film and that Stallone’s performance remains one of his best.

 

Insomnia File #34: The Minus Man (dir by Hampton Fancher)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

Last night, if you were unable to sleep at one in the morning, you could have turned over to Starz and watched the 1999 film, The Minus Man!

The Minus Man is a strange little film about a rather odd man.  Vann (Owen Wilson) is a drifter.  He avoids questions about his past with the skill of someone who specializes in being whatever he needs to be at the moment.  When he rents a room from Doug and Jane Durwin (Brian Cox and Mercedes Ruehl), he tells them that he’s only drunk one beer over the course of his entire life, he always works, he always pays his rent on time, and that he’s never smoked “the dope.”  He says it so earnestly that it’s difficult to know whether you should take him seriously or not.  And yet, Vann is so likable and so charmingly spacey that you can’t help but understand why people automatically trust him.  Vann succeeds not because people believe him but because they want to believe him.

Vann’s new in town.  As he explains to a cop who pulls him over, he’s just interested in seeing the countryside.  From the minute that Vann shows up, he’s accepted by the community.  He goes to a high school football game and befriends the local star athlete (Eric Mabius).  He tries to help repair Doug and Jane’s marriage, which has been strained ever since the disappearance of their daughter.  With Doug’s aid, Vann gets a job at the post office and proves that he wasn’t lying when he said he was a hard worker.  Vann even pursues a tentative romance with the poignantly shy and insecure Ferrin (Janeane Garofalo).

In fact, it’s easy to imagine this film as being a sweet-natured dramedy where a drifter comes into town for the holidays and helps all of the townspeople deal with their problems.  However, from the first time we see him, we know that Vann has some issues.  As Detective Graves (Dennis Haysbert) puts it, Vann is a “cipher, a zero.”  There’s nothing underneath the pleasant surface.  Of course, Graves doesn’t really exist.  Neither does his partner, Detective Blair (Dwight Yoakam).  They’re two figments of Vann’s imagination.  They appear whenever Vann is doing something that he doesn’t want the world to find out about.

Whenever the urge hits him, Vann kills people.  When we first meet him, he’s picking up and subsequently murdering a heroin addict named Casper (Sheryl Crow).  Vann makes it a point to use poison because he says that it’s a painless death.  Vann also says that he’s doing his victims a favor, as he feels that the majority of them no longer want to live.  Vann is the type of killer who, after having committed his latest murder, sees nothing strange about volunteering to help search for the missing victim.

Like a lot of serial killer films, The Minus Man cheats by giving all of the best lines to the killer.  In real life, most serial killers are impotent, uneducated losers who usually end up getting caught as a result of their own stupidity.  In the movies, they’re always surprisingly loquacious and clever.  While Vann may not be a well-spoken as Hannibal Lecter, he’s still a lot more articulate than the majority of real-life serial killers.  As I watched the film, it bothered me that we didn’t really learn more about Vann’s victims.  (It would have been a far different film if someone had mentioned that Vann’s third, unnamed victim was “Randy, who was just having a bite to eat while shopping for a present for his little girl’s birthday.”)  Too often, The Minus Man seemed to be letting Vann off the hook in a way that a film like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer or even American Psycho never would.

That said, The Minus Man may be occasionally uneven but it’s still an intriguing and sometimes genuinely creepy film.  The Minus Man makes good use of Owen Wilson’s eccentric screen persona and Wilson gives a very good performance as a man who has become very skilled at hiding just how empty he actually is.  Much like everyone else in the film, you want to believe that there’s more to Vann than meets the eye because, as played by Wilson, he’s just so damn likable.  Over the course of the film, Vann and Doug develop this weird little bromance and, as good as Wilson is, Brian Cox’s performance is even more unsettling because we’re never quite sure what Doug may or may not be capable of doing.  Even Janeane Garofalo gives a touching and believable performance as a character who you find yourself sincerely hoping will not end up getting poisoned.

With all that in mind, I wouldn’t suggest watching this film if you’re trying to get over insomnia.  This is the type of unsettling film that will keep you awake and watching the shadows long after the final credits roll.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian

Film Review: Permanent Midnight (dir by David Veloz)


Meh.  Who cares?

That was largely my reaction to watching the 1998 film, Permanent Midnight.  In this film, Ben Stiller plays Jerry Stahl, a real-life screenwriter who had a fairly successful career going in the 80s and early 90s.  He came out to Los Angeles looking to be a serious writer but, instead, he ended up writing for silly puppet show and getting addicted to heroin.  He also married a British television executive named Sandra (Elizabeth Hurley), so that Sandra could get her green card.  When the star of a show that he writes for tells him to kick his habit or lose his job, Jerry ends up smoking crack cocaine with a new dealer (Peter Greene).  When Sandra tells him that she’s pregnant, Jerry responds by shooting up in the bedroom.  When he’s trusted to spend the day taking care of his baby daughter, he drives her around the seediest sections of Los Angeles while he searches for his drug dealer.  As the baby cries beside him, Jerry shoots heroin into his jugular.  Jerry ends up unemployable and abandoned by every friend that he had.  He works at a fast food restaurant, or at least he does until he meets another recovering addict (Maria Bello).  She’s the one to whom he tells his story, in between sex and bouts of impotence.  In the end, what’s left for Jerry Stahl to do but write a book and then a movie about his life as a junkie?

It’s a harrowing story and I guess Stahl deserves some credit for writing the screenplay for a movie that doesn’t exactly make him look good.  However, Permanent Midnight runs into the same problem that afflicts most movies about drug addiction.  With very few exceptions, drug addicts are just not that interesting.  The only thing more boring than watching someone shoot up is then having to listen to that person explain why he shoots up.  (Trainspotting is the obvious exception but Trainspotting benefits from Danny Boyle’s frenetic direction, Ewan McGregor’s explosively charismatic lead performance, a witty script, and a killer soundtrack.  These are things that Permanent Midnight lacks.)  The film attempts to build up some sympathy for Stahl by telling us about his difficult childhood, his father’s suicide, and his mother’s instability but, in the end, Jerry is a junkie who shoots up in front of his baby.  Regardless of how crappy his childhood was, it’s hard to care about whether or not he ever gets his shit together.  Mostly, you just want someone to step in and make sure he never gets near that baby again.

Permanent Midnight makes another mistake, one that is all too common when it comes to films about troubled artists.  It continually tells us that Jerry is a talented and important writer without ever showing us any evidence of that fact.  We’re supposed to feel bad that Jerry is stuck working on a sitcom called Mr. Chompers but, at no point, does the film really convince us that he deserves anything better.  Everyone says that Jerry is talented but we don’t really get to see any evidence of that fact.  It’s hard not to feel that maybe Jerry should just be happy that, unlike the majority of writers in Los Angeles, he actually has a steady job.

(Jerry does get one good line, when he appears on The Maury Povich Show to promote his book and says, “People always ask, ‘What’s the worst thing heroin drove you to do?’  I always answer, ‘showing up on Maury.'”)

Of course, for most people, the main appeal of seeing Permanent Midnight will be the chance to see Ben Stiller shooting up heroin while soaked in withdrawal sweat.  Stiller gives a serious performance, good enough that you regret that his acting career now seems to mostly consist of starring in bad movies and making cameos in even worse ones.  There’s actually a lot of familiar faces in Permanent Midnight: Elizabeth Hurley, Maria Bello, Fred Willard, Owen Wilson, Sandra Oh, Janeane Garofalo, Andy Dick, and others.  They all give good enough performance but ultimately, this is aimless and ultimately rather frustrating movie.

Brad Bird’s Interview at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival


Bird and Garofalo - Photo taken by L. Wilson.

Brad Bird and Janeane Garofalo have a sit down at the Tribeca Film Festival to discuss film, animation and the mediums in between.

This is going to be a long one, ladies and gents. My apologies if this becomes TL;DR material.

Here’s the short of it:

I was able to see Brad Bird speak at The Tribeca Film Festival. For the hour, he discussed the changes and challenges he faced with moving from animation to live action features. The audience was shown a set of clips – one from Ratatouille, one from Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and one from his latest film, Tomorrowland. Near the last half of the interview, Bird fielded questions from the audience. I had a great time.

And here’s the Interstellar 3-Hour Neverending Edition:

When I was a kid, there used to be this show on network television called Amazing Stories. Produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, it ran for about 2 years or so between 1985 and 1987. It was kind of like a cross between Darkroom, Tales From the Darkside, and The Twilight Zone. One of my favorite episodes was “The Family Dog”. The big push with The Family Dog was that it was produced by Tim Burton and the animation style was the basis for his future films The Corpse Bride, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Frankenweenie. I loved it. It was weird and funny, about a family that adopts a dog only to find that their house is robbed, with the dog inside and failing to stop the intruders. The dog is sent to a canine boarding school, where he’s reforged into a “white hot ball of canine terror” by Miss LeStrange (voiced by The Exorcist’s Mercedes McCambridge). There’s more to it, but after recording the show and watching it a zillion times, I paid attention to who wrote it.

And that’s how I started following Brad Bird.

Bird would later go on work on Batteries Not Included, and spent some time on the Simpsons before directing and writing The Iron Giant for Warner Brothers. While the movie wasn’t the commercial hit everyone hoped, it put Bird on Disney / Pixar’s radar, who brought him on to do both The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Pixar would end up adding Bird to their Brain Trust,   that includes Pete Docter, John Lassiter and Andrew Stanton. Bird’s big jump from Animation to Live Action would come with 2011’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Next month (as of this writing), he’ll release Tomorrowland, which he shared writing responsibilities with Prometheus / Lost writer Damon Lindelof.

Bird was on hand at the Tribeca Film Festival’s Director Series in an interview hosted by his Ratatouille star, Janeane Garofalo. I was able to attend this, and took as many notes as I could. Some of this may be a little sketchy, based off of both what I wrote & how I interpreted it, to which I apologize beforehand. Although we were able to use phones for pictures, we couldn’t record anything. Assume that most of the questions and answers here are somewhat paraphrased.  More than likely, you can find recaps of the interview at the Tribeca Film Festival website.

At first, Janeane was a little curious about what she should ask, opening the floor with her humor, which had everyone laughing.

Question – So you said something about a tour taken as a child?

Bird spoke about a tour he took of Disney Studios, back when he was about 11. He saw the Jungle Book as a kid and just loved it. He also realized that there were all of these cool jobs in animation. According to Bird, he owned an album with some of actor Jonathan Winter’s voiceover work and would listen to that as well. Though his parents who knew a composer at Disney, they were able to meet with Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. Both Ollie and Frank were two of the original animators responsible for most of the Disney Classics, known as the Nine Old Men. Unexpectedly, Bird went home and ended up creating a 15 minute film for the animators. After that, they were eager to mentor him.

Garafolo praised Bird on how he’s taken Narrative storytelling to another level but asked about technical challenges in Animation.

Bird noted that from a tech standpoint, The Incredibles was a harder film to create because the design abilities were just being born. An example of this is the wet hair textures after the plane crash sequence. At the time, that was one of the latest things that Pixar learned to do. By the time Ratatouille came along, there were a number of improves, which made things easier. Bird went on to say that “People think there’s an easy “Make Movie” button that will produce work.” However, if you want imperfections, the computers had to be taught this. In Ratatouille, Bird described how working on the floors, the lighting needed to have a variant because tiles may be higher or lower than others or have damages. The computer would normally smooth out the surface, but they had to reprogram the system to support natural flaws. A later question that came up dealt with focus, where Bird found that CGI Cameras can act like real cameras. When you normally focus on something small with a regular camera, the depth of field becomes small. The computer would assume that the director wanted a high Depth of Field throughout, but again, Bird and Pixar had to train the machines to un-learn that.

At one point, Janeane started a question and asked about different genres in Animation to which Brad replied “Animation is a medium, not a genre.” There was a bit of back and forth chuckling between them, and their chemistry is just cool.

“With the actors you choose, how much control do you have in that?” Bird’s response was along the lines of it all being about actor interest. He had to “woo” Peter O’Toole for Ratatouille. Some actors thing that voice acting is easy, but it can be difficult. What takes an actor 5 minutes to say may take an animator weeks to come up (with regards to facial animations and the like, I’m guessing). Patton Oswalt would say sometimes that he was beat after a run. My personal speculation on this is that with animating, sometimes re-recording needs to happen to get a phrase sound right. I could be off here, but that was my interpretation of the statement. The audience was presented with a clip from Ratatouille where Linguini is introduced to Collette for the first time.

Janeane apologized for her French here. There was a bit of laughter as Bird shared a story of how with Janeane, she didn’t seem to take praise very well. He would have to pretty much tell her she sucked to motivate her, even though she did good. The conversation then moved on to Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

Ghost Protocol happened as Bird was working on a pet project he called 1906, the adaptation of James Dalessandro’s novel on the events surrounding the San Francisco earthquake during that year. He was very animated in discussing 1906. It was a rich project, but there were some problems getting all of the elements Bird needed into the story at the time. He didn’t want to make it a life project (without working on anything else), so he paused to jump onto Ghost Protocol. The audience was then shown the Hallway sequence from the movie, where Simon Pegg and Tom Cruise mask their entrance into a room in the Kremlin. The scene picked up some chuckles from the Audience with Pegg’s “face in the camera” moment.

A question came up on whether he was hindered in any way, working on a big project like Ghost Protocol. Bird wasn’t really hindered, but what attracted him to the film was that the franchise was willing to let him accommodate his individual style. The Brian DePalma version of the first Mission Impossible was different from John Woo’s work on the 2nd and J.J. Abrams work on the 3rd film. Bird added that he was given the chance to do “five out of six things” he wanted to do in a spy movie. Both Cruise and Abrahams were behind Bird on the film and he felt protected by them. On Cruise in particular, he praised his work ethic, pointing out that it was easy to have him climb the Burj Khalifa in Dubai because he keeps himself fit for every film. Garofalo took a moment to reference the HBO Documentary “Going Clear” with a “LRH” remark. “We could go on about that all day.” She said, though they moved on to their next topic.

Before continuing, Bird made a quick gesture to the screen and pointed out to the audience that he and Cruise talked about some Silent classic films and comedies. These were part of the influence for that particular hallway scene.

Janeane brought up a question on the toll with working on a big film (after doing animated features). Bird’s response was that it was like being thrown in the deep end of a shark infested pool. He jumped to work with Cruise and Abrams, and it was a lot of fun. “Big canvas stuff”, were the words used.

Control on Post Production came up (in terms of how much he had). So far, so good, was the reply. Bird stood up, leaned down to the floor of the stage and knocked on it. “Knock on wood.” He said as he sat back down with a smile before adding that he only had to bark a few times, if any.

With that, we were given a sneak peek at Bird’s latest project, Tomorrowland. In checking online, I found that it was an expanded version of the one showcased at Disney’s D23 Event last year. Unfortunately, the clip we were shown isn’t online in any form (at least I can’t find it online), so I’ll have to explain it here:


   The scene opens with a young child sitting on a bus, holding quite a large bag. Screeching to a halt, the bus driver opens the door and announces the stop. The driver tells everyone to “enjoy the future”. As the patrons go to leave the bus, they’re suddenly blocked by the boy’s bag, which falls into the main aisle. The passengers give him some weird looks, but he smiles, apologizes and  scoops up the bag, making his way off of the bus.

We’re given his perspective, a behind the character shot that showcases that he’s at the entrance of a festival. At the bottom of the screen, a caption appears, informing the audience that we’re at the 1964 World’s Fair, held in Queens, New York. We’re given a wider shot and it’s very much like Disneyworld, it’s bustling with people walking around and enjoying themselves. We focus on one area, with a name like The Hall of Invention. The boy enters and plops his bag on top a table where we find David Nix (Hugh Laurie) staring at him with a look of annoyance on his face. Note that his name isn’t given to the audience and that I’ve pulled it from the Internet Movie Database.

The boy unzips the bag, explaining that he had to partly disassemble it (it looking a lot like a vacuum cleaner) for transportation. As Nix looks on, he asks the boy who he is and what the contraption is supposed to be. The boy introduces himself as Frank Walker and states with pride that the device is a jetpack. He goes on to say that he’s still working on it, and as he says this, we’re given a quick cut to him standing in an open field. Wearing the jetpack, he dons a pair of goggles, a flight helmet and we see two sets of controls by each hand. The look is pretty much the whole James Bond Thunderball look.

The shot cuts back to the boy standing at the table, who adds…”though it doesn’t quite exactly….”

We’re back at the field, and the kid clicks the power button. Instead of shooting straight up high into the air, he is vaulted forward, bounces and taken through some cornfields about a good hundred yards out. The first thing I thought of was The Rocketeer (also a Disney Production).

“…Fly.” The boy says, finishing his pitch.

“And what would this be used for?” Nix asks, looking from the machine to Walker.

“It would be fun.” Walker responds.

Nix shoots him down, stating that fun isn’t what anyone’s looking for. Clearly, he seems to already be looking at the idea of monetizing or weaponizing it.

“If someone walked up to me and showed me a jetpack, I’d think that would be pretty fun.” Walker says something to this effect. A young girl in a dress comes into view just off of Nix’s left, who’s been watching this play out. She approaches Walker and asks him a few questions that leave him at loss for answers, which the audience seemed to really enjoy. After the stammering on Walker’s part, Nix interrupts the girl (who we find is named Athena) and sends Walker on his way. The girl watches on.

We find Walker sitting on a bench outside, clutching his bag. People walk back and forth around him. To his right, we see Athena take a seat next him on the bench, but facing the other direction. They talk for a bit without looking at each other.

“Look over there, at your five o’clock.” She says. Walker looks ahead and to his left and then to his right, a little unsure. She looks at him as if he’s little crazy and gestures to her left. “Don’t know what 5 O’Clock is, it’s that way.” Which brings more audience response of chuckles. Looking in the direction she points out, she sees Nix pass by with someone else. Athena asks him to follow them, “but not too close”. She then proceeds to put something in his hand and leaves. Opening it, it reveals one of the Tomorrowland pins before fading to black and cutting to a scene where he’s in his garage, arguing with his father (played by Chris Bauer, True Blood’s Andy Bellefleur).

“But I can make it work! I can figure it out!” Frank says. His father asks him to let it go and stop tinkering with these silly notions. There seemed to be a divide between the theme of Frank’s optimism and his father’s point of view before we fade to black again and the lights come up.


The audience loved it. On Tomorrowland, Bird pointed out that he and Lindelof asked “Why did the Future change?” The attitude of the world was “We can figure it out.”, Which seems missing today. The magic of World’s Fairs are dispersed. Janeane shot back that are a number of people out there that are changing things and used Elon Musk as an example. Bird added that the Zeitgeist is doom and gloom, and any hope of a bright future is somewhat stemmed. People seem resigned that we’re going down. “You have to do things, to change things.”, He said. On a personal note, there appears to be a lot of Optimism in Tomorrowland, something that Bird seems to carry with him.

Syndrome from The Incredibles

Brad Bird took questions like Syndrome – “You! Up there in the back with the red hat! Your question, give it to me!!”

After all that, a few questions from the audience were given. This was fun, with Janeane started the picking and then Brad targeting the hands that flew up. It was like watching Syndome use his wrist lasers in The Incredibles. They included the following:

What was the Sixth Thing (for the 5 out of 6 things he was able to do in a spy film)?

“That would be giving up the idea.” Bird laughed. Most of the ideas are reusable somewhere else. He had a concept for an animated version of Will Eisner’s The Spirit, but some of the ideas for that feature ended up becoming part of The Iron Giant.

How do you handle lighting in Animation vs. Live Action?

– When dealing with lighting, it’s almost the same way. A shorthand of cinematographer’s work was used to build setups. I can kind of see where Bird is coming from there. If you look at How to Train Your Dragon 2, the cinematography there was assisted by Roger Deakins. Lighting’s just as important in animation as it is in any medium. It’s just teaching the computer to handle it or drawing from that (at least, that’s my thought on it all).

How different is TV Work from movies?

“If you slow down, you can get eaten alive.” Bird said. He used the I Love Lucy chocolate assembly line as a reference here, stating that he learned a great deal on his time with the Simpsons. TV forces one to make very quick decisions. Iron Giant’s budget was different from Ratatouille’s and there was room to build more from that.

On creating genuine peril:

Bird loved that Disney wasn’t afraid of creating general fear in children, citing Pinocchio’s donkey transformation as something that terrified him. If animation should do anything, it should try a “balls out horror movie”. Dead Space: Downfall came to mind, personally.

Ever consider doing a live action / animated feature (like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)

– Some of those work and can play together. Others come out pretty bad, like the Pagemaster. Bird wouldn’t be entirely opposed to doing one, but he didn’t appear to be too enthralled about it.

What are your processes for generating Ideas?

Here, Bird said that it’s different for each film. As an example, he wanted to do a film called “Ray Gun”. The idea came from a song he heard on the radio that he thought sounded like the Peter Gunn theme. Janeane smiled and caught the song right away – “Planet Claire” by the B52’s. Basically, it’s coming up with answers that entertain you.

With that, he and Janeane thanked the audience to tons of applause, and a bit of optimism. Below is the song that Bird was referencing: