Kalispell native is the superhero behind "The Incredibles"

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Brad Bird, creator of the latest Pixar film, "The Incredibles," poses in Santa Monica, Calif. Bird, formerly with "The Simpsons," broke from the world of traditional ink-and-paint animation to make this computerized story about a dysfunctional family of superheroes.

In a story in the Nov. 3 edition of USA Today, "The Incredibles" writer and director Brad Bird is noted as being "uncomfortable" when asked to state his birthplace.

But Bird, who was born in Kalispell, was eager to speak about his Montana connections with the Daily Inter Lake, though as the creative force behind last week's No. 1 movie, his time is coveted.

"I want to come back, I love it there," he said of Montana. "I have a couple of film projects in mind; both would take place in Montana."

Bird, 48, hasn't been in the state since his father died about 10 years ago. He moved to Oregon before he began school, but has strong memories of the Flathead Valley from many childhood summers at his family's Bird Point home, on the south end of Flathead Lake.

Bird's family name is well known in Montana; his grandfather was Frank W. Bird, one of the first presidents and a past chief executive officer of Montana Power. His aunt Virginia Bird MacDonald still lives in Polson.

He began his animation career at age 11, when he started work on a film that gained notice from the Disney studios. At age 14, he was mentored by Milt Kahl, one of Disney's legendary animators, and later received a scholarship to the California Institute of the Arts. Bird eventually worked as an animator at Disney and other studios.

He was an executive consultant on the animated television series "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill," directed some "Simpsons" episodes and wrote the live-action feature "*batteries not included."

His big-screen directing debut came with "The Iron Giant," a 1999 animated feature that, despite its poor showing at the box office, received the kind of critical acclaim now being heaped on "The Incredibles."

"The Iron Giant," which tells the story of a friendship between 9-year-old Hogarth and a giant metal machine that fell to Earth in 1950s Maine, will be released on Nov. 16 in a special-edition DVD.

Those wanting to see Bird on camera can choose among a number of DVD extras, including Bird's introduction of eight new scenes and "The Voice of the Giant," featuring Bird and actor Vin Diesel.

Through his work on everything from "The Simpsons" to "The Iron Giant," Bird has been lauded for his abilities as a storyteller.

In his review of "The Iron Giant," Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "It works as a lot of animation does, to make you forget from time to time that these are moving drawings, because the story and characters are so compelling."

"I've rebelled against animation being for kids," Bird told the Inter Lake. "In the past there were either top product values and a dull story, or a smart story and low product. Recently, the two have combined."

Bird is modest about his work on "The Incredibles." He said, compared to the creative talent at Pixar, he's new to the computer-animation game.

"There are so many high-quality people there," he said. "You're benefiting from that knowledge and wisdom."

Though "The Incredibles" is the first PG-rated film from Disney/Pixar (for action violence), Bird said "get above the age of 7 and kids will have a blast."

The film appealed to his three sons, who range from 10 to 16.

"All three think it ['The Incredibles'] rocks," he said. "They were on the edge of their seats. The dad stock just went up."

Bird began a world publicity tour for "The Incredibles" on Nov. 5 that includes Italy, Australia and Japan, with his family joining him for Thanksgiving in Australia.

But even after his extensive travels, Bird still has a soft spot for his home state.

"Montana is on my mind," he said. "I think Montanans are a blast to hang out with."

Reporter Heidi Gaiser may be reached at 758-4431 or by e-mail at hgaiser@dailyinterlake.com

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