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Brad Bird offers update on the disaster movie, “1906”

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With “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” Brad Bird has proven that he’s got what it takes to be a great live-action filmmaker. The director best known for his work on “The Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille” wowed audiences with his installment of the “Mission: Impossible” saga that was released last year, and has said in interviews that he plans to continue making live action movies.

It would make sense that Bird would next go on to make his long-planned San Francisco earthquake movie “1906,” but it turns out that’s not the case. IFC had the chance to catch up with Bird while he was promoting the Los Angeles Animation Festival’s charity screening of “The Iron Giant,” and he shared that “1906” is no closer to making its way to the big screen than it ever was.

The problem, he explained, never had anything to do with his lack of a live action resume. Instead, it is with his struggle to gather all the strands of “1906’s” story together into one feature-length script that has caused Bird the most problems in adapting it.

“If there were any doubts that I could handle a live action film, I think those have eased. But it doesn’t make solving the story challenges [of that film] any easier,” Bird explained. “I mean, that’s really what’s so far kept it from moving forward, is that it’s just an incredibly challenging story to pull together.”

“1906” is based on the best-selling novel of the same name that was written by James Dalessandro. It examines the corruption in the San Francisco government before and during the 1906 earthquake that shook the city. There are many different storylines woven together to craft the larger picture that is “1906,” and it doesn’t help that the story is set against one of the most famous natural disasters in American history.

“I mean, in a movie like ‘Titanic,’ there’s a certain amount of healthy limitation in the fact that it’s one ship in the middle of the ocean,” Bird said. “With ‘1906,’ it’s a city, and it becomes exponentially harder to sort of reign in the storylines and take advantage of all the amazing things that were happening in this place at that particular moment in time. The script and the story is what’s elusive on ‘1906’ more than it is any hesitations with me as a filmmaker.”

Bird has often said that it would be much easier to adapt the story as a mini-series instead of a film but, as he told us, “I want to be on the big screen.” And even in the sequel-happy world that we now live in, “1906” wouldn’t really work as a feature film series because it centers around the earthquake.

“I don’t think you can really do a ‘1906 Part 2: The Rebuilding,'” Bird said with a laugh. “If you’re going to deal with the earthquake, you have to deal with it in the movie, and I just think the audience would just hate you if you led up to the earthquake and then didn’t have it in the first film. And I think after the earthquake and after all of that is over, it sort of becomes a slower film about rebuilding a city, which is maybe good, but I think it would be a tough thing to plan for.”

So it sounds like the rumor suggesting that “1906” would come out this year is only a bit of wishful fantasy. But Bird hasn’t written the adaptation off just yet.

“I’ve got to find a way to do it in a movie length and that’s what’s been challenging, is trying to pull the story in enough to fit into a movie, and yet take advantage of all the unbelievable rich and diverse stories at that particular place at that moment in time,” he said. “You never know. We may get it figured out yet.”

Would you rather see “1906” as a feature film or a miniseries? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Trump Funny or Die

Art of the Spoof

Watch Johnny Depp, Jack McBrayer, Patton Oswalt and More in Funny or Die’s Donald Trump Biopic

Johnny Depp just got very classy.

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Photo Credit: Funny or Die

We’re barely halfway through February, but this year’s Too Many Cooks Award for the most bizarre comedy project is already a lock. Blindsiding the world with greatness without any warning, Funny or Die released a 50-minute Donald Trump parody starring an unrecognizable Johnny Depp as Donny.

Ron Howard introduces this “lost” 1988 TV movie adaptation of Trump’s how-to manual The Art of the Deal produced with the retro quality of a Wendy’s training video. Along for the big hair and shoulder pads flashback are Patton Oswalt, Alfred Molina, Todd Margaret‘s Jack McBrayer, Andy Richter, Rob Huebel, Jason Mantzoukas, Paul Scheer, and Michaela Watkins as Ivana — as well as many Reagan-era surprises like a cameo from that loveable cat eater ALF and a theme song by Kenny Loggins.

Much like Eric Jonrosh of The Spoils Before Dying and The Spoils of Babylon fame, “Trump” writes, directs, and narrates his own epic tale of real estate wheelings-and-dealings. Check out the trailer below, and head over to Funny or Die to watch the full Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal movie before the real Donald sics his army of lawyers on Will Ferrell and company. (For more bizarro Johnny Depp characters, be sure to catch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this month on IFC.)

Brad Bird is “gratified” by the continued popularity of “The Iron Giant”

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been 13 years since “The Iron Giant” first charmed audiences in theaters. The movie launched the career of beloved filmmaker Brad Bird, who has gone on to write and direct such projects as “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille,” as well as helm last year’s “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” (his first live action feature).

“The Iron Giant” is being honored with a charity screening tomorrow at the Los Angeles Animation Festival, and Bird and actors Christopher McDonald and Eli Marienthal are expected to be in attendance. IFC had the chance to catch up with Bird in anticipation of the screening to talk to him about “The Iron Giant” more than a decade after it was first released.

IFC: You must be excited about “The Iron Giant” screening tomorrow night at the Animation Festival.

BRAD BIRD: It’s so awesome getting an opportunity to see it again on a large screen with an audience.

IFC: Did you expect that this film would be as popular now as it was when it came out?

BIRD: That’s what you hope for. You want these things to last. I think all of us who made it are gratified that it has.

IFC: Vin Diesel did the voice for the Iron Giant in his pre-“Fast and the Furious” and “Riddick” days. Do you guys still talk?

BIRD: No, I haven’t talked to him in a long time, but I’m happy that he’s gotten the great career that he has, because I got along great with him, and he was very easy and good to work with.

IFC: How was the casting process different for this film than it was for, say, a live action film?

BIRD: It was different for every one of [the cast members]. I oftentimes kind of hear voices in my head and sometimes they’re famous people and sometimes they’re not, and sometimes they’re a little bit famous and sometimes they’re somebody that is about to be famous. I don’t really cast for any sort of marquee value, I cast because I think they’re right for it.

In the instance of Harry Connick [Jr.] in the first recording session, he kind of put on a beatnik voice and we tried it for about five minutes and I said, “How would you say this?” And he said, “Well I’d just say dah duh dah duh dah,” and he had this great sort of New Orleans-tinged lilt, and it sounded effortlessly cool. And I just said, “Just do that.” And it worked great. Even though I hadn’t thought of the character as having any kind of subtle accent, it made him an outsider — you know, since the film is set in Maine — and it made him very subtly vocally — I mean visually, he’s very much an outsider — made him an outsider in a way that was unexpected and terrific.

I was just really happy with our voice cast. I think Jennifer [Aniston] did a fantastic job, and I think Chris McDonald was perfect as Kent Mansley, and we had a wonderful child actor in Eli Marienthal, and I was just happy straight down the line. Vin, as you said, was not well known at that time, but he had made a short film called “Multi-Facial” that I had seen and he was versatile, but he had this sort of rumble that just sounded powerful and yet sympathetic.

IFC: How would you say animated filmmaking has changed since you did “The Iron Giant”?

BIRD: At the time that “Iron Giant” was done, Disney was considered really kind of the only place that could be really successful at it. I mean, Pixar was successful. They had done like two films at that point. Pixar’s second film, “A Bug’s Life,” came out the same year as “Iron Giant.” Because that was released by Disney, that was kind of included under the Disney umbrella. Now I think people think very differently about animation. Many different studios have had successful animation releases, and it’s considered more a part of the mainstream movie diet than it was when we made “Iron Giant.”

IFC: Would you ever make a sequel to it?

BIRD: I don’t think so. I think that the story is pretty much complete as it is, even though it suggests something beyond the film at the end. I kind of think that that’s the story that we set out to tell and we told it. But I do, you know, think about doing other animated films.

Do you plan on checking out “The Iron Giant” in Los Angeles tomorrow? Do you think the film has aged well? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Weird Al in Milo Murphy’s Law

News of the Weird

“Weird Al” Yankovic to Get Animated In New Disney XD Series

"Weird Al" debuts as Comedy Bang! Bang!'s new bandleader this spring on IFC.

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Photo Credit: IFC/Disney XD

It’s hard to imagine Comedy Bang! Bang!’s newest bandleader any more animated than he already is, but “Weird Al” Yankovic will soon loosen the shackles of the physical world and become a cartoon. The parody singer has been cast to voice the lead character in Disney XD’s upcoming animated series Milo Murphy’s Law, the new show from the creators of Phineas and Ferb. 

As Milo, “Weird Al” plays an accident-prone jinx who suffers from “Extreme Hereditary Murphy’s Law Condition.” True to the age-old saying, everything that can go wrong for poor Milo does in hilarious fashion. And Al’s dulcet tones won’t be sacrificed either: Milo will occasionally bust out a tune throughout the show and Yankovic will also compose the intro’s theme song.

Of course, “Weird Al” is no stranger to the animated realm. Check out his 3D-rendered ’80s form in UHF’s parody of Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing.” And check back for more updates about Al’s debut as Comedy Bang! Bang!‘s new bandleader and musical cohost.

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