Brad Bird's got a couple of intriguing almosts out there that drive me crazy as a fan of his work.
We'll be writing more about Bird and his work between now and the release of “Tomorrowland,” but this morning, we're going to take a look at one of those films that didn't happen, but could have and, if we're being honest, should have.
I'm not a huge fan of the original “The Spirit” comic strip, but it's not because I dislike it; I just don't know it at all. I assume it is nothing like the horrible Frank Miller film, and I'm going to also assume it was a precursor to much of the superhero pulp that followed.
It obviously mattered a great deal to Bird, though, who wanted to make it as his first feature film. It's hard for me to get my head around just how long Bird's been at this, but in 1980, Bird was already trying to get his hand-animated ode to Will Eisner off the ground with producer Gary Kurtz.
When I met Bird the first time in the early '90s, there were three things I wanted to talk to him about immediately. Keep in mind, at this point he was working on “The Simpsons” and hadn't made a feature film yet. I asked him for information on “The Spirit,” his science-fiction noir script “Ray Gunn,” and his episode of “Amazing Stories,” the wickedly funny “Family Dog.” Bird was always willing to chat and he was very open about his feelings on the state of the animation industry as a whole.
A few years back, one of the people who worked on “The Spirit” wrote a sensational piece about the film's development for Hero Complex at The LA Times, and it had the best, most complete information on what it was Bird wanted to do that I've ever seen collected anywhere. For anyone who believes that animation is more than just kid's stories, it's sort of heartbreaking.
And now, thanks to Steven Paul Leiva, the author of that story, the heartbreak just got a lot more intense, because he managed to find the legendary 1980 pencil tests that Bird did for the film.
As I said, we'll be writing a lot more about Bird next month, but for now, enjoy that tantalizing taste of the sort of animated films we deserve at this point, but that it feels like we'll never see.
“Tomorrowland” is in theaters May 27, 2015.