For The Birds (on the Monsters, Inc. DVD), directed by Ralph Eggleston, is absolutely one of our favorites of the Pixar “shorts” (it’s in both Julie’s and my top three favorites list). This seemingly simple short at approximately 3:20 would appear to be simple, but like most things that appear easy, they’re not. The production of For The Birds took a small crew of animators about two years to complete and one of the larger challenges was that each bird had about “a gazillion feathers that could all work individually”, according to Ralph. Yup, he said a gazillion!
One interesting thing to note about Pixar short films is that often they are created to tackle a new research and development technical challenge, but this short was created solely to be a fun project. The idea of For The Birds started when Ralph was a student, but he couldn’t bring himself to draw all the birds, so he waited until he had a team of people to help at Pixar.
One theme of the short is that each of the four main birds has a distinct personality, but they all become one personality when making fun of the big bird. The four main birds are named: Bully, Chipper, Snob, and Neurotic.
The first shot that was animated was the wide-angle shot right before the birds realize that they were about to be shot up on the wire. There were a lot of technical challenges when the feathers were supposed to shoot off the birds and stay suspended in the air for a moment and then all start drifting at different rates back to the ground.
An interesting side note within this same scene is that originally, the team thought there was going to be a lot more wide shots so they animated the wheat to be “rolling” subtly in the background. Animating the wheat like that took a tremendous amount of time, even though it was only seen for a quick second. That’s the Pixar we love!
When the birds fall to the ground, the first bird that hits is Bully, then Chipper, then Snob, then Neurotic – followed by the rest of the birds. This was planned since the birds also arrived in that same order to the wire in the opening scene. Bully is also the bird that takes the first peck at the big bird’s toes.
Finally, it was also noted that this was the final film to be released through Pixar’s Point Richmond Facility (before they moved to Emeryville). Ralph joked that he no longer had to worry about air raids from nearby Chevron, or sinking into a landfill if there were an earthquake.
By the way, we also love the fact that Bully’s beak is more scratched up than a lot of the other birds. Whether this was intended or not, I think it plays into his character to be more beat up since he’s a bully.
While you’re here, check out our write-up on the For The Birds plush toy and hear an audio clip of the toy squeaking (yup, it comes with a squeaker like the birds in the short)!