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For The Birds

For The Birds is a Pixar short film, produced in 2000. Less than four minutes long, it was a tale of an outsider; a person different from the rest.

Plot

The scene opens on a stream of telegraph poles as if watching them from a passing car. You only see the heads of the poles, and the wire trailing from them. It is a sunny day with only a few puffy clouds. The title "For the Birds" appears in blue writing superimposed over one of these.

A single bluebird flies down out of the sky, flapping its wings, and lowering its legs, looking down at the wire as it tries to land.

Sitting comfortably on the wire, the bird squeaks, and fluffs its feathers as a second bluebird comes down. They fight over space, as the second lands right next to the first. Whilst fighting, a third comes down, followed by a fourth. Soon the entire line between the poles is filled with bluebirds, all squawking and fighting for space.

Suddenly a very different sound blasts wind over all of them, as a much larger bird swoops in to land. Also blue, but very tall and lanky with strange plumage, the larger bird settles down onto a telegraph pole itself, some distance from the fighting, smaller birds. Lifting one wing, it waves at them, and says "hi!.. The smaller birds all look sideways, and peek round one another, at this creature: They have clearly seen nothing like it before. One of them squeaks, but it comes out sounding halfway between a squeak and a bowel movement.

The larger bird looks on, still waving, and puffs out its plumage to try and look friendlier. Instead, it inspires derision, as some of the smaller birds look to one another and ever more exaggeratingly mimic the gesture.

All the smaller birds then head down the wire away from that particular pole, expressing their disdain for the individual who is different, as a group mind. However, it does not work. . Eventually, the larger bird flies from the pole to the wire, in the middle of the pack of smaller birds. The wire immediately bends under the larger bird's not inconsiderable weight, and all the smaller birds find themselves sliding along the wire, pressing up to the larger bird and each other. They hate it, the large one thinks this is a gesture of love, and the combined weight in one location makes the wire sink lower still.

One of the smaller birds angrilly pecks the big one. Startled, the big one jumps, but forgets to let go of the perch. It spins round, dangling from the wire by its feet, toes curled round. One of the toes gives up oits hold, and the two nearest small birds see this. They look at one another evilly. If they peck all the toes, they will release and the big bird will be gone from their wire. They furiously start pecking, with the others enthusiastically cheering them on.


Literal Bluebirds

Then, one of the little birds happens to look down.

The larger bird's head is barely an inch from the road. The wire has stretched all the way down, and is being held taut by the weight of the large one. They are compacted too close together to fly off, and as soon as the large one's weight is gone…

Frantically, the little bird tries to warn the others. They catch on one at a time and then in groups. Finally the two pecking birds, catch on to what the others are yelling about and look down. As they do, the last toe slides off the wire.

The birds shoot up, and clouds of feathers fill the air.

Down below, the large bird is sitting bemusedly on the ground, and sees a fluttering in the sunlight above. It looks up into a slow rain of feathers and playfully blows at a few of them to see how they move.

Seconds later the first little bird lands, stripped naked of all feathers. The large bird leans in close for a good look then bursts out laughing. Annoyed, the little one looks down, and hastily covers itself. It picks up a leaf to shield itself from the world, as the rest of the birds hit the ground - all equally naked.

The large bird is helpless with laughter as they all look at themselves in alarm. Realising they are now completely nude, the birds all crowd behind the larger bird to hide themselves.

Technology

For the Birds, looks very primitive in comparison to more recent films. It is, but perhaps surprisingly, it is at time of writing, only eight years old. As seen in other CGs of about this time, the scene set is a small one, lacking panoramic vista, or indeed any moving terrain to speak of, purely because the processing power did not exist for that.

Just eight years later, there is nothing in this film that could not be created in real-time by a top of the range personal PC.


A Strange Bird Appears

The birds themselves are all identical models, however, as has become standard, each feather on each one was rendered individually. The attempt was to increase realism as much as possible. The general cartoony nature of the bird movements being indicative that this was not exactly achieved. Still, the point at which all the bird feathers fly off? They do indeed fly off, and every single one there, was attached to the birds themselves.

Squeaky toys were used to make the bird calls, which perhaps fits the cartoon feel. The few land shots show that things have advanced from the days of Tin Toy, but the ground still in snot quite right. It has a certain plasticy feel to it.

It is also easy to forget just how new our grasp of rendering particle effect of masses is. Gaseous or plasma constructs such as smoke, fire and?clouds. The ones shown here were light and fluffy, but also entirely static, as back then, there was no wy to computationally generate their movements realistically.

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Further Reading

Pixar - For the Birds

WikiPedia: For the Birds

Staff Comments

 


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