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Brad Bird's "The Spirit " 1980 pencil-test "trailer"

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In 2008 as Frank Miller's live action feature film based on Will Eisner's "The Spirit" was being released I wrote a piece for the Los Angeles Times on the time, back in 1980, when I became involved with Brad Bird and Gary Kurtz (producer of the first two "Star Wars" movies) in trying to get into production an animated feature based on "The Spirit" In that piece, which you can read here: http://herocomplex.latimes.com/uncategorized/the-spirit-that/ I spoke of a pencil test "trailer" for the our proposed film that was made by Bird along with several classmates from Cal Arts, most of whom were working at Disney at the time. Quite a few people who read the article contacted me about seeing the film. I did have it on an old VHS, but it was deep in storage at the time plus as I did not really own the film, I told them they would have to look elsewhere to find a copy. Later, I found the VHS and put it aside. Recently Andrea Fiamma, an Italian journalist writing on the subject for the website Fumettologica," asked again if the film could be seen. As it is a small piece of animation history, I've decided to post it here.

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Will Eisner (Fictional Character Creator) The Spirit (Comic Strip) Brad Bird (Film Director) Gary Kurtz Steven Paul Leiva Frank Miller (Comic Book Creator) The Spirit (Film)

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50 Comments

    Popular Comments:

Myuacc1 Inc. . 2018-11-19
FUCK ME WHO STABILIZED THIS
121 2 . Reply
Vegetarian Soylent-Green . 2018-07-23
"I'm a private detective."

"How private?"

Ooh la la.
121 2 . Reply
vdr vcr . 2018-03-31
They deserve this!
121 2 . Reply
Uncle Buckle . 2018-03-29
I can't watch this thing without getting angry.

Such an unabashed love-note to the source material, and a reminder that we probably won't see another effort at realizing Eisner's masterwork in movie form for the next twenty years, thanks to Miller's abortion.
121 2 . Reply
David Derks . 2018-03-22
This is awesome! The stylized animation is a feast for the eyes...and a great throwback to another time and place in animation.
121 2 . Reply
Ivan Vojt . 2018-03-09
If you want a decent Superman movie, here is your director.
121 2 . Reply
chycho . 2018-01-10
Awesome!
121 2 . Reply
Christian Joffre . 2018-01-05
I wish we could've had this movie.
121 2 . Reply
Gallibon . 2018-01-03
I much prefer this trailer over Frank Miller's trash adaptation.
121 2 . Reply
diddymuck . 2017-11-18
Now THAT'S the frickin' Spirit!!!! Please! I'm beggin ya. get to work and make (at last...at LONG LAST) a proper movie about the guy!
121 2 . Reply
MundoJuanci . 2017-11-11
Right now, as the animation industry is being repetitive, mediocre and generic, we need movies like this to be made. It would've been awesome to see a master like Brad bird making this amazing script in an animated movie
I hope it gets made one day
121 2 . Reply
aborno . 2017-11-06
This is great! However, could you please turn off the video stabilization? It's under YouTube's enhancement settings; it's adding jerky movements into the clip that aren't supposed to be there. Thank you! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlolJwgyd0Y
121 2 . Reply
Frustrated Cartoons . 2017-06-02
Give me the bogus reason why this wasn't made: Lack of funding, popularity issues, creators clashing with studio, or cartoon violence...well
121 2 . Reply
Thomas McWilliams . 2017-05-30
why was this never a thing!?
121 2 . Reply
allison - . 2017-05-14
the incredibles has so much influence from this now that i see it
121 2 . Reply
Nathaniel Anderson . 2017-04-25
No joke, I actually had a DREAM about something like this years ago. It was in the same color pallet as the piece of shit movie we got instead, but the character designs were very close to what's seen here. Years later, after watching the movie, I picked up Darwin Cooke's run on the Spirit, and I was amazed at how good it was. It was dark, fun, exciting, it felt like something out of the old Batman TAS, and I loved it for that. I imagined the perfect director for a project like this would have been Brad Bird (then- not knowing he WAS in line to do it). Now, knowing what it could have been like, I am even more angry at the outing we got from that racist, lunatic hack. FUCK YOU FRANK MILLER!!
121 2 . Reply
Lonnie Cavenee . 2017-02-09
This is fantastic! A crying shame it never got produced. I discovered the Spirit in the 70s through the Warren reprints. I think I still have the entire Warren run somewhere along with dozens of issues of Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella. I'll have to dig them out now!
121 2 . Reply
Aaron pfund . 2016-11-16
hey the sound is synced!
121 2 . Reply
Hezekiah Ramirez . 2016-09-19
Four downvotes? Looks like The Octopus, Doctor Cobra, Mr. Carrion, and Darling O'Shea watched this.
121 2 . Reply
Hezekiah Ramirez . 2016-09-19
I've been wanting to see this for a long time. I can't believe I only just found it. Thanks for this!
121 2 . Reply
woody1948able . 2016-07-20
The animation of Brad Bird is very similar to the animation of MILT KAHL.
121 2 . Reply
CommentPoster10 . 2016-07-02
This was dumped in favor of Frank Miller's trash?
121 2 . Reply
Thomas Tiernan . 2016-06-09
This is beautiful. I can only hope that Brad still has this somewhere on his list of things to do. One can only dream...
121 2 . Reply
10141991 . 2016-06-06
why wasn't this made??
121 2 . Reply
Adnan Siddique . 2016-04-20
Thanks for sharing. Fantastic animation. Oh what could've been!
121 2 . Reply
Koko Moko . 2016-03-03
Is it just me or did this video by Brad Bird predict some of the future?
2:41: "I guess Superman's already taken."
2:45: That train sequence for some reason reminds me of that scene from The Incredibles.

Weird, huh?
121 2 . Reply
Albert Jimenez . 2016-02-12
awesome!! thanks so much for sharing!!
121 2 . Reply
urban revolution . 2016-02-01
this should be put into production - who owns the animation rights?
121 2 . Reply
Anna Ferrara . 2015-11-04
Over too soon! Gosh, I miss 2D! You get such an energy of expression in the visual elasticity of the medium that you lose in 3D.
121 2 . Reply
Anna Ferrara . 2015-11-04
This is awesome! The 2D animation pays homage to Eisner's style really well.
121 2 . Reply
Anna Ferrara . 2015-11-04
Man, I wish someone would take a crack at "The Spirit" again and forget the awful movie from the "Sin City" guy. I think Tim Burton would be a good choice.
121 2 . Reply
aderose . 2015-09-22
I swear we need to make Hollywood to make more 2D animated films with an adult atmosphere.
121 2 . Reply
Aaron pfund . 2015-09-08
if this had come out as a feature just imagine how different the animation industry would be
121 2 . Reply
ManateeAdvocate . 2015-08-07
Thanks so much for sharing this.  Pure genius.  A real, damn shame that we'll never see this finished.
121 2 . Reply
offtheedgeTV . 2015-08-06
The RubberOnion Animation Podcast (ep #77) sent me to this pencil test from Brad Bird. This was great and honestly after you get over the quality of the video, the quality of the animation takes over VERY quickly. If this were even longer I can honestly say i would have watched it without noticing. Incredible... hey! But yes, I really enjoyed the movements of the older man with the phone and the boy with the mask most, as well as the cut from The Spirit throwing the airplane out the window, panning and cutting to the next shot with people coming out of the window. This was really cool!
121 2 . Reply
Estlio97 . 2015-06-24
Lost movie. I can't help but think Brad Bird could've been one of the all time great filmmakers if he just started younger. Animation takes a while; Oh well, this is great.
121 2 . Reply
Jokester The Mighty . 2015-06-21
This is awesome!
121 2 . Reply
ForrestTheBoar . 2015-06-07
Very nice work. I just recently graduated from animation in college, and even though it was computer animation, I know just how much work goes into even a few seconds, especially if you want it to look as good as this. I can only imagine how many hours you guys put into the drawing of each frame.
121 2 . Reply
Pridetoons aka Afro Lion . 2015-06-06
Will Einser (My favorite Cartoonist) and Brad Bird (My favorite Animation Director) together in one film, and I'll never see it! All I can do is cry, at how magnificently terrible this is. Damn this world! X{
121 2 . Reply
James Farina . 2015-05-22
Very cool and Interesting. I wonder how this would work in color had the movie been finished and made.
121 2 . Reply
Plenty O'Tool . 2015-05-06
this would had been awesome !!
121 2 . Reply
Nicholas Smith . 2015-05-02
How come we don't see American 2D animation movies anymore? I'm not saying we shouldn't stop watching 3D animation movies, but sometimes we need to see 2D animation once in a while! Who's with me?
121 2 . Reply
Renato Britto . 2015-04-30
Brad Bird need complete this project !!!!!!
121 2 . Reply
skirsk . 2015-04-30
i wish this was made into animated feature!.
121 2 . Reply
eternalbleedingheart . 2015-04-28
Kickstart?  Please?
121 2 . Reply
TroyTroodon . 2015-04-23
Somebody please make this into a movie!
121 2 . Reply
mrkip w . 2015-04-20
THAT's the Spirit.
121 2 . Reply
Percy Okefenokee . 2015-04-20
This is the movie that should have been made!
121 2 . Reply
Pernilla Poblenz . 2015-04-19
Oh wow! What a loss this never made it. :( Love the take on it.
121 2 . Reply
Mike Arnold . 2015-04-17
Back in the early 90's Will came to a nearby small college to talk - there were so few there that he & I had a good deal of time to talk alone and away from others. One of the things he shared with me then was, his frustration in an animation project being seen fully through. 
Thanks for this - it kind of made my day.
121 2 . Reply