Wednesday, July 13, 2016

It's Tough to Be a Bird

Ward Kimball accepted the Academy Award for best short film in 1970 as the director on behalf of Walt Disney Productions.
The main character is a wise-cracking bird voiced by Richard Bakalyan with a New York accent.
Here is what IMDb has to say about the film:

A street smart red bird with a heavy New York accent serves as the narrator, who tries to explains why it's tough to be a bird. This edutaining animated short with documentary segments explains the common evolutionary origin of birds, how various cultures have perceived the birds throughout history, how some species have become extinct or endangered due to human activity, how people like birdwatchers or townsfolk of Hinckley, Ohio, where the annual Buzzard Day is celebrated, enjoy the birds in a friendly manner and what a monty pythonesque cutout animation collage with birds looks like.

Story artists were Kimball and Ted Berman, animation by Eric Larson and Art Stevens.
The bird is fully animated while some of the visual gags are presented in limited animation, and very effectively so.
It's a great film, vintage Kimball, full of inventive and surprising graphics and situations.

Kimball posing with Richard Bakalyan, who voiced the red bird.

A sheet with a bit of story continuity.

Lead character and voice actor publicity photos.

Kimball publicity photo.

See Ward Kimball's original model sheet for the bird here:

Here is the youtube link:


  1. That was great! I'd never even heard of this short film before. Such character and humor! M.C. Bird is extremely likable and relatable. Part of that is due to the charm of the animation, and part of it due to Bakalyan's narration of that clever script. Kudos to Ted Berman and Ward Kimball alike.

    M.C. Bird's design is interesting. I've never heard of or seen a red bird with such long legs (and no long neck to match), which makes me think Ward was driven by aesthetic considerations instead of realism. That makes me wonder if he had a specific reason for using that long-legs-and-squat-body combination, other than the fact that that's so much more fun to draw.

    Oh, and I think Iago the parrot may be related to M.C. Bird, though the latter left the former out of that family line-up in the short film. Maybe there was some bad blood between them... some irreconcilable differences?


  2. I know Dick Bakalyan as the voice of Dinky in THE FOX AND THE HOUND; I didn't realize he had voiced a Disney animated character before then.

    Also, this film sounds very amusing.

  3. Thecodonts and proavis, heh! Ah, science marches on. Although this was only released the same year John Ostrom published his thoughts: 'hey, some of these Deinonychus bones look a lot like Archaeopteryx.'

    Anyway, the animation still holds up, and the red bird is a great character. Dick Bakalyan's voice work is excellent!

    1. Yeah, this was quite a ways away from the dinosaur angle we know today.

  4. Aside from a few first timers who just saw this post and watched the film, I would say the Pixar short, "You're Friend the Rat" (included as a bonus with Ratatouille's DVD release) pays quite a good homage to Ward Kimball and this film for anyone who might remember that.