The Birds – Animated Movie Poster

This is my fourth effort at animating Alfred Hitchcock film posters, and this one took a lot of time. I’m not sure if I’m going to make it all the way to my desired dozen posters by the end of the summer. This GIF is based on the 1963 theatrical release poster for The Birds and is made from 44 frames. Hitchcock enlisted the famed Disney animator Ub Iwerks to do the screen work for the film which created the effect of swarms of birds attacking actors. The birds traveling over the poster is one of his mattes used in the open credits of the film.

I hadn’t come across Iwerks before and watched a great documentary about his life and the fact that he alone designed the characters for and executed the first Mickey Mouse animation Plane Crazy.

Yes he designed Mickey Mouse for Walt Disney and created all of the first cartoons. Apparently Iwerks made Plane Crazy in two weeks – approximately 700 frames of hand drawn animation a day – alone. Insane, I thought my GIFs were hard work.

Disney and Iwerks developed the Mickey Mouse character and series after being betrayed by the rest of their animation staff, hired away by Universal Studios. They were contracted by Universal to create the highly successful Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Universal figured they owned the rights to Oswald, so they stole Disney’s staff and fired him. Ub was the only one that didn’t sell-out and Mickey was born.

Sadly their relationship soured, and Iwerks went his own way creating his own animation studio, but it never lived up to the success of Disney (that’s obvious huh?) He did eventually return to Disney studios and moving forward worked principally on visual effects, including The Birds. It’s as if he’d come full-circle returning to creating mattes like he did for the ground breaking 1920s cartoons Alice Comedies, which was one of first live-action mattes with animation.

The longer I work on this Alfred Hitchcock poster series, I seem to be delving deeper into animation as an artform which I’m thoroughly enjoying. I’m excited to see where it takes me next – oh wait that’s Psycho – cue screeching violins in your head.


14 responses to “The Birds – Animated Movie Poster”

  1. Alan Levine (@cogdog) Avatar

    You just keep elevating the art, and the narrative behind it. I know the whole series will come to be eventually.

  2. mbransons Avatar

    Thanks Alan, I’m definitely going to keep pushing along on both, art and narrative – good for the soul.

  3. John Avatar

    Wonderful, beautifully layered. Quite terrifying. Crows make beautiful shapes.

  4. Cris Avatar

    You’ve definitely got the visual arts and narrative making beautiful harmony here.

    So will animated movie posters be the next big thing? I’m imaging strolling down a cineplex hall and being visually accosted by dive-bombing birds and then projectile spider webs.

    Looking forward to your next poster!

  5. Luke Avatar

    I’m loving these. Every time I see one I can’t wait for the next installment. Keep pushing!

  6. Ben Avatar

    Keep pushing! You can get all 12 done by the end of summer, especially if they’re half as fun to create as they are to watch. This one is incredible! I love the superimposed birds, so dark and ominous.

  7. Andrew Forgrave Avatar

    Ah, The Birds! As a young child (very young) I remember continually interrupting the babysitter whom my parents had hired for the night — She was watching The Birds on TV, and she had to keep sending me off to my room, surely because she felt it would be too scary for me at my age. I’m sure she was afraid the film would give me nightmares. Probably a good call on her part — when I first actually saw the film as an adult (at the old Nostalgic rep theatre near High Park in Toronto) I remember the chills from the scene when Tippi Hedren was walking down the street and all the birds seem to be watching her. Very creepy Hitchcock. And then the scene at the end — with the chimney. Wow. Certainly a different kind of suspense. This poster is a wonderful embodiment of that feeling. And then to have Hitch just standing there off to the left. Cool.

  8. mbransons Avatar

    @John the scene of the crows landing on the jungle gym by the school house is my favorite, after each cutaway there are more, and more and more.

    @Cris Surprising we don’t see them more right?

    @Luke I hanging in there, Psycho next!

    @Ben thanks for the push, I may just make it.

    @Andrew thanks for the reminiscing, there’s probably a movie every kid should not have seen at too young an age. And the lurking birds, leads to the school house scene I mentioned above, right?

  9. Tom Avatar

    I am a fan. That is straight awesome.

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  12. Pascale Colonna Avatar
    Pascale Colonna

    This is really very good work! Makes me want to give it a go. I went on a Flash course in 2009 but soon gave up with the arrival of mobile devices. But this really is sparking something in me!
    Is it only an art form , would you say?
    I’m struggling to see if digital storytelling could be relevant in a wide range of disciplines or whether it really only fits with visual arts.

  13. mbransons Avatar

    @Pascale I think the animated GIF can be used in lots of different ways, not necessarily just in the visual arts (though there are GIF artists doing really interesting work). You can animate and loop just about anything, and the great thing about the GIF is that you can post it pretty much anywhere. I just depends on the stories you like and how the GIF can be part of it.

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