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Brad Bird Joins New Season of TCM’s 'The Essentials'

Each week, Oscar-winning director will discuss one of his top 20 classic films on the network’s popular franchise series showcasing some of the greatest movies in cinematic history.

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has just announced that two-time Oscar-winning director, screenwriter, animator, producer, and voice actor Brad Bird will join The Essentials, TCM’s popular franchise showcasing “must-see” classic films. Bird, best known for films such as The Incredibles, Ratatouille, The Iron Giant, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, joins TCM Primetime Host Ben Mankiewicz for the new season, where they will introduce a hand-picked film each Saturday and offer commentary on its cultural significance, its influence on other films, behind-the-scenes stories and their own personal reflections. The new season of The Essentials, which airs every Saturday night, premieres May 2 at 8 p.m. (ET).

“I love jabbering about movies almost as much as I enjoy watching them,” said Bird. “In fact, I first met Ben Mankiewicz while jabbering about movies. My wife and I were at a film festival walking briskly up a street when we wound up walking alongside Ben, who was heading to the same screening. Who knew that our casual movie-talk would morph into a wonderful TCM event? Ben is very knowledgeable about cinema, as well as being a sharp, funny person to hang around with, and a perfect host. Getting the opportunity to talk with him about indelible films on TCM was an absolute joy. My biggest challenge was figuring out which films to choose, because for each great film that I mentioned there were 10 I left out!”

"Following the return of The Essentials last season with Ava DuVernay, we feel so fortunate to be able to bring in another elite filmmaker this season as my co-host, Brad Bird,” said Mankiewicz. “Brad’s particular artistic sense works his way into every conversation we had together. He sees so many stories through the eyes of an animator, providing a rare perspective on movies we think we know well, like CasablancaDr. Strangelove, and The Searchers. And his childlike enthusiasm for movies, animated and live action, is unparalleled and infectious. What a thrill it is to be able to bask in it this season on The Essentials."

Bird’s selection of films for this season of The Essentials are:

  • Singin’ in the Rain (1952) – Co-directors Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen’s musical comedy about Hollywood stars adjusting to the coming of sound.
  • Ace in the Hole (1951) – Kirk Douglas stars as a small-town reporter milking a local disaster to make it back into the big time.
  • The General (1926) – Buster Keaton writes, stars and co-directs this silent film where a Confederate engineer fights to save his train and his girlfriend from the Union army.
  • Casablanca (1942) – this classic, in which an American saloon owner in North Africa is drawn into World War II when his lost love turns up, has the distinction of being the most played film on TCM.
  • The Red Shoes (1948) – Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s take on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of a young ballerina torn between her art and her romance with a young composer.
  • Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – the sweeping, epic story of T.E. Lawrence who enlists the Arabs for desert warfare in World War I. Brad Bird gains the distinction of being the only guest on TCM to talk about this film who also directed Peter O’Toole in a film (2007’s Ratatouille).
  • Gunga Din (1939) – one of two Cary Grant films featured in the Essentials, three British soldiers seek treasure during an uprising in India.
  • A Matter of Life and Death (1947) – Another film from Powell and Pressburger in which an injured aviator argues in celestial court for the chance to go on living.
  • A Hard Day’s Night (1964) – a typical day in the life of The Beatles is turned into a musical comedy.
  • The Music Man (1962) – Robert Preston plays a con artist hawking musical instruments and band uniforms to small-town America.
  • Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) –Stanley Kubrick’s black comedy, where Peter Sellers plays three roles, including a mad United States General who orders an air strike against Russia.
  • The Maltese Falcon (1941) – the first of two Essential films noir, hard-boiled detective Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) gets caught up in the murderous search for a priceless statue.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – Kubrick’s classic sci-fi epic about a mysterious monolith that seems to play a key role in human evolution.
  • Ball of Fire (1941) – Howard Hawks directs a group of professors (led by Gary Cooper) who takes in a nightclub singer (Barbara Stanwyck) hiding from the law to protect her gangster boyfriend.
  • City Lights (1931) – Charlie Chaplin writes, directs, and stars in this silent film in which the Little Tramp tries to help a blind flower seller to see again.
  • An American in Paris (1951) – Vincente Minnelli directs Gene Kelly as an American artist who finds love with Leslie Caron in Paris but almost loses it to conflicting loyalties.
  • The Searchers (1956) – a John Ford and John Wayne Western in which a Native American-hating Civil War veteran tracks down the tribe that slaughtered his family and kidnapped his niece.
  • North by Northwest (1959) – Alfred Hitchcock’s final film with Cary Grant, who plays an advertising man mistaken for a spy, triggering a deadly cross-country chase.
  • Guys and Dolls (1955) – Frank Sinatra bets Marlon Brando that he can’t seduce missionary Jean Simmons in this musical comedy.
  • Out of the Past (1947) – one of Robert Mitchum’s many films noir, in which he portrays a private eye who becomes the dupe of a homicidal moll.

For more information including a complete schedule, bios, images and film information, visit

Source: TCM

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.