Animated Detective Noir ‘Ray Gunn’ From Brad Bird Finally in the Works at Skydance

The original script for the retro-futuristic story dates to the 1990s

brad bird
Getty Images

Pixar no more.

Brad Bird, the Academy Award-winning director of such Pixar favorites as “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille,” is reteaming with his former boss John Lasseter at Skydance Animation, on a new/old project “Ray Gunn.” Skydance Animation announced today.

“Ray Gunn,” which Bird and Matthew Robbins wrote when Bird was at Warner Bros. Animation in the 1990s, is a retro-futuristic detective story set in “the sprawling, magnificent city of Metropia,” according to a 1996 script’s forward, written by Bird. With the script, Bird and Robbins were emulating two threads of fiction from the 1930s, aiming “to combine two disparate worlds from the same period – the squeaky-clean look of ‘Buck Rogers’ and the contemporary, gritty, been-around characters from pulp novels” (according to the same forward).

Not only is this a homecoming for Bird, reteaming with his old boss (and former Cal Arts alum) Lasseter, but he is also reteaming with Skydance, who co-produced his debut live-action feature, 2011’s “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.” When Bird came to Pixar, he brought “The Incredibles” with him, which, like “Ray Gunn,” had been developed during his time at Warner Bros. Animation. (He later made “The Iron Giant” for WB Animation.)

“We’re thrilled to partner with Brad to finally bring his vision of Ray Gunn to the screen,” said Holly Edwards, president of Skydance Animation and Lasseter, head of Skydance Animation, in a statement. “From its immersive world to its rich characters, we can’t wait to explore this story and to create a one-of-a-kind animated experience for audiences around the world.”

Lasseter, of course, had a very public fall from grace when he was let go from Pixar and similar obligations at Disney following several sexual misconduct allegations.

It’s uncertain whether Skydance Animation will be using the original script from Bird and Robbins (it would be hard to imagine a female character named Venus Envy appearing in cinemas nowadays). Like Bird’s version of “Blade Runner,” the project is beautifully realized, but even more old school and throwback.

A timetable has not been revealed by Skydance Animation or Apple TV+, their distribution partner, although it’s hard to imagine that Bird would agree to the deal without an exclusive theatrical window. Bird’s last animated feature was 2018’s “Incredibles 2,” which is Pixar’s highest-grossing movie. His last live-action feature was 2015’s “Tomorrowland” (which shares certain sensibilities with “Ray Gunn”).