This occurred to me shortly after seeing Ratatouille for the second or third time, within the week-long period of seeing it four times in total, and a week after watching The Incredibles three times within a week. I feel like in many ways, Brad Bird is the Steven Spielberg of animated films, and in a broader sense American film today, especially if you consider Spielberg's earlier films. This idea struck me initially because of their shared talent for creating films that are both artistically viable without compromising commercial viability, and vice versa. However, after pondering this for a little longer, I realized that they shared other qualities.
Both showed a talent and passion for their medium from an early age, Spielberg with his little alien film that ended up being his very first film to make a profit, and Bird with his 3-year labor of animation that he sent to Disney and resulted in an apprenticeship with none other than Milt Kahl.
Both got a start in TV, Spielberg most famously for his TV movies like Duel, and Bird for his involvement in The Simpsons.
Hell, even The Iron Giant has a similar story to E.T. I'm sure there are more similarities than I've listed off the top of my head, but really what it comes down to is their pure and unbreakable passion for their genre.
The Big Lebowski
I don't know exactly how this occurred to me, but soon after watching The Incredibles and Ratatouille, the two Pixar films with probably the most human characters, I realized that The Big Lebowski has all the qualities of a great animated film. There's little denying that the characters are basically well-developed caricatures. The plot and dialogue are hilarious and absurd, and the visuals have a precision that is seldom matched by anyone besides the Coen Brothers themselves. Even though the hilarious dream sequence is probably the clearest argument for this, what really convinced me was imagining the "World of Pain" scene as if it was played by characters modelled and animated the way I would imagine Pixar would do it. Try, if you can, to imagine any scene from The Big Lebowski as if the movie was a really fucked up Pixar film, and it just works.
What this really got me thinking about, though, is the idea of choosing whether or not to make a movie animated. The thing about the Big Lebowski feeling like an animated film is that because it's live action, the ridiculous situations and caricaturistic characters make everything that much funnier and more ridiculous. However, by that logic, you might think that any animated film would be richer or whatever by going to live action. I think what should really be considered during this hypothetical choice is not how you want to present the characters and situations, but how you want to present the world you're creating. If you want the more improbable/impossible aspects of your film to blend in with the world of your movie, then that's what makes (well one thing) a successful animated movie.
If I go any longer, I'm going to veer off into a rant about CGI in live-action movies, so I'm going to stop here.