Incredibles 2 opens in theaters nationwide on June 15, and I’ve got some fascinating background information about the creation of a Pixar movie. This past April, I was a guest of Disney and Pixar and had the extreme pleasure of visiting the Pixar Studios campus for a press event. We learned all about Pixar animation: creating the world of the Incredibles 2 as well as the Anatomy of an Action Scene. I’ll never watch a Pixar movie the same way again!
So- yes, it was all fantastic and yes, it was even better than I ever dreamed. Let’s get that part out of the way! Touring the Pixar Studios campus was on my very long Disney Bucket List. (And yes, there is a list! Lots of YES in this post! ha!) I was overwhelmed with happiness when this trip happened, and I’m thrilled that we can finally share some of the details of the visit.
Not only did a trip to Pixar happen, but it was in support of one my most anticipated movies of the year: Incredibles 2. Basically, I was in Dis-nerd heaven.
Parr family: it is so good to have you back!
Creating the Worlds of Incredibles 2
We settled into the Pixar Studios auditorium, and Ralph Eggleston (Production Designer), Philip Metschan (Visual Designer), Bryn Imagire (Shading Art Director) and Nathan Fariss (Sets Supervisor) spoke on Creating the Worlds of Incredibles 2.
Bryn and Ralph were up first. So what do these guys do? Production design and art directors come up with the overall look of the film. Ralph explained that the first thing they had to come up with was what would this world look like- and they had the first Incredibles film to base it on.
I’d assume that was a helpful starting point! They knew it was set in the late 50s but pushed it ahead just a little for the early 60s look we see in Incredibles 2.
“The world of the film is as much a character as an actual character in a film like the Incredibles 2,” Ralph said.
And this stood out to me- because he is so right! Part of the charm of this movie is indeed the settings and the time period that surrounds the Parr family.
Everything about the world comes from these departments: character design, environments, props and dressing, sets, costumes and costume changes, textures, and even some of the lighting. Here’s how each department factored into the making of the Incredibles 2.
Architectural Influence on Incredibles 2
While the characters are the part of the movie that talks to us, the architecture of the world around them actually speak to us.
One architectural influence for the city was “mid-century mundane,” and Ralph said he found a great website that helped him create the world of the Incredibles. By mundane, he meant the mid-century elements that exist in-between iconic structures. Yes, they will have iconic structures (such as the Parr’s new home), but the mundane takes over a lot of this movie as well, and it was essential to get it right.
Since the end of the last film, the Parr family has been living in Safari Court, a mid-century motel near the interstate. After living there for a few months, they are going a little stir crazy! In the trailer, you’ve seen the family sit down for Chinese food at the motel, and you get a real sense of the period here.
The textures and the color palate are precise to this period, Bryn pointed out. By textures, she meant things like sleek furniture shapes and bumpy or nubby fabrics. We also saw a scene that felt very motel-y take place out by the pool and I felt the period was spot on.
Eventually, the family does move into a new home. And it’s pretty freaking amazing!
Initially, they looked at making it shaped like an arrow- going up in design. But the team decided that was really more a 40s home and not the time they were shooting for. Even though the movie was in production, they reworked the whole house to reflect the early 60s better. The pictures shared here are of the first home, not the re-worked one. You want to see that one on the big screen! WOWZA.
The details on how they created this home were just amazing to me. They went to houses in Palm Springs, for example, that have this kind of architecture. They decided that Terrazzo floors needed to be included in the new Parr home and that was just one of the details they incorporated.
There was an effort to bring the outside in, as well, with use of water features, dark wood, and plants throughout the home. It is stunning, and I won’t lie: I’d be happy to move in!
Guys- they spent six months on the first house, which was a 2300 square foot house. And then, get this: they threw it all away! A story change happened which meant the house needed an upgrade: to a 20,000 square foot house with water running throughout it. And they did it all in 2 1/2-3 weeks!
I’ve got to say it: that’s INCREDIBLE.
Bryn spoke about the different textures she brought in and showed us the inspiration board they used for those types of decisions. Lots of great design ideas during this time!
The color palette used was inspired by Sunnylands in Palm Springs.
And something to know: they built everything from scratch! Nothing “comes for free” on this movie; the animators had to create everything, including all the textures you see in the house.
Sets Department & Visual Design on Incredibles 2
Nathan, who was the set supervisor on Incredibles 2, explained what the Sets Department does. They took all the concept art and turned it into “all the things you see on the screen.” And there are many sub-departments in the set department.
The sub-department of modeling makes the objects, and set dressing arranges them in a design that creates and is consistent with the look of the film. The shading department adds color and texture; they also decide how an object reacts to light. And set extension and skies create the world in long shot.
Thousands of hours are spent creating everything you see in this film! Think of an entire virtual city built from scratch.
But didn’t they have some sets from the previous movie? You might think so. But… no. Technology has changed so much in 14 years when it comes to animation, so almost everything needed to be reworked to reflect that.
Since things were slightly different from the old film to the new one, an effort was made to keep the beginning consistent with the first Incredibles. As the sequel progresses, an improvement in rendering occurs.
For example, the drill vehicle goes first underground it looks a little different when it comes back up again.
After this session, my mind was sufficently blown. I had not given a single thought to things like set design when it came to an animated film before. But then we moved on to Action scenes and things got even more exciting!
Incredibles 2 Event: Anatomy of an Action Scene
The next group presenting was Ted Mathot (Story Supervisor), Mahyar Abousaeedi (Layout Supervisor), Kureha Yokoo (Animator), and Amit Baadkar (Effects Artist). They explained the process of creating a high-speed runaway train chase with Elastigirl on her Elasticycle.
Ted started off the presentation with some necessary information for the non-animators in the room. So pretty much all of us! All stories begin with a story reel which is basically a drawn version of the film. From this story reel, the action can progress to what we see on screen in the final product.
We got to watch a bit of the work on the runaway train scene with Elastigirl. It was early stages, and most of it was temporary, but it gave a real feel to those of us in the room to see where the action scenes start and how they progress. The scene consisted of a high-speed runaway train chase with Elastigirl on her Elasticycle.
Three things happened to make this scene come up to Pixar standards.
First, they decided to introduce police cars because it makes sense that the police would be involved. The original scene was just Elastigirl doing Elastigril things.
Second, they needed to show something that only a Super can do to legitimize the need for Supers. Where the police have to stop the chase, Elastigirl and the Elasticycle can keep going.
And third: they had to balance the super with the mundane. In the early stage scene that we watched, it was all super all the time. But in the final cut, you’ll see Helen pull a very mundane but very Mom move: she takes a call from home in the middle of the highspeed chase. Because Mommin’ can’t stop even when you’re saving the world!
When it came to stopping the train, they had to go back to story and make it only something a Super can do. Specifically: only something Helen as Elastigirl can do. Which, when you see it, they ultimately came up with an Elastigirl solution for this big problem.
Layout, Animation, and Effects on Incredibles 2
Mahyar told us that the Layout Team was tasked with making sure the speed and the spacing of the stunts would work on screen. With Brad Bird asking for “faster, faster! More speed!” they knew they couldn’t slow her down, so they used Helen’s specific abilities and talents; which meant she could go up when others would have been kept on the ground.
Kureha explained how the Animation Team got the fun task of making the Elasticycle. They knew it would be an extension of Helen and her abilities, but they weren’t sure what it looked like at first. They shared a few of the hundreds of concept art ideas for the Elasticycle, and I couldn’t believe how creative every one was!
They finally had to work out the nitty-gritty- how the bike splits and where Helen’s body would be when this is happening. These animators are incredibly talented and creative; when you see the movie, keep an eye out on all the details of the bike!
What I loved about this part was the note that Helen has to remain vulnerable; even though she’s a Super, they had to show her effort and work to keep her interesting. If being a Super was easy, we as an audience wouldn’t expect her to do anything other than succeed- and there’s no drama in that!
Amit represented the Effects Animation Team. His team has a cool job: creating the water, fire, and smoke you see in a Pixar film. And that, my friends, is some tough animation to pull off realistically!
On the train sequence, they worked on shattered glass, sparks, smoke, and explosions. The high-speed nature of this particular scene brought unique challenges to the team that I would never have considered myself!
Glass shattering, for example, is hard to see. The animators had to increase the size of the shards and work with the lighting department to make sure that particular effect comes across as realistically as possible. And when you see it- I think you’ll agree they did a fantastic job!
This scene is one that I was glued to during our screening; but now that I know some of the background work that went into it, I can never watch an action scene from Pixar the same way again. As everyone knows: Pixar is about the details and the story and their action scenes are treated with the same care as their tearjerkers!
About Incredibles 2
In INCREDIBLES 2, Helen (voice of Holly Hunter) is called on to lead a campaign to bring Supers back, while Bob (voice of Craig T. Nelson) navigates the day-to-day heroics of “normal” life at home with Violet (voice of Sarah Vowell), Dash (voice of Huck Milner) and baby Jack-Jack—whose superpowers are about to be discovered. Their mission is derailed, however, when a new villain emerges with a brilliant and dangerous plot that threatens everything. But the Parrs don’t shy away from a challenge, especially with Frozone (voice of Samuel L. Jackson) by their side. That’s what makes this family so Incredible.
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INCREDIBLES 2 opens in theatres everywhere on June 15th
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Patty Holliday is a Marvel loving, Disney obsessed wife, and mother of four. She’s a travel agent specializing in Disney & Universal vacations- and loves a candid confession. Find her in Virginia (or anywhere frequent flyer miles or her trusty minivan takes her.)