Movie Production Information p. 3


As he embarked on the intense journey of making THE INCREDIBLES, Brad Bird knew that he would need to surround himself with devoted talent to bring his vision to life—not just on the technical side, but also through gifted actors who could give his characters all the depth and dimension they deserved.

Once an animated film’s screenplay is completed and the storyboards created, the next step is to cast the film. For Bird, who came to know and love the characters of THE INCREDIBLES like they were his own family, the casting was extremely close to his heart. He began the process by making sure the storyboards would communicate enough to the actors to elicit multi-tonal performances. Bird worked with story supervisor Mark Andrews, artist Teddy Newton, and supervising animator Tony Fucile, who each played a major role in designing the characters and bringing them fully to life.

Explains Teddy Newton, who drew many of the characters in the film for the first time: “Brad would simply describe the characters to me—he wouldn’t use too many adjectives, but he would often do an impression or a voice for them. Sometimes the voice alone would put enough pictures and ideas in my head. It’s like when you listen to the radio and you start to imagine what the person would look like. You get inspired and everything starts to take shape.”

As the characters took form, Bird began to visualize the film in ever deeper layers. “Brad had a new process for storyboarding the film,” explains Mark Andrews. “He wanted everything to be incredibly detailed and was concerned not only about the character design but even about lighting, backgrounds and camera movement right from the earliest stages. He knew everything had to be perfect to keep the audience completely immersed in the world of THE INCREDIBLES. And starting this way really helped the entire production to get a clear vision of the film from the beginning.”

With the characters well established, casting for THE INCREDIBLES could begin at last. The filmmakers began looking for actors capable of bringing out the ordinary, everyday feelings that reside inside these superhero characters. At the center of the film, of course, is Bob Parr, Mr. Incredible himself, the family’s muscular powerhouse of a patriarch who is trying to come to terms with the changes in his life that have taken him from superhero to suburban dad. To play Bob, Brad Bird was soon drawn to the combination of down-toearth humor and tough-guy charisma represented by Craig T. Nelson (“Coach,” “The District”). “Craig has an authoritative voice but also a wonderful, easygoing kind of humor that really lends itself to who Mr. Incredible is,” says Bird. “You can definitely see his voice fitting into this big, strong, hulking body yet there is also a real vulnerability in him—enough so that you really relate to him simply as a man looking for something he has temporarily lost—and when the scene needed to be intense, he was right there.”

For Nelson, the character—animated or not—proved irresistible. “I really empathized with him as a human being,” notes Nelson. “Here’s a guy who is literally able to leap tall buildings and do all kinds of superheroic things, but that isn’t what makes him special. It’s his value structure and his moral strength, not his mighty feats that I really responded to. He is one of those people I’d really like to meet and get a chance to shake his hand, because he knows what counts and he has a good sense of himself and his family.”

Despite his excitement about the role, Nelson faced an unexpectedly daunting task. “The role of Bob was probably one of the more difficult things I’ve ever done,” he says. “I quickly discovered that Brad and his team had an extremely specific idea of what they wanted because they’d lived with this story so closely for such a long time. They perfected the script and knew this family inside and out, and every other which way. So it was up to the actors to bring to life exactly what they had in their mind’s eye.”

He continues: “This isn’t as easy as it might seem. The delivery has to be correct tonally and the energy has to be at precisely the right place at the right time. You end up doing a lot of experimenting and concentrating on your vocal energy, but at the same time you’re also trying to imagine the situation as if you were involved in it. It was a real challenge as an actor, but it was definitely a fascinating ride.” Coming to her husband’s rescue when the chips are down is the family’s lithe matriarch, Helen, who was formerly the ultra-flexible Elastigirl. This character was created in part as a celebration of the typical modern-day mom who, says Bird, “has to stretch in hundreds of different ways each day.” To get to the core of Helen’s mix of maternalism and stoic strength, Brad Bird trusted the finely honed instincts of Academy Award® winner Holly Hunter.

“Holly struck me as a consummate actress who could portray someone sensitive, yet with a very sturdy center,” observes Bird. “You feel like there’s a part of Holly that would never crack. She has such great resiliency in her and that was something that I needed for Helen because she’s such a very strong woman.” Hunter was intrigued by the film because she liked that it was an unconventional story about family and human dynamics—and this was unlike any other she’d ever seen in that department. “What I really liked is that beneath all the superhero adventures, THE INCREDIBLES is basically a story celebrating family—real families with all their differences and quirks—and what a family’s individuals can do when they come together,” she says.

For Hunter, who has never done any animated voice work before, it was also an exciting way to step out of her usual terrain. “It was a really different and exciting experience for me, learning to be expressive through your voice alone,” she says. “From the start, I was pulled into it by Brad, because his imagination is so very alive and he really knows this character.”

She continues: “Brad thinks musically. For him it’s about finding a rhythm and an intonation that can be really more related to music more than anything else. The back-and-forth exchange is very staccato and very dynamic—and this was very interesting to me as an actress and a lot of fun.”

Rounding out the family of Bob and Helen Parr are their three children: the reclusive teenage Violet, the speedy ten-year-old Dash and little baby Jack-Jack. In developing their individual superpowers, personalities and human foibles, Brad Bird looked at typical American families all around him for inspiration.

“Violet is a typical teenager, someone who’s not comfortable in her own skin, and is in that rocky place between being a kid and an adult. So invisibility seemed like the right superpower for her,” explains Bird.

“Dash moves at lightning speed because the average ten-year-old boy can move twice as fast as anybody else, and something always has to be happening or they just crash and fall asleep. So he goes so fast you can barely see him. Meanwhile, I think babies are unrealized potential, which is why Jack-Jack is the only normal one in the family, and yet...you never know. Maybe he’ll have a combination of his parents’ powers one day.”

To play Dash, the boy whose parents have to cheer “slow down” when he enters a school race, the filmmakers cast rising eleven-year-old Spencer Fox who makes his feature film debut in THE INCREDIBLES. Meanwhile, for the voice of Violet, Bird made a most unusual choice as a result of an epiphany.

“I’m a big fan of the National Public Radio show, ‘This American Life,’” he notes. “And there’s this wonderful author of books and essays who appears regularly on that show: Sarah Vowell. One day, I was driving in the car one day listening to Sarah’s voice, and I immediately thought, ‘That’s Violet.’ When I called Sarah to ask her if she’d play the part of a teenage girl who just wants to be invisible, she was kind of scratching her head and telling me that she had never done voices before. She turned out to be perfect.”

With the family cast, the filmmakers set out to find an actor cool enough to portray Frozone, a superhero who can always put his enemies on ice. Bird was thrilled to be able to cast Oscar® nominee Samuel L. Jackson.

“Nobody sounds cooler than Sam Jackson,” observes Bird. “And he makes it seem so effortless, too. He can be funny, soft, or tough as nails. I think he’s one of the most versatile actors around today. We were blessed to get him for the part of Frozone and he just nailed it right away. The animators had a blast working with his voice because there’s so much happening inside his performance.”

For the voice of Syndrome, the filmmakers turned to Jason Lee (“Almost Famous”). Bird explains, “I’ve enjoyed Jason’s work in some great independent films and he has a very quirky sensibility. He put his all into creating this unique voice for a villain. You can hear the kid in it, but he’s definitely not a kid.”

Lee empathized with the character, despite his dastardly ways. “It was fun to play a really mean guy who wanted to be something more,” says the actor. The entire experience of THE INCREDIBLES was eyeopening for Lee, as for much of the rest of the cast.

He summarizes: “This was an amazing experience for an actor, especially to be a part of Pixar, which is one of the most unique and creative studios I’ve ever seen. It’s full of youthfulness and spontaneity and imagination. They are interested in creating true classics—and going way beyond the expected. I look forward to the day when my kid is old enough, and I can say, ‘Let’s watch THE INCREDIBLES. I was in that movie.’”

Finally, one of the great scene-stealing characters in THE INCREDIBLES is the deliciously deadpan and truly diminutive fashion diva, Edna Mode, or “E” for short, who specializes in designing costumes for an elite superhero clientele. After several attempts to cast the voice, Bird gave in to popular demand from his colleagues at Pixar and agreed to take on the role he created himself.

Bird explains, “I wasn’t intending to play Edna, but we had trouble finding any other voice and it just seemed easiest for me to do it. I really like this character because I’ve always been fascinated by the question: who designs superhero costumes? You know, costumes are such a big deal in the superhero world because it gives them their identity and sets them apart from everyone else. Yet nobody ever explained where the costumes came from and who was behind them. The way I saw it, the costumes had to be created by somebody with a scientific and engineering background. So I started thinking of German engineering. And then I got to thinking that the Japanese make all those unbelievable cars and cameras. So I thought about a half German, half Japanese, tiny powerhouse of a character and Edna just emerged.”

“I really like E,” concludes Bird. “She’s not remotely intimidated by superheroes or anyone at all for that matter. She’s incredibly insistent on her own way of seeing things. The word ‘no’ just doesn’t exist in her vocabulary, especially if it’s in opposition to her. She is incredibly confident and sure of herself. Doubt is not in her—and I suppose you could say I have a side to me like that.”


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