Movie Production Information p. 4


With the characters coming into their own, the filmmakers now set out to build the richly stylized world of THE INCREDIBLES around them. The design scope of that world turned out to be entirely unprecedented—unfolding on over 100 carefully created sets that forge a witty, eye-popping alternate reality.

From the beginning, Bird envisioned THE INCREDIBLES taking place inside a distinctive universe that would be at once futuristic and full of retro nostalgia. “I saw the world of THE INCREDIBLES as looking sort of like what we thought the future would turn out like in the 1960s,” explains the director. “During that period, there were all these shows that promised people that, in ten or fifteen years, we would all have jet packs or use hydrofoils to travel across the water and then drive up on land. Today we do have some of those things but they don’t quite work like we thought they would. With this film, we wanted to put our story into that type of skin. For me, it’s the 1960s view of what we believed life was going to be like today.”

To help capture this very special look—and all its variations as the story unfolds—Bird collaborated closely with production designer Lou Romano and art director Ralph Eggleston (the Oscar® winning director of the Best Animated Short for 2002, “For the Birds,” who Story” and “Finding Nemo”).

“I saw the world of THE INCREDIBLES as looking sort of like what we thought the future would turn out like in the 1960s.” –Brad Bird

Romano and Eggleston were faced with an enormous task. Although they weren’t designing “physical” sets, their job was no less creatively challenging—if anything it was even more so, because they weren’t limited by the rules of existing architecture and design!

Romano explains, “Our work was about creating the entire human gamut of feelings, moods and atmosphere with shapes and colors. We wanted the overall design aesthetic to be retro but with sudden splashes of the modern, so we borrowed lines and forms from contemporary architecture and took them in other directions. As for color, the film starts off very bright and saturated during the golden age of superheroes, but then the color drains out as we find Bob working away at his boring job at Insuricare. As the film progresses, we start to bring in more color until we come full circle to the big confrontation scene at the end.”

Eggleston has his own description of the film’s design: “I call the look suburban-mid-century-Tiki by way of Lou Romano,” he explains. “Throughout all our work Brad kept encouraging us to keep going to the next extreme—he simply never settled for anything less, which brought out the best in us.”

While Romano and Eggleston proceeded with their prolific designs, set sequence supervisor Nigel Hardwidge worked side-by-side with them to make sure their vision was clearly communicated to those on the technical side of the film. Much of Hardwidge’s job involved creative problem-solving—assuring that artistic vision and technology would jibe. “My job is to ask a lot of questions about each environment—what does it look like, how much are we going to see of it, what time of day is it, and how are we going to create it in a way that will satisfy these guys who dreamed it up in such wonderful detail,” he explains.

“Right off the bat, we knew this film was going to be an unprecedented undertaking because THE INCREDIBLES has nearly three times as many sets as we’ve dealt with on any previous film,” continues Hardwidge. “Adding to the complication, a lot of the film takes place outdoors on a huge tropical island that is a couple of square miles in size. One of the first big challenges for me was the scene on the island where Dash races through the dense jungle to escape from the Velocipods. Dash ended up running at about 200 mph, which meant we needed literally to create twice as much ground as originally planned. This required investing enough time and energy to get the desired results to satisfy Brad—but also spending our money wisely to find an efficient way to deal with it. It was just one sequence, but we quickly realized how massive this project was going to become.”

With the dozens upon dozens of sets completed, the next task was for the layout team to establish the staging, blocking and timing of each scene—and start transforming ordinary 2-D drawings into the fantasia of a 3-D world. To allow for maximum creative flexibility with the camera and the character action, Pixar changed their typical layout process for THE INCREDIBLES.

Patrick Lin, one of the film’s three directors of photography and a layout expert, explains: “In the past, Pixar would first build detailed models of the sets, and then we would go in and figure out our camera positions just like on a live-action film. With this film, we did things in reverse. On some of the big scenes, we actually filmed using a very simple, low geometry model. After the director approved the shot, more complete models were then built out to the camera. This allowed a great deal more flexibility. A good example of this is the final battle scene in the city. The battle is so big and complex that it wouldn’t have made sense to build a city and then figure out how to try and film it. So we pre-visualized the scene and then filmed the action. Only then did we build a final model based on all that work to add deeper detail.”

One of the seemingly simplest scenes in the film—the Parr family gathered around the family dinner table—proved to be one of the most complex from a layout and set dressing point of view.

“The dinner table scene was one of the trickiest to stage,” comments Lin. “It starts out as a typical family meal but gradually escalates into complete chaos. Staging things around a table is always hard because you need to keep the camera moving and you don’t want to confuse the audience as to where the characters are sitting. As chaos erupts, with Dash and Violet fighting and Jack-Jack shrieking, Helen stretches to grab the clashing siblings and keep them apart. Bob gets everyone’s attention by lifting the whole table just as his pal Frozone arrives. None of the set could be dressed in advance because everything was driven by the animation. Food on the table gets thrown around, so you have to keep track of every item on each plate, including the gravy. The entire sequence was a continuity and dressing nightmare.”

“Staging things around a table is always hard because you need to keep the camera moving and you don’t want to confuse the audience as to where the characters are sitting.” –Patrick Lin

Meanwhile, director of photography Janet Lucroy, who specialized in lighting THE INCREDIBLES, was facing her own unique challenges. “From a lighting perspective, this film had an enormous magnitude to it because of the large number of sets and shots,” says Lucroy. “In fact, it had about 600 more shots than, say, ‘Monsters, Inc.’”

In addition to the magnitude of the job, Lucroy was challenged by trying to create richly cinematographic, carefully plotted lighting schemes that match the unique look of the film. “We decided to try out a darker, more constrasty look to the film—something different than people are used to in an animated world and more akin to a contemporary thriller or adventure story,” says Lucroy. “We also wanted there to be an intriguing mix of theatrical and naturalistic lighting. So, there are times in the film where we push the theatricality, like in the glory days of the superhero prologue when everything is very contrasty and visually strong. But there’s a huge part of the film where the family is at home or in the office, and for those scenes we used very natural photographic lighting.”

Lucroy was also thrilled to have a chance to create more delicate lighting effects that add to the overall photo-realism and impact of the film. “I really love some of the quieter, more subtle moments,” she says.

“There’s a little sequence where Dash and Mom are in the car, and you get the window shadow across her face, but there’s still enough fill light to read her eyes. And then you get the bar across her face. The feel of the sunlight and the bounce coming from the seat onto them is so believable and makes for a very nice moment.”

“We also wanted there to be an intriguing mix of theatrical and naturalistic lighting.” –Janet Lucroy

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