Did you know that when making an animated feature film, the crew has to create looks for every single background character? I guess I knew that, but I never thought much about how much work goes in to it. They have to design not only their clothes, but their hairstyles and body types. Of course, the main characters have to be styled as well. It could totally be argued that more work goes in to the costumes for animated films than live action films. While at Pixar, I was lucky enough to talk to the costume designers for Incredibles 2 and I learned so much about the whole process.
Costuming the Background Characters
As you likely know, the Incredibles world is heavily inspired by mid-century aesthetics. Deanna Marsigliese, a character artist for Pixar, has a wardrobe full of mid-century pieces, which is one of the reasons she believes she was brought on to the Incredibles 2 team. When she designs characters, she says she needs two equally creative, but completely different, states of mind. The first being creatively theoretical and the second being creatively practical.
I think we can all agree that costume choices should support the story line of the film and, if done well, they can even help to tell the story better. Deanna describes the process of designing background characters as not boring and actually challenging. To accomplish this she needs to be efficient and clever. I mean, she needs to design literally hundreds of characters – men, women, and children. It is important to realize background characters populate our world – and even compliment it.
In order to costume these many background characters, the Pixar team developed a new process to refit clothes on animated characters. They would use the same shirt and same pants, pin it down to one body, and then make that body blend from one shape to another – taking clothes along for the ride. That process gets them 80% there on clothing fit, and then they go in and hand fit the details.
For the background men, they created 12 unique garments and 6 different body types. Adding variations in patterns and colors totaled 72 uniquely costumed male characters. When it comes to the women, they made 20 unique garments and 7 body types. Changing color and hair variations, they came up with 64 uniquely costumed characters.
Incredibles 2 Research
For Incredibles 2, she researched every day folk of the mid-century and came to a conclusion. They were all perfectly tailored. The tailored fit was the most defining quality of that time. She also noticed bold shapes and clean silhouettes. It is important that background characters’ outfits are be iconic and stylish, but simple. They should compliment but never distract.
When creating a wardrobe, character artists are usually inspired by actual sewing patterns. For example, with some patterns separates combine to make a dress – thus two pieces with multiple uses. There are also patterns that use the same basic pattern but add partial design changes (i.e adding a collar or changing sleeve length). Character artists are sure to have a person model actual pieces when possible. This way they can see how actions effect garments and how garments effects actions. Of course, costumes are not just clothing – it also includes glasses, accessories, hair, and groom.
The Incredibles Super Suits & Every Day Dress
While at Pixar Studios, we also spoke with Shading Art Director Bryn Imagire. She was also the shader and art director on the original Incredibles film. She let us know the team respected the design ideas and philosophy that was established in the first film. Of course, this was really important for the movies to mesh well together. They were lucky in that the world is not set in specific time period, so they had the freedom to reference current clothing if they felt it was a better fir for the character.
Being that Incredibles 2 was created more than ten years after The Incredibles, technology is so much more advanced now. This made the costumes a lot easier to design and create. In the first film, the super suits were shaded on to the body of the models, causing the Incredibles logo to stretches and do weird things because it was actually their skin. With the second movie, the super suits are garments that are on top of the bodies – much like actual clothing – making the logo act like it would on actual clothing. The team even made a tangible logo for their reference.
Inspirations for the every day dress of the Parr family:
- Bob Parr – Bob Newman
- Helen Parr – Mary Tyler Moore, Audrey Heburn, and Marilyn Monroe. All fabulous women!
- Violet – She seems rebellious so 1950s design did not feel right when clothing her. The team looked at 1960’s instead. Keds, cuffed jeans, and sweaters.
- Dash – Brad Bird loves that Dash is a normal kid and only wears T-Shirts and jeans. The team saved money and time by making one t-shirt and shading it a bunch of different colors and patterns. Fun Fact: They always kept the Incredibles colors – yellow, orange, and red.
- Jack-Jack – Fun Fact: Whenever Bob is home alone with him, he is just in a diaper. You will only see Jack-Jack dressed when Helen is home.
- Elastigirl Costume – Helen’s new super suit had to be more inconspicuous since she is working in the shadows. You will notice she got darker colors to blend in.
Edna Mode & Evelyn Deavor Costumes
Bryn also walked us through designing the costumes for Edna “E” Mode and newcomer, Evelyn Deaver. With Edna, her head is a oval and her body is a triangle. The team was sure to keep that silhouette in mind when designing for her. E is German and Japanese so the team started looking at Japanese designers. These designers seems to always look comfortable compared to what they are designing for their models – which looks very uncomfortable. The focused on “For something to be beautiful it doesn’t have to be pretty.” To help Bryn think abstractly, she started looking at nature (animals, mushrooms, flowers), paper, snakeskin, and even metal. She felt like E would reuse discarded materials in a new way.
Evelyn Deaver is a new character that you are sure to love. From what I saw of her, I was a big fan. Her look was inspired by Diane Keaton, who I adore so I thought that was really cool. Brad Bird wanted her to feel bohemian and smart. Evelyn is a designer who works a lot and has made a lot of money. It was important that she felt relaxed with her own style. Inspiration for her clothing also came from Patty Smith. Bryn noticed that when Patty wore a masculine shirt it made out of gauzy material or had a dainty print. This seems to be her way of blurring gender lines and stepping in to a man’s world (seems like a story line to me!). Evelyn’s clothing has a very neutral palate.
Making the Costumes Move
Costuming in the digital world has many parallels to the physical world, but also unique challenges. The designers have to start from scratch – meaning, you can’t take costumes from Up and put them in Incredibles, it just wouldn’t work. Bryn and Deanna provided the shading artist with photographs and even a physical sample of what they were looking for when possible. Then that team would start by building a 3D sculpture of the costume in their software. They would then use that to generate two versions. One version would show the model how to move and not be visible – the other to be visible and show colors.
The model that is created resembles a sewing pattern, which is really cool to see. The team then tessellates it, which means they turn into triangles where the points are connected by springs. The model is then programmed to move likes certain fabrics – for example, to be light or heavy. They take that model and cut it along the seams and apply a pattern or print. They can tell it to be shiny or don’t be shiny in certain areas – which they call color instructions. It is truly amazing that designers can do all this with some code!
Hair in Incredibles 2
In Incredibles 2, the family’s hair underwent an upgrade. In fact, Pixar actually developed and adopted a new hair tool just for use Incredibles 2! Helen’s hair is one of the hardest to work with. It is hard to make it maintain it’s pointed iconic shape, and still move naturally in shots. Want to know something crazy? It actually takes a whole team of people to make sure it would behave like you would expect it to!
All of the background characters have hair too – so the team designs hair for each of them as well. These are the things I honestly have never thought about while watching an animated film. The characters in these need hair and makeup and costuming too – just like live action films! These people work their butts off to make sure we don’t think about things like that.
About Incredibles 2
In Incredibles 2, Helen is called on to lead a campaign to bring Supers back, while Bob navigates the day-to-day heroics of “normal” life at home with Violet, Dash, and baby Jack-Jack—whose super powers 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 by their side. That’s what makes this family so Incredible.
Incredibles 2 hits theaters June 15th!
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Visit the official INCREDIBLES 2 website here: http://disney.com/incredibles2
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Tessa Smith is a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved Film and TV Critic. She is also a Freelance Writer. Tessa has been in the Entertainment writing business for almost ten years and is a member of several Critics Associations including the Critics Choice Association, Hollywood Critics Association, and the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association.