The process of making an animated film is arguably more complex than shooting a live action one. All of the sets, costumes, characters, etc, have to be created from scratch. If you see a vase holding a plant in the background of a scene, someone had to create that. They had to use an animation program and build that vase AND that plant. Not to mention all of the other little details such as making bricks look like bricks. As we see in Incredibles 2, animators had to create an entire city for the super battles to take place. From background things, to a high speed chase – we learned about the incredible (no pun intended) process!
Creating The World Of The Incredibles
The decor and aesthetic of the first Incredibles film was in the 1950s, but was pushed a little bit forward to early 1960s for Incredibles 2. Ralph Eggleston took some of his time to discuss his role in the creation of Incredibles 2 with us while we were are Pixar in April. His job is basically to create the world of the film, and you would be surprised at how much goes in to that! If you think about it, the world is a character in the film as much as any other character – it has to support the story being told. This is done with things like textures and lighting.
Bob and his team used mid-century design in order to bring the world of the Incredibles to the big screen. The animation team has to design everything – EVERYTHING! From the food, to the take out containers, to the floors – every single thing you see is built from scratch. In order to do this, they gather lots of reference from many different sources. This time period has a very specific color packet. What textures and colors describe that time period.
New Parr Home
Since the end of the first Incredibles, the Parr family has been living in Safari Court. Safari Court is a mid-century motel that next to an interstate. And they are going stir crazy. Their home from the first film was a 1300-1500 sq. ft. home. The idea for Incredibles 2, was that they would move to 2300 sq.ft. suburban home. An idea that was used in the 1950s a lot is bringing the outside in, so that meant designing a lot of indoor plants. The team also utilized Terrazzo flooring quite a bit. This house was completely done and shaded, which took 6 months, and was in production when a story change happened, causing it to be scrapped.
The new new Parr home, as the team lovingly called it, is a 20,000 sq. ft. house! This home even has water running through every room. We got to see some of the footage with this house and WOW! Again, I cannot believe it was all made from the ground up. The team only had 2.5 to 3 weeks to create it, so they were under a real time crunch! Eggleston told everyone to go crazy because of this. The final Parr home was greatly inspired by James’ house in North by Northwest. One feature that I thought was pretty amazing is the bottom of the swimming pool is the ceiling in the den! What!
Bringing the Sets to Life
Next we got to talk with Philip Metschan, the Visual Designer, about bringing the Incredibles sets to life. He reiterated what Ralph had told us – that sets are like a character, so it is important to understand them. Pre-Visualization (PreVis for short) is the idea of a rough sketch, of protyping something. By doing this, everyone on the animation team can get on the same page about the world they are creating. The PreVis team builds quick models so there is something everyone can physically look at and react to. This gives them a better understanding of how the art and the story are developing.
The PreVis team takes the storyboards that have been drawn by several different artists, several different ways, and brings them together with the reference material. They even draw maps of where action needs to take place, and what camera angles they might need to make the story flow. Essentially, they bring everything off the drawing page and into the world. Seeing the characters in the space allows the team to judge if it is big enough for them, if it feels comfortable, and if any changes need to be made.
On Incredibles 2, Nathan Farriss, the set supervisor, led a team of 55 people in the sets department. This team took the concept art, reference, and PreVis work and turned it in to what we will see on the screen. They make all of the props, architecture, vehicles, vegetation, skies, and set extensions. So yeah, basically everything. Their team is split in to five groups: modeling, set dressing, shading, set extension and skies, and sets tech.
Nathan explained to us that computers are really good at making straight lines, but in the real world, how many straight lines do we actually see? Most things have bumps and are uneven – how many roads have you seen that are actually straight with no flaws? I am willing to bet not many, if any. So the set team spends a lot of time making straight lines not straight anymore. They add textures and color – all while building everything from scratch.
This team has to pay a lot of attention to detail – especially for the hero props. I think the most interesting part I learned about was the set dressing group. They take empty spaces and fill them full of props – as well as story items. If a scene calls for a sink full of dirty dishes and piles of dirty laundry on the floor, they create that. Their job is to make things look lived in. Then the shading team adds color and texture, making everything feel real.
The Runaway Train
In the footage we saw, there was a runaway train action scene. I was really excited to be able to chat with the team that created this scene, from beginning to end. It started out as a story reel, which is basically a drawn version of the scene, and ends up with what everyone will see on the big screen. The story reel is the blueprint, the foundation, for all of the departments that will get their hands on it before the final version is completed.
We got to see the story reel version and it was pretty awesome. Ted Mathot, the Story Supervisor agreed. However, he said being that this is a Pixar film directed by Brad Bird, the team asked themselves how they could make it better. After putting their heads together they came up with three things.
Balancing the Super with the Mundane
Something that we heard in presentation after presentation is that the Incredibles is about the super and the mundane. No scene should be super for too long without the introduction of something mundane and vice versa. To comply with this, the team added a phone call from Dash to Helen (who is chasing down a train on her Elasticycle at the moment). This adds humor and makes the story relate-able to moms who just cannot get away completely – ever (I know I can’t!).
They also introduced the police to this scene, which helped to showcase Elastigirl’s ability to be doing something super. The police were stopped by traffic, and she could get around it. I don’t want to explain how, because I want you to be surprised when you see it, but trust me, it’s super! The team also changed the way that Helen eventually stops the runaway train, which again, I will not spoil, but it works.
Helen has a new toy in Incredibles 2 – the Elasticycle! This thing is amazing, and I was excited to be able to learn how it all came together and was designed. Getting to see it in action was pretty cool and I cannot wait to (hopefully) see more of it when I see Incredibles 2 in theaters. Kureha Yokoo talked to use about how the Elasticycle came about. She explained that during the design process they really considered the fact that the Elasticycle was an extension of Elastigirl. Brad Bird said that fit is everything. Meaning it needed to be cool, yes, but it needed to fit Elastigirl, and be functional as well.
They referenced many different motorcycles for inspiration when designing the Elasticycle, but they also looked at different watersports as well. Kureha wanted to force Helen to use the bike in unique ways, and I think they really accomplished that. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that the bike splits when she wants it to – and that is really fun to see!
Adding Visual Effects
Amit Baadkar, the Effect Director on Incredibles 2, took some time out of his day to show up how visual effects were introduced in to the high speed chase scene. He touched on things I never would have even thought about like how the sparks of the slowing train had to be perfect, and how the size of the glass shards were very important. For example, if they are not large enough, you will not see them, and then the effect of the broken glass is lost on the audience.
In this scene, Amit’s team of six was responsible for sparks, glass destruction, smoke, and explosions. He let us know they had several challenges, but that action scenes are always really fun to work on. Tiresmoke is a supporting effect, meaning it cannot draw too much attention to itself. The audience needs to feel the effect, but not focus on it too much that they miss the action. Sparks are a supporting effect as well. The team wanted to portray chaos, danger, and loss of control – but not take over the scene with the sparks. The explosion in this scene is the complete opposite – it is called a hero effect. This effect should take center stage and draw in the eyes of the audience. The explosion was supposed to be big, but not too big. I have seen the final cut and I can confirm, they did their job!
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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