After an exciting introduction to the Pixar life, I’m ready for the reason why we’re all there in the first place.
The universe above me fades as the Magic Castle looms high on the screen when – bam. We’re dropped right back into the world of the Incredibles. And I do mean right back. It might have been 14 years to the rest of us, but not a day’s gone by in Metroville and the family is ready to face off against the villainous Underminer. The next 20 minutes of footage doesn’t reveal anything that isn’t already disclosed in official trailers….except for some pretty phenomenal Jack-Jack scenes that will have to wait until after embargo.
The lay of the land in Incredibles 2 is that the Parr family and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) are approached by a seemingly pro-super sibling duo, the Deavors (Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener), bent on shedding a positive light on those with powers and they want Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) at the forefront of their campaign. This change of pace takes Helen out of the home and into the spotlight while the ever-ambitious Mr. Incredible AKA Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) is left to be a homemaker and to learn it takes more than superpowers to be a mother.
While it remains to be seen whether or not the sequel will live up to its origin story, the amount of work put into it is extraordinary in its own right. After the screening, the group was addressed by the production design team. They brought several things to light, namely that I knew nothing about modern-day animation. Quite a few things had changed since 2004 technology wise so though animators were technically working from a blueprint, they still had to recreate everything in the animated style we as audience members have grown used to.
“In animation, nothing is free.”
While I can’t totally verify that every Pixar employee has this tattooed somewhere on their body, with the number of times I heard it in a 24 hour period I can’t deny it either. And it’s far from a joke. The design team walked us through the patterns, lighting, and textures broken down in everything from the sunlight on the tallest skyscraper in Metroville to the different stone inlays of the terrazzo flooring. Set design, in particular, is essentially the neutral makeup of the animation world – because all their work is there, you don’t really notice it, but if it were suddenly gone, suddenly they movie looks very off and just wrong all over.
We dove into the details of the midcentury design and inspiration for the film. From the intentional drab gaudiness of the Parr’s parttime motel home, the Safari Lodge, the North by Northwest mansion they live in later.
My own version of the Pixar animation tattoo would read,”Animation is really really hard…like really.”
Although intellectually I understood it was a complex art form, I would still be slightly confused when I would hear about films taking over six years with literally hundreds of animators on the team. After my 24 hours at Pixar, it began to make far more sense.
The mansion fans will be seeing in theatres is the second home that was created for the family. The first, more modest house took 8.5 months to finish and then was chucked when the story necessitated more space. The team had 2.5 weeks to complete redesign. But according to everyone from the design team who spoke to us, this practice was just a necessity of the job: Doing work for sometimes months on end that might get half a second of screen time or even less. This was the slightly jaded lamentation of one animator who had spent a month working on a giant mosaic displayed in the living room which was cut when the director decided on a different camera angle.
“But I’ll show you guys…since you’re here already,” he offered, only half-joking as he quickly pulled up the filed. It was a phenomenal mosaic.
Looking back I thought I was in awe of the work I was witnessing – I had no idea what was on the horizon. A horizon that was perfectly lit and shaded thanks to the design team mind you.