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Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Pixar Edition. The Incredibles

Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”

Title: The Incredibles

Year: 2004

Budget: $92 million

Box office: $633 million

Plot: On the day of his wedding, Bob Parr, aka Mr. Incredible, finds himself with a wannabe sidekick, Buddy, who is his biggest fan. Due to Buddy’s interference, an elevated train is detrailed, the bad guy gets away, and Bob is late for his wedding to Helen, the superhero known as Elastigirl.


Public opinion turns against superheroes, and the government silently initiates the Superhero Relocation Program, which forces Supers to permanently adhere to their secret identities. Fifteen years later, Bob, Helen and their children Violet, Dash, and baby Jack-Jack are a suburban family.


Bob dislikes the mundanity of suburbia and his white-collar job. Together with his friend Lucius Best, formerly known as Frozone, Bob occasionally relives “the glory days” by moonlighting as a vigilante. Together, they rescue people trapped in a burning building, but unbeknownst to them, they are being observed.


After his supervisor prevents him from stopping a mugging, Bob loses his temper and injures him, resulting in the loss of his job. Returning home, Bob finds a message from a mysterious woman named Mirage who convinces him to become Mr. Incredible again, and gives him a mission to destroy a savage tripod-like robot called the Omnidroid on the remote island of Nomanisan.


Bob accepts the mission, telling Helen that his job has sent him to a conference. He finds the Omnidroid and destroys it by tricking it into ripping out its own power source. Bob improves his relationship with his family and begins rigorous training while awaiting more work from Mirage for the next two months.


Discovering a tear in his suit, he visits superhero costume designer Edna Mode. Assuming that Helen knows what Bob is doing, Mode also makes new suits for the other family members.


Leaving for Nomanisan once again, Bob discovers Mirage is working for Buddy Pine. Having adopted the name Syndrome, he has been perfecting the Omnidroid by hiring different Supers to fight it, adding new features on the occasion that a Super wins. Now that it is capable of defeating Bob, Syndrome intends to send the machine to the city of Metroville. There, he will secretly manipulate its controls to defeat it in public, becoming a hero himself. Later, he will sell his inventions so that everyone will become equally “super”, making the term meaningless.


Meanwhile, Helen visits Edna and learns what Bob has been up to. Edna activates a beacon she built into the suits so Helen can find Bob, inadvertently causing him to be discovered and captured.

Helen borrows a private plane to head for Nomanisan, but Violet and Dash have stowed away wearing their own suits, leaving Jack-Jack with a babysitter. Syndrome shoots down Helen’s plane, but she and the children survive and reach the island.

Helen infiltrates the base, discovering Syndrome’s intentions to send the Omnidroid to Metroville in a rocket. Distraught by Syndrome’s callousness when her life was threatened, Mirage releases Bob and informs him of his family’s survival. At the same time, Helen arrives and races off with Bob to find their children.


Dash and Violet are spotted and chased by a number of Syndrome’s guards, but fend them off with their powers before reuniting with their parents. However, Syndrome captures them, leaving them imprisoned on Nomanisan while he follows the rocket to Metroville. The Parrs escape and travel to Metroville in a spare rocket.


True to its programming, the Omnidroid recognizes Syndrome as an opponent and attacks the remote on his wrist, making him incapable of controlling it, while simultaneously knocking him unconscious. The Parrs and Frozone team up to fight the Omnidroid; the battle is indecisive until Bob comes across the remote, allowing him to control one of the robot’s arms and use it to destroy its power source.


Returning home, the Parrs find Syndrome, who plans to kidnap and raise Jack-Jack as his own sidekick to exact revenge on the family. As Syndrome is traveling upward to reach his airplane, Jack-Jack’s own superpowers start to manifest and he escapes from Syndrome midair. Bob throws his car towards the plane. Syndrome loses his balance and is sucked into the plane’s jet engine, destroying the plane and killing him, while Helen catches Jack-Jack.

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Three months later, the Parrs witness the arrival of a new villain called the Underminer. They put on their superhero masks, ready to face the new threat together as a family.

Background: Brad Bird came up with the idea as he was directing his first feature, The Iron Giant. Bird pondered whether his career goals were attainable only at the price of his family life. He imagined it as a homage to the 1960s comic books and spy films from his boyhood. He reconnected with old friend from Cal Arts John Lasseter at Pixar in March 2000 and pitched his story idea to him.


“The dad is always expected in the family to be strong, so I made him strong. The moms are always pulled in a million different directions, so I made her stretch like taffy. Teenagers, particularly teenage girls, are insecure and defensive, so I made her turn invisible and turn on shields. And ten-year-old boys are hyperactive energy balls. Babies are unrealized potential.” – Brad Bird, writer and director of The Incredibles.

Animation: The film’s characters were designed by Tony Fucile and Teddy Newton, whom Bird had brought with him from Warner Bros. Creating an all-human cast required creating new technology to animate detailed human anatomy, clothing, and realistic skin and hair. Violet’s long hair, which was extremely difficult to animate, was only successfully animated toward the end of production. In addition, animators had to adapt to having hair both underwater and blowing through the wind. Additionally, the effects team improved their modeling of clouds, using volumetric rendering for the first time.



John Barry was the first choice to do the film’s score, however, he did not wish to duplicate the sound of some of his earlier soundtracks such as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Michael Kamen was set to score, but passed away in the middle of scoring. Michael Giacchino and Dan Wallin, the recording engineer, wanted an old feel, and as such the score was recorded on analog tapes.

Voice Cast:

Craig T. Nelson as Bob Parr / Mr. Incredible. He is known for his roles as Hayden Fox in the television series Coach, 1 Deputy Ward Wilson in Stir Crazy, Steven Freeling in Poltergeist, the warden in My Name is Earl. He also starred as Zeek Braverman in the television series Parenthood. Other films include …And Justice for All, Silkwood, All the Right Moves and The Proposal. Holly Hunter as Helen Parr / Elastigirl. She won the Academy Award, BAFTA Award, Golden Globe Award, and Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress fot performance as Ada McGrath in The Piano. She was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for Broadcast News, and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for The Firm and Thirteen. A seven-time Emmy Award nominee, Hunter won Emmys for Roe vs. Wade and The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom. She also starred in the series Saving Grace. Her other film roles include Raising Arizona, Always, Copycat, Crash, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and The Big Sick.

Sarah Vowell as Violet Parr. She was a contributing editor for the radio program This American Life on Public Radio International from 1996 to 2008. Her published works include, Radio On: A Listener’s Diary, Take the Cannoli: Stories From the New World, The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Assassination Vacation, The Wordy Shipmates, Unfamiliar Fishes, and Lafayette in the Somewhat United States. Spencer Fox as Dashiell “Dash” Parr. He also provided the voices of Jim and Tim Possible for the fourth season of Kim Possible, and he was the voice of Mudbud in the first Air Buddies movie. Fox acted on screen in The Groomsmen. He is currently the lead guitarist for the indie rock band Charly Bliss.

Jason Lee as Buddy Pine / Incrediboy / Syndrome. A former professional skateboarder, he is best known for his roles as Earl Hickey in the television comedy series My Name Is Earl, and David Seville in the live action/CGI Alvin and the Chipmunks. He is also known for his roles in Kevin Smith films such as Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jersey Girl, Clerks II, and Cop Out. He also appeared in Vanilla Sky, Almost Famous, Dreamcatcher, Big Trouble, The Ballad of Jack and Rose, Mumford, and Enemy of the State. Samuel L. Jackson as Lucius Best / Frozone. He is a prolific actir, appearing in Goodfellas, Jungle Fever, Patriot Games, Amos & Andrew, True Romance, Jurassic Park, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Unbreakable, Shaft, The 51st State, Black Snake Moan, Snakes on a Plane, and the Star Wars prequel trilogy. He is also known for plsying Nick Fury Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Elizabeth Peña 2 as Mirage. She appeared in several films including Nothing Like The Holidays, Batteries Not Included, La Bamba, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Jacob’s Ladder, Lone Star, Rush Hour, and Tortilla Soup. Bud Luckey 3 as Rick Dicker. He was a Disney scholar, and received professional animation training at the University of Southern California with Disney veteran animator Art Babbitt. At Pixar he worked as a character designer on a number of films, including Toy Story, Boundin’, Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Cars and Ratatouille. Luckey was also known as the voice of Chuckles the Clown in Toy Story 3 and as Eeyore in the 2011 Winnie the Pooh film.

Wallace Shawn returns as Gilbert Huph. Director Brad Bird plays Edna Mode. 4 Legendary Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson make a cameo appearance.

Where in the World is John Ratzenberger?: John plays The Underminer, a character inspired by the Mole Man from The Fantastic Four

Pizza Planet Truck: The Incredibles is the first, and thus far only, Pixar movie NOT to feature a distinct appearance of the Pizza Planet truck.

A 113: First, Mirage says “D-Wing Room A113”. Second, when Elastigirl is spying on the level system, it says A1 and the number that has the most power is 13.

Critical Reception: Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three-and-a-half out of four, writing that the film “alternates breakneck action with satire of suburban sitcom life” and is “another example of Pixar’s mastery of popular animation.” The film won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, beating two DreamWorks films, Shrek 2 and Shark Tale, as well as Best Sound Editing at the 77th Academy Awards. It also received nominations for Best Original Screenplay (for writer/director Brad Bird) and Best Sound Mixing (Randy Thom, Gary Rizzo and Doc Kane). 5

Legacy: A series of comic books based on the film was published by BOOM! Studios in collaboration with Disney Publishing. The first miniseries was The Incredibles: Family Matters by Mark Waid and Marcio Takara. Pixar also released a short called Jack-Jack Attack. The long-awaited sequel, Incredibles 2 , released in the United States on June 15, 2018.


The characters appear in the parks. Recently the California Screaming roller coaster at California Adventure was renamed the Incredicoaster as part of the new theming of Pixar Pier

Video games:

  • The Incredibles was released on the PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, Game Boy Advance, PC, and Macintosh, as well as on mobile phones.
  • The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer, was released for the PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS, as well as on Windows and OS X. The Incredibles: When Danger Calls, was released for Windows and OS X.
  • Kinect Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure, was released on March 20, 2012, for Xbox 360.
  • The Incredibles characters also star in Disney Infinity, which was released in August 2013. The playset for The Incredibles is featured in the starter pack.
  • A LEGO-themed video game, Lego The Incredibles, was released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and is released on June 15th, 2018 on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.

My take: This is hands-down one of my favorites. I love the whole retro future vibe of the film. I love old James Bond movies and the spy tech looks great. The music is fantastic. Some highlights of the film:

  • Helen sneaking into the base, and the whole sequence with her trapped in the doors.
  • Is there any moment more gleeful than Dash realizing he can run on water? And what a sequence!
  • The cutting back and forth between Helen at Edna’s workshop and Bob discovering about Kronos is done so well.
  • Jason Lee is so perfectly cast as the fanboy gone bad. It’s downright terrifying when he shows up at the house.
  • NO CAPES! That whole scene is hysterical. Edna is my hero.

Next Week: Chicken Little. I’m so sorry.