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– by David Kozlowski

Brad Bird’s superhero-based animated film, The Incredibles, hit theaters in 2004, a couple years before Disney acquired Pixar, four years before Marvel’s Iron Man, and more than a decade before DC Film’s Justice League. A lot has changed since then, both in the superhero genre and in 3D animation.

The Incredibles are both a family and a super team (Bob, Helen, Violet, Dash, Jack-Jack) and their super-ally Frozone are all coming back this summer in Incredibles 2 — and they’ve brought some new friends too. LRM recently attended a multi-day event at Pixar to learn more about this upcoming blockbuster.

Related – Incredibles 2 Gets An ‘Incredible Summer’ Poster

We’re going to have a lot to say about Incredibles 2 over the next couple months, but here’s a broad overview:

1. The Sequel Picks Up Seconds After the Original

At the conclusion of The Incredibles, The Underminer (played by veteran Pixar actor John Ratzenberger) bursts through the downtown streets of Metroville in his giant Tunneler drill. The sequel picks up right here, and we see an extended battle scene that causes quite a lot of damage to the downtown.

The Underminer appears ready for the Incredibles family and Frozone, hitting them with a variety of dirty tricks and distractions as he conducts a massive bank robbery. What makes this scene so cool is that it strongly resembles the first film, even though the underlying technology has advanced massively over the last (almost) fifteen years… more on this in a moment.

2. The Look of Incredibles 2

Production designer, Ralph Eggleston, and art director, Brynn Imagire, explained how they sought to visually bridge the gap between the original film and the sequel. The new film is packed with amazing new and enhanced visuals, but these actually ramp up over the course of the film.

We’ll go over all the details in a later article, but essentially the team tried to make the start of Incredibles 2 blend with the look of the previous film. The quality and variety of textures, lighting, animation, and special effects incrementally increases throughout the movie. By the end of Incredibles 2, it looks like an entirely different film. It sounds weird, but they pulled it off (and you probably wouldn’t realize it unless somebody told you…you’re welcome).

 

3. Amazing new Cast Members

Joining the amazing returning cast (Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Vowell, Kimberly Adair Clark) are several new members, including Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul alums Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks, plus Catherine Keener, Sophia Bush, and Isabella Rossellini.

Odenkirk and Keener play the Deavor siblings (Winston and Evelyn), who run a major tech company similar to Facebook or Google that supplies “Supers” with tech and gear while also mounting a PR campaign to highlight all the good things Supers do (and suppress all the ancillary damage they cause or fail to prevent).

4. The Setting Remains Mid-20th Century but with Modern Technology

One of the great pleasures of the first Incredibles movie was the look of Metroville and all of the props, signage, and other background elements. The Pixar artists spent significant time in California towns, such as Palm Springs, to achieve a 1960s aesthetic.

Metroville was largely expressed via matte paintings and other trickery (in part due to the limitations of rendering tech in 2004). In the sequel, Metroville is completely modeled down to every house, tree, street, and alley — literally thousands of buildings!

Layered on top of the 60s architecture and tone are modern-day technologies, like GoPro style cameras, pocket rocket motorcycles, and other “Tomorrowland” tech that we could only imagine in the “Mad Men” era… but it all strangely works.

5. Role-Reversal in the Parr Family

In another nod to modern culture, the storyline and themes in Incredibles 2 are updated too. Whereas Bob was the breadwinner in the original, he steps aside in the sequel so Helen can lead the family while Bob stays home to raise Jack-Jack. In fact, female empowerment and family role-reversal are major themes in this movie.

Additionally, the other characters grow and have their own arcs too. Violet is no longer the shy teenager, she’s ready to start dating, while Dash is ready to assume more responsibility and carry on the family legacy. And then there’s Jack-Jack…

6. Jack-Jack is an Uncontrollable Powers Machine

The Parr’s youngest child, Jak-Jak, was an enigma in the first movie. He demonstrated several random powers, such as fire and teleportation, which all get major boosts in the sequel. Additionally, Jak-Jack has new powers in the sequel, which we won’t spoil here; however, they’re all surprising (and incredibly funny too).

A major aspect of Incredibles 2 story is how the family copes with Jack-Jack’s powers, which are emotionally-driven — and you won’t believe how terrifying Jack-Jack can be until he has a full-blown tantrum!

7. Costumes are Actually Costumes

The Pixar artists are perfectionists, which should come as no surprise. They were constrained in the first film due to limitations of the tools and hardware. For example, character’s costumes were simply textures applied to the base models — these textures often stretched and warped in ways that made them cringe, according to costuming leads Fran Kalal and Deanna Marsigliese.

Pixar’s current tech allows them to build clothing completely separately now — they have a team dedicated to just designing and creating modular clothing (stay tuned for another LRM article on this topic). Suffice to say that you can now literally see the stitching and the dynamic fabric folds, which rivals anything you might see in a Marvel movie.

8. Visual Effects on Steroids

As mentioned above, the appearance of Incredibles 2 evolves significantly throughout its runtime. In particular, visual effects are truly next level. Explosions, fires, dust, water, reflections, shadows, and powers look very, very real — they have a whole group just dedicated to hair!

What’s a bit unexpected is how the clarity and realism of these effects sometimes looks too “live-action,” which can sometimes yank you out of its animated, artificial world. The collision of reality and imaginary is occassionally distracting (it’s not a deal-breaker, but this is definitely some “uncanny valley” stuff).

9. The Longest Pixar Film Yet

The scope and scale of this sequel is monstrous — more than 300 people worked on it for multiple years (the average Pixar film takes 4-6 years to create on average, according to several sources we met). The Incredibles runtime was nearly two-hours, and the sequel is expected to exceed this, and it’s expected to be the longest Pixar film yet (and then there’s the short film, Bao, which precedes Incredibles 2… but that too is another LRM story to tell).

10. Plenty of Other Surprises

New heroes and new enemies emerge throughout the film. To describe any of them or how they appear would be spoilery (and I don’t need any Disney thugs showing up on my doorstep). Suffice to say that Incredibles 2 is a packed movie that goes places you aren’t expecting, and conveys a bigger and deeper story that builds on the original while laying the blocks for future iterations (hopefully we won’t have to wait another fifteen years to see it).

What are your hopes and expectations for Incredibles 2? Let us know in the comments down below!

Incredibles 2 hits theaters on June 15, 2018.

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David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.