I can’t imagine an Incredibles movie without action-packed scenes.
Action sequences aren’t magically produced by a button on a computer. It takes a team of talented individuals, each with their own skills, working together to bring Director Brad Bird’s vision to life from the story reel to the big screen.
It’s not an easy task. Have you ever worked in group projects? I have and sometimes it’s not always done well; however, at Pixar they make it look easy… and fun.
During our press trip to Pixar, we took a behind the scenes look at what it takes to create an Incredibles 2 action scene.
The level of detail, brainstorming and collaboration that occurs with each scene is mind-blowing. I will never watch a Pixar movie the same after attending this presentation and learning how the Incredibles 2 costume design comes to fruition.
Behind the Scenes of Incredibles 2: The Making of an Action Scene
Starts with a Story Reel
According to Story Supervisor Ted Mathot, all films start from stories. The Pixar team starts with a drawn version of the film.
“It’s what we want the finished film to look like,” Mathot said. “It’s a blue print for the film as we move it through production. It also helps us craft the scene as we move through.”
Story reels can be seen as the foundation of the movie.
Mathot explains that the story reel is also a way for his team to see how they can improve on a particular scene and make it better.
For the action sequence we previewed, Mathot’s team really looked hard at the details of each scene. Without giving away any spoilers, they added elements that balanced the super with the mundane.
“To make an incredibles movie we always want to balance the super with the mundane.” Mathot explained. “We never want to be super for too long without something mundane and never want to be mundane for too long without something super. When we looked at this real it was all super without something mundane.”
To stay true to that goal, his team added a comical and relatable moment that all moms will appreciate.
“We take a reel that was already great to begin with and push it to the level of an incredibles movie we expect to see.”
Bringing Incredibles 2 into a 3D world
Layout Supervisor Mahyar Abousaeedi’s goal is to cinematically translate the drawings in the storyboard into the 3D space of our software. His team also runs into a few challenges with planning stunts in a three dimensional setting.
“One of the first issues we ran into was regards to the speed of the Elasticycle.” Abousaeedi said. “Director Brad Bird kept saying faster, faster, faster to keep the energy up. We designed the city chase sequence to accommodate a train at the speed of 150 mph. It worked out great for Helen weaving through traffic. But when we got to the roof top scenes we started to run into some problems. Mostly from Helen jumping from rooftop-to-rooftop, the buildings were too jam packed together and it looked like a flea hopping around. We were able to spread out the buildings to give her some room to allow for a more fluid movement.”
The design process
During this action scene, audiences are introduced to Helen’s new ride, a brand-new Elasticycle, a state-of-the-art cycle that is designed just for her! This is something that does not exist in reality.
That’s where Animator Korea Yokoo comes to the rescue who coincidentally has a love for motorcycles. However, a motorcycle or something that looked like one was not the first thought.
Yokoo showed us their initial drawings that included a variation of number of wheels. Some drawings were open ended while some looked like a car. After hundreds of drawings, they put Helen on a bike and adjusted it to her proportion. Various departments worked together to brain storm on situations that would force Helen to use the bike in unique ways.
Designing the Elasticycle was a task in itself, but making it move and putting it in situations was another step the Pixar team had to consider.
“The machine does not exist in reality so we wanted to make sure the movement was realistic so we avoided losing the audience.”
Balancing the super with the mundane can also be noted during Elasticycle’s appearances.
“Anything is possible. We want to remind the audience that Helen is super but not infallible and she is vulnerable, subject to peril.” Yokoo adds.
“It’s important because if our characters made it look easy all the time there would be no stakes then why would you care and keep watching. At Pixar we want you to keep watching. We want you to care, whence and bite your nails and see what happens next. ”
Finishing touches for added excitement
Effects animation is the creation of animation of visual elements like fire, smoke, water. Pixar has computer software that mimics the physics of the real elements. Simulations can take mere seconds to hours depending on the scale and complexity.
Effects Artist Amit Baadkar confirmed that the action sequence we screened was a lot of fun but the high speed of the scene provided several challenges. There is a team of six effect animators who solely work on glass destruction, smoke, sparks and explosions!
While some effects like smoke and glass breaking support the scene there are some effects like explosions that make the audience stop and stare.
“Explosions are always exciting for an effects animator.” Baadkar said. ” Hero effects takes center stage. We want the audience to be drawn to this effect.”
Once Incredibles 2 hits theatres June 15, I challenge you to examine the complexity of an action sequence. I truly appreciate all the hard work that goes into the level of detail, creativity and storytelling. Next time you see a piece of glass shatter and shine, just remember it took a team of six effect animators with the support of a huge team at Pixar to pull that off.
While software and computer technology create visuals, it’s the talented team at Pixar who create hits like Incredibles 2 that keep our families entertained for hours at a time. Know your hard work does not go unnoticed. Meanwhile, I am struggling to draw a stick figure with my daughter.
More Incredibles Fun ahead