Saturday, December 4, 2010

More On Incredibles

The Incredibles is marked by a series of firsts, from the first opening logo that doesn't feature Randy Newman's theme music to the first time that human characters are in the foreground. In fact, the film centers on a family of humans (another first). That family is the Parr family, who on the surface may seem pretty ordinary in appearance and behavior. The father, Bob Parr, is an insurance claims adjuster. Helen, the mother, is a housewife who tends to baby Jack-Jack. Two additional kids, the shy Violet and the hyper Dash, round out the family unit.

Fast-forward to present day, and Bob Parr is in a slump. His days are spent in a too-small cubicle where his willingness to aid clients conflicts with the company's interests, a fact pointed out to him by his pint-sized tyrant of a boss. When the day is done, Bob fights rush hour traffic in his too-small car to a family that isn't exactly flourishing either. The kids, Dash and Violet, have powers of their own which they too must keep under wraps. Dash, who possesses the ability to run with remarkable speed, can't compete at sports and is left plotting pranks on his teacher. Violet, who can render herself invisible and is trying to master the art of the force field, is shy and self-conscious to a fault.
Bringing the family together for dinnertime is like pulling the lid off a blender, and letting everyone's issues swirl around with messy results. These disputes and the normal sibling rivalry often complicate things between the parental units. Helen accepts their current situation and wants to embrace a normal existence for the family. On the other hand, Bob wants to relive the glory days, to which his study is a type of shrine. Wednesday's "Bowling Night" proves to be the only opportunity for his best friend Frozone (civilian name: Lucius Best) and him to pick up police reports on the radio and secretly prove heroic.
A mysterious message for Bob leads to a cure for his unsatisfying daily routines. He is called on a mission to the remote Nomanisan Island, where he will once again have an opportunity to prove super. The exotic day-saving adventures of Mr. Incredible and the complicated, dull suburban existence with a troubled but loving family present two very different options for our protagonist. This plays the central crux for film which is rich in action and adventure, but even richer in characters and story.
The rest of Bob's family can't help but be thrown into the mix, as Syndrome, the fanboy-turned-madman, acts out his plans to earn the world's respect and rid it of superheroes. Naturally, their symbolic superpowers are called upon, but to reveal anymore might spoil a bit the pure thrills that the movie packs. Those thrills are countless and deserve to be experienced without foreknowledge, even if they are no less potent on repeat viewings.
The Incredibles was written and directed by Brad Bird, a former consultant on "The Simpsons" who made his directorial debut with The Iron Giant in 1999. A flop at the box office, Bird's well-reviewed film (a type of Cold War twist on E.T.) found an audience on home video and has developed a strong Internet following. 

The roots of this film is about a family of superheroes go back more than a decade to a time when Bird envisioned it as a cel animation project. Bird brings to Pixar several unique characteristics, but he stays true to the studio's ideal of storytelling first and foremost. Of course, Pixar's state-of-the-art animators assure that Bird's first CGI project has the technical prowess which matches the wonderful script.
In the winning action sequences that populate much of its second half,The Incredibles calls to mind the pacing and tone of the original Star Wars films, and it ascends to the heights of that grand crowd-pleasing epic with universal appeal and even more adrenaline. Brimming with action, the film never forgets the drama of its all-too-human superheroes and it remains moving and relevant during its flashiest spectacles.

Unlike the previous Pixar films, The Incredibles is not primarily a comedy. Instead the film is seamlessly fused with humor that neither sidetracks nor waits for laughs. There's a bit of an edge as the film earnestly tackles discontent in modern society, but there's also the warmth that layers the best of films, a warmth which never gets sentimental and yet doesn't feel false or tacked on.
Every new film that Pixar has released since Toy Story has seemed to have people saying "the bar has been raised." Well, it's fair to say that again, since The Incredibles has visual fireworks beyond anything we've seen before. The most obvious thing to notice is that Pixar has used the 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio here for only the second time. The first and last time they did was for A Bug's Life, a film which also avoids any of the surefire Pixar conventions (even if that is mostly retrospective analysis for only the studio's second film) and has unfairly developed a knack for being the least strong link on the Pixar chain, with reviews and grosses that fall a bit below the others while still far on the side of positive. Like that film, which seemed to call for a grander canvas to tackle the natural world, the decision to utilize a scope format for the high-octane action in The Incredibles seems logical. (To be fair, such a rationale could be used to justify the same for any of Pixar's visually stunning productions.) The wide frame lends itself to creating some unique cinematic images, and the location animation is breathtaking, particularly in the geometric city blocks and in the lush green hills of the secret island.

The animation of the humans both is obviously stylized and remarkably convincing. When your primary subjects are characters that are not bound by the laws of physics, you're opening yourself to endless possibilities in depicting their motion and endless ways with which to fail. But in animation, as in everywhere else, the film excels, creating a consistent and realistic-feeling world where limits to speed, flexibility, and strength are thrown out the window.
Watching The Incredibles so close to Bambi has me contemplating their similarities. While the two films are practically polar opposites when it comes to subject matter, pacing and story, they share at least one thing in common. The Incredibles achieves the "plausible impossible", an ideal that Walt Disney and his animators strove to convey. It is in a world where humans move and act realistically that we can be swept away in unadulterated fantasy and believe it. Though separated by more than 60 years, Bambi and The Incredibles are both milestones in animation and the two must-own Disney DVDs this March.
When talking of Pixar, the term "masterpiece" is relative, but having seen The Incredibles several times now, I believe it is one of the studio's best efforts, and one of the best films anybody has made in years. Pixar continues to amaze me. While its closest competitors may shun originality, the studio embraces it and the results have been wonderful each time. Fresh, funny, and everything a moviegoer could want, The Incredibles is the sixth time in as many tries that the computer animation studio has worked magic.


Interesting Questions, Facts, and Information

What is the name of the young babysitter who was left in charge of caring for the youngest member of the Incredible family?

Kari. Violet and Dash snuck on board when their mother went to rescue their father. Violet left Kari in charge of Jack-Jack. Bret Park provided the voice of Kari. I hope you've enjoyed this quiz!

What is the name of the final villain who challenges the Incredible family, at the very end of the movie?

The Underminer. This villain only reveals himself at the very end of the movie. John Ratzenberger provided the voice of the Underminer. He also lent his voice to Hamm in the "Toy Story" movies, P.T. Flea in "A Bug's Life", the Yeti in "Monsters Inc.", and the Fish School in "Finding Nemo".

What is the name that the main villain uses at the time that he kidnaps Mr. Incredible?

Syndrome. Syndrome is actually the very bitter and very angry "Incrediboy", who dedicates his life to destroying natural born superheroes. He is out to prove that self-made gadgets are superior to innate special powers. He has a personal vendetta against Mr. Incredible. Jason Lee provided the voice of Syndrome.

What is the name of the Superhero costume designer who provides the Incredible family with their crime-fighting threads?

Edna Mode . Edna "E" Mode is the half German, half Japanese designer who designs the clothes for all the superheroes. Each outfit is designed specifically to accommodate the superpowers the superhero possesses. Edna has a particular dislike for supermodels and capes. Brad Bird (writer and director of "The Incredibles") provides the voice of Edna.

What is the name of the white-haired lady who contacts Mr. Incredible after he is fired, and convinces him to get back into the crime fighting business?

Mirage. Mirage seems to respect her boss; however, that is before Syndrome's true nature is revealed to her. She later finds herself respecting Mr. Incredible more. Elizabeth Pe?a provides the voice of Mirage.

What is the name of the boy that Mr. Incredible's (and Elastigirl's) daughter has a crush on?

Tony. Violet is especially shy around Tony; however, she seems more at ease with him later, when she does not have to deny the superpowers she possesses. Michael Bird provides the voice for Tony Rydinger.

What was the name of Mr. Incredible's boss, when he worked at the insurance agency?

Gilbert Huph. Gilbert was the head of the insurance agency, who seemed more concerned with making a profit than really helping their clients. He later is forced to fire Mr. Incredible, when he exhibits his superpower strength on Gilbert himself. Wallace Shawn provides the voice of Gilbert Huph. He also provided the voice of Rex in the "Toy Story" movies.

What is the name of the French thief who bombed the bank at the beginning of the movie?

Bomb Voyage. Bomb Voyage spoke French fluently and was able to get away, thanks to the bomb he threw on Incrediboy, forcing Mr. Incredible to save his fan rather than capture the criminal. Dominique Louis provided the voice of Bomb Voyage.

What is the real name of Mr. Incredible's biggest fan, who wants nothing more than to be his sidekick?

Buddy. Buddy Pine aka "Incrediboy" worshipped Mr. Incredible, and unfortunately foiled Mr. Incredible's attempt to stop a French thief from robbing a bank. Mr. Incredible's unwillingness to accept Buddy's help creates a great deal of resentment that later has serious repercussions.

What name does Frozone use when he is not a superhero?

Lucius Best. Frozone has amazing freezing abilities. He has the power to create ice from moisture in the air, and then moves on the ice with his special boots. He is also a good buddy of Mr. Incredible. Samuel L. Jackson provides the voice of Frozone.

What is the name of Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl's infant son?

Jack-Jack. Jack is the youngest member of the Parr family and as of yet does not have any superpowers....or does he?

What is the name of Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl's hyper ten-year old son?

Dash . Dash was having a hard time because he was unable to use his super fast powers to participate in sports. He found himself getting into trouble at school because of the need to release some of his pent-up energies. Spencer Fox provides the voice for Dash.

What is the name of Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl's teenage daughter?

Violet. Violet is a self-conscious teenager who is able to make herself invisible and create protective force fields. Sarah Vowell provides the voice for Violet.

What name did Elastigirl use when she was not out fighting crime?

Helen Parr. Helen is able to stretch her body in hundreds of different ways. She accepted having to hide her superpowers and continued her quiet suburban life as a homemaker. Holly Hunter provides the voice for Elastigirl.

What name did Mr. Incredible use when he was living the quiet suburban life and was in hiding?

Bob Parr . Due to various lawsuits the superheroes are forced into a kind of witness protection program, and told that they are no longer allowed to use their superpowers. After going into hiding, Mr. Incredible becomes an insurance adjuster. Craig T. Nelson provides the voice for Mr. Incredible.

What are the mom and dad's first names?

Bob and Helen. The dad's first name is really Robert, and they married on the day Bob saved a cat from a tree, stopped a robber, and almost stopped Bomb Voyage.

According to Bob and Lucius, which night is "bowling" night?

Wednesday. They don't really bowl, they fight crime. That's how Mirage found out about Bob and Lucius. One time they were saving people from a burning building, crashed through a wall to a bank, and police thought they were robbers because they had full face masks on.

Why didn't Edna Mode want Mr. Incredible to have a cape?

because capes are dangerous. Edna doesn't like capes because every superhero who had a cape died because of it.

What was Syndrome's robot called?

Omnidroid. He (Syndrome) was Mr. Incredible?s biggest fan; until he found out that he couldn't be his sidekick. Then he made all these gadgets with the plan of selling them. Then the said: "When everybody's super (when they get the gadgets), no one will [be Super]." (He's talking about killing the supers, and when everyone's super, everyone will still be normal.) Jason Lee provides the voice of Syndrome.

What is the city that the Parrs live in called?

Metroville. They live in the suburbs of this imaginary city. It is never said where it is on a map.

What is Jack-Jack's babysitter's name?

Kari. She insisted that she stay to babysit Jack-Jack, and was the first to witness Jack-Jack's "special needs" (his powers).

After the Golden Years, what industry does Bob work for?

Insurance. He has amazing strength and once was slimmer, but since he couldn't fight crime, he let himself go. Craig T. Nelson provides the voice. He got fired when he threw his boss into five walls.

What was the mom's super power?

elastic. She can stretch herself every which way, and is okay with the fact that she can't fight crime any more and is a stay-at-home mom. Holly Hunter provides the voice.

What is Violet's special power?

Invisibility/Force Field. She has the power of invisibility/force field, and she is in love with a boy named Tony Rydinger. Sarah Vowell provides the voice.

What does Dash say when they stop rolling in the camper in Downtown Metroville?

"Let's do that again!". He has the ability of super speed, and his full name is Dashiell Parr. Spencer Fox provides the voice. Dash is a hyper 10-year-old who annoys Violet and once got in trouble for putting a tack on the teacher's chair (but they couldn't prove it). The qoute occurred when the family used 'the rocket' to fly to Metroville.

This is not the first time that the director of this film, Brad Bird, has directed a successful animated motion picture. What else did he direct?

The Iron Giant. Bird directed the absolutely brilliant "The Iron Giant" (go check it out!), but made no contributions to any of the other films listed.

What is the name of the villain who makes a dramatic appearance at the very end of this film?

The Underminer. A short, stout man who uses gigantic machinery to burrow up to street level from deep underground? Sounds a lot like the Mole Man, whom the Fantastic Four (Marvel Comics' "first family") battled in the very first issue of their comic book...and, given the powers of The Incredibles, the Fantastic Four seem to have been a strong influence on writer/director Brad Bird all the way around!

When Mr. Incredible first decides to get back into shape for his revitalized super-hero career, his waist measures 50 inches. After working out for some time, he's pleased with his new waistline. What's the new measurement?

36 inches. We see these measurements clearly on the tape measure that Bob uses.

What is the real first name of Mirage, Syndrome's partner?

It's never revealed. Mirage, voiced by Elizabeth Pena, never tells anyone in the film her real name.

While flying in what he thinks is a government-owned, auto-piloted aircraft, Mr. Incredible is offered a second helping of something by the craft's apparently semi-intelligent computer. What is it?

mimosa. Bob Parr is eating shrimp cocktail and drinking mimosa. The computer asks if he would like more mimosa (which, by the way, is a drink made with champagne and orange juice), and he accepts a second glass. (He's never offered a second helping of shrimp cocktail.)

Aside from the Parrs and Frozone, we get glimpses of a number of other super-heroes in the film. Which is NOT one of them?

Blue Tiger. Gazer Beam is found dead at Syndrome's island. Thunderhead is one of the deceased heroes mentioned by Edna. Gamma Jack is one of the heroes whose files Bob Parr comes across in Syndrome's computer. I made up "Blue Tiger".

    The Incredibles

    The Incredibles is a 2004 computer-animated superhero comedy film about a family of superheroes who are forced to hide their powers. It was written and directed by Brad Bird, a former director and executive consultant of The Simpsons, and was produced by Pixar Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. The starring voices are Craig T. Nelson  as Bob Parr, a superhero called "Mr. Incredible" who is forced to give up saving people's lives; Holly Hunter as his wife; Sarah Vowell as their teenage daughter; Spencer Fox as their young son; Jason Lee as Mr. Incredible's most avid fan; Samuel L. Jackson as Bob's friend; and Elizabeth Peña as the beautiful assistant of a vengeful supervillain. Bob's yearning to help people draws the entire Parr family into a battle with the villain and his killer robot.
    The film won the 2004 Annie Award for Best Animated Feature, along with two 2004 Academy Awards, including Best Animated Feature. It also received nominations for two other Academy Awards, won a 2005 Hugo Award, and was nominated for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the 2004 Golden Globes.

    The story is set in a world where some people have superhuman abilities. Two of these superpeople, or "supers", are Mr. Incredible, who is exceedingly strong, and Elastigirl, who can stretch her body into almost any shape. Mr. Incredible has a bright but foolhardy young fan named Buddy, who invents gadgets and wants to be Mr. Incredible's sidekick. Mr. Incredible rejects Buddy and other would-be helpers, telling them "I work alone." The film begins in the city of Municiberg, with a busy day of crimefighting and the wedding of Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, who call themselves Bob and Helen Parr. Shortly afterward, lawsuits from injured bystanders lead to a political backlash that forces all superheroes to stop saving the world and live normal lives.
    Fifteen years later, Bob and Helen live unhappy suburban lives in the city of Metroville. Their young son Dash can run faster than the human eye can see, and their teen daughter Violet can turn invisible and create protective force fields, but the family is required to hide their powers as part of the government's Superhero Relocation Program. The baby, Jack-Jack, appears to be an ordinary child. Bob has gained a lot of weight, and he feels frustrated by his office job with an insurance company. He regularly sneaks out to secretly fight crime with his friend Frozone, who can freeze things by spraying them with ice.
    One day, Bob is fired from his job for losing his temper and assaulting his boss, who refused to let him rescue an innocent crime victim. However, before he can reveal this to Helen, he finds a video message from a beautiful woman named Mirage, who offers him a large sum of money to stop Omnidroid 9000, an out-of-control robot on a remote island. Bob accepts the offer, is flown to the island, and disables the robot. Afterward, he happily spends time with his family and gets back into shape, still pretending to have his old job. He also takes his torn superhero suit to be repaired by the famous fashion designer Edna Mode. Edna makes a new suit for Bob, but she refuses to add a cape to it, citing numerous cape-related superhero accidents.
    On his next trip to the island, Bob is attacked by Omnidroid. Omnidroid and the island are owned by Mr. Incredible's old fan, Buddy, who now calls himself Syndrome and intends to avenge himself against Mr. Incredible and the other superheroes for shunning him. He has already killed many supers by luring them to the island to fight Omnidroid, improving its design as they revealed its weaknesses. His plan is to make people believe he is a superhero by staging a fake battle with the robot.
    While Bob escapes from Syndrome, Helen discovers the repair on his old supersuit and visits Edna, who gives her a set of supersuits for her and the children. After learning that Bob lost his job, Helen locates him with a homing beacon and flies to the island in a jet, with Dash and Violet secretly stowing away and Jack-Jack at home with a babysitter. Syndrome's security system detects the homing signal and captures Bob, then shoots the jet down with some missiles, but Helen, Dash, and Violet survive and make their way onto the island. After hiding the children in the jungle, Helen sneaks into Syndrome's facility to rescue Bob, only to find him embracing Mirage, who freed him after a confrontation in which Syndrome refused to save her life. Back in the jungle, Bob and Helen find the children, who triggered the Island's security system shortly after Syndrome launched a rocket to fly Omnidroid to Metroville. Syndrome eventually captures the family and follows the robot in a jet, but they escape and follow him in a second rocket with help from Mirage.
    In Metroville, Syndrome uses a remote-control device to prevent Omnidroid from harming him, but he is knocked unconscious after the robot's artificial intelligence becomes aware of the device and shoots it off of him. When the Parrs arrive, they and Frozone defeat the robot, and when Syndrome wakes up and tries to kidnap Jack-Jack, Jack-Jack uses his recently emerged superpowers to attack him. Bob and Helen save Jack-Jack after Syndrome drops him in midair, and Syndrome is killed when his cape gets caught in one of his jet's engines. Three months later, after Dash races with his school track team and Violet makes a date with a boy she likes, a new villain called the Underminer appears and the Incredibles prepare to fight him

    Find out why Rapunzel never had a bad hair day

    Rapunzel Lets Her Hair Down in Tangled

    Find out why Rapunzel never had a bad hair day in Disney's 50th animated feature and first CG fairy tale.
    Posted In | Site Categories: 3DCGFilms
    Check out the Tangled trailers, clips and featurettes at AWNtv!
    Disney created a whole new hair rendering system based on volume that's a game-changer. Images courtesy of Disney.

    Hair has always been treated like a character by Glen Keane: "an outward manifestation" of the character's personality and problem. But Keane and Disney met their match with Rapunzel in Tangled (opening today). With 70-feet of luxurious blond hair, "this is a story about a girl with enormous potential -- she has something inside her that has to get out," Keane explains. "It's physically exploding out of her and is her life force, so the hair has to be compelling…
    "[It] has to have rhythm and the way it moves; it has to have volume; it has to have twist; the swoop has to have a definitive shape; and there are a lot of artistic choices for a technical crew that had never been challenged that way before. This wasn't just pushing a button and making sim happen; you've got to also artistically position the hair. It was an amazing team to watch grow. I asked Eric Daniels, who worked with me on Long John Silver doing the mechanical arm, to oversee the hair team to bring artistic qualities into that."
    That's because early on hair was treated solely as a technical challenge, so Keane lectured the technical team on the artistic importance, and from then on it became a hybrid solution, like so many aspects of Tangled.
    The result is a breakthrough achievement for the way CG hair is rendered, using a blend of simulation and animation techniques to create a new 2D/3D aesthetic in keeping with Keane's vision. So no more worries about touching hair or cloth and out of control collisions.
    The plan was to translate Keane's drawings into CG by
    breaking down the computer into a digital/analog hybrid.

    "I was the liaison between the character TDs and Glen and the directors [Nathan Greno & Byron Howard] to speed up the process and have it look the way they wanted," Daniels suggests. "There were hundreds of parameters that you could tweak and every time the TD would make a change, it would take hours to get the results back. They would have to really think hard: Should I change this and move that a little higher? Make this friction a little lower? Or make the bend frequency a little higher? I can't tell you how collaborative this hair thing has been. It had to be spread across the entire studio. The character animators had to be able to control the hair in a lot of situations, like when she's using it as a whip. But they also had to be able to leave the hair for us. And then the way we would animate the hair would vary from shot to shot."
    This necessitated the revamping of the simulation engine developed for Bolt called Dynamic Wires, which added volume, sensuous twists, graceful turns, breaking strands and Rapunzel's trademark swoop in the front. The technical team animated 147 different tubes representing the structure of the hair, which would then be rendered into a final image with up to 140,000 individual strands of hair.
    In addition, several new tools were written for hair interaction, motion control and interpolation, volume rendering and a new shading algorithm design to provide more of a real world look to the hair. In fact, they rewrote their RenderMan shader system from scratch. There was even a new hair rig for greater control in animation.
    And when Rapunzel's magical hair glowed, that was created by the effects department in collaboration with Look Dev TD Lewis Siegel. The glow was based on an occlusion pass and they also did a fiber-optic effect where light went right down the individual strands and washed through the entire hair. But then that glow had to interact with the characters and environments. The lighting department, for instance, was given a composite graph comprised of effects and animation that was incorporated into its graph. Lighting would also use point clouds combined with hand-placed lights to generate, say, diffuse lighting from the hair onto the characters.

    Rapunzel Lets Her Hair Down in Tangled

    Find out why Rapunzel never had a bad hair day in Disney's 50th animated feature and first CG fairy tale.
    Posted In | Site Categories: 3DCGFilms
    Every department touched Rapunzel's hair, thanks to a
    new set of shaders and rigs.

    "We spent a lot of effort trying to get the physics of the hair -- both the motion and look," says Technical Supervisor Mark Hammel. "We figured if we could get that realistic then we could concentrate on more artistic control. We broke down shading models to have individual shading controls to pull highlights and shadows in ways that depart from reality."
    "You put constraints or phantom objects to control the hair in simulation," adds Steve Goldberg, the visual effects supervisor. "One of the first things we worked on was how it fell off her as she walked. They played a lot with the friction on the ground and tangential forces to get the hair follow with her in a believable way."
    Kelly Ward, the senior software developer, whose specialty is modeling and simulation, got a head start in improving Dynamic Wires. She was then joined by Maryann Simmons, who concentrated on integration, and Tom Thompson, who worked on the simulation guides and turning them into 100,000 hairs ready for rendering.
    "The key to our success on the film was thinking of hair in terms of volume rather than a shell-like surface or individual strands," says Ward.
    This attention grabber was the most difficult shot.

    Thus, the two main breakthroughs were in the areas of volume transmission (forward scattering) and volume diffuse (backward scattering). The former is particularly important because that pertains to light that enters the hair once, travels through the strands and comes out the other side for backlighting. To achieve these volumetric breakthroughs, they applied techniques of Iman Sadeghi, a UC San Diego grad student, and translated them into a non-ray tracing technique more suitable to a production environment. They could not only render more quickly but also have greater artistic control.
    Meanwhile, Hide Yosumi, a character TD, built an animation rig attached to her head as well as a separate prop hair rig in Maya. "We needed to create a new system of keyframe control for the animators," Yosumi suggests. "Then we took that animation and put some simulation on top of it. Not surprisingly, the prop hair rig was used throughout most of the film, when Rapunzel's hair takes on a life of its own, winding its way to a shadowed part of the Tower or another brightly-lit room and then through a field of grass. It required a lot more light and a lot more integration."
    The scenes where it was straight simulation were done through draw overs. A few line gestures would be enough to indicate weight and silhouette. There were 173 curves that were simulated or animated.
    And what was the most difficult moment to render?
    When Rapunzel wraps her hair around the chair with Flynn Rider and slowly moves it. Talk about hair-raising.
    COURTESY :Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.


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