Writer-director Brad Bird did not impress the box office with his feature directorial debut, 1999's The Iron Giant. But partnering up with Pixar worked wonders for his next film, 2004's The Incredibles. The computer-animated tale of a family of superheroes, the Parrs get drawn out of a forced retirement to face the evil Syndrome and his killer robot. Here are some facts about the movie that won the 2005 Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film (plus a second Oscar for Sound Editing).
1. BRAD BIRD FIRST HAD THE IDEA FOR THE INCREDIBLES IN 1993.
Bird didn’t pitch the story until seven years later, when he went to Pixar in March of 2000. "I'd known [Pixar founding member] John Lasseter for a long time, and I reconnected with him after I saw Toy Story, because I was so dazzled by it," Bird told The A.V. Club.
2. BIRD WAS TOLD THE FILM WOULD BE NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO MAKE.
3. JASON LEE WAS CAST AS SYNDROME BECAUSE OF HIS WORK IN DOGMA.
Bird liked how the actor was “animated and evil” in Dogma and thought he was right for the role. Lee completed work on The Incredibles—his first animated feature—during four voiceover sessions, each one lasting four to five hours, over an eight-month span.
4. BIRD KNEW SARAH VOWELL SHOULD PLAY VIOLET AFTER HEARING HER ON THIS AMERICAN LIFE.
5. VOWELL ONLY SAW HER CHARACTER AS BALD.
The technology required to make Violet’s long hair was still a new and time-consuming process that wasn’t completed until the end of production. She was told throughout that her hair was only at the “theoretical” stage.
6. HOLLY HUNTER INSISTED ON LEARNING THE REAL MILITARY FLIGHT LANGUAGE.
Hunter’s Elastigirl character knew her lingo, and showcased her knowledge flying into Syndrome’s hideout. Like Lee and Vowell, it was the actress’s first time playing an animated character.
7. BIRD HIMSELF PLAYED EDNA, EVEN THOUGH LILY TOMLIN AUDITIONED.
Edna Mode was made half German and half Japanese after Bird thought about German engineering and Japanese car and camera manufacturing, not intending to pattern the character out of anyone. Another designer of the character claimed that he and other Pixar employees paid a lot of attention to the 1995 fashion documentary Unzipped, featuring Isaac Mizrahi.
8. BOMB VOYAGE WAS INITIALLY NAMED BOMB PERIGNON.
The makers of Dom Perignon refused to give legal rights.
9. IT WAS THE FIRST PIXAR MOVIE COMPRISED ONLY OF CG HUMAN BEINGS.
10. THE INCREDIBLES USED FOUR TIMES AS MANY LOCATIONS AS ANY OTHER PIXAR MOVIE.
It also featured 781 visual effects shots and, at 121 minutes, The Incredibles was the longest Pixar movie to date.
11. BIRD DIDN'T REALIZE THAT HE RESEMBLED THE VILLAIN UNTIL IT WAS TOO LATE.
The writer-director admitted if he had noticed the resemblance earlier in the process, he would have asked to change Syndrome’s look.
12. BIRD DIDN’T GET THE GOO HE WANTED.
Baby Jack Jack (Eli Fucile and Maeve Andrews) was supposed to transform five times, one time into goo. The technical directors insisted it would take two months the movie didn’t have to make that happen. Bird and producer John Walker argued in “invective-laced” meetings over it, until Bird finally gave up. Walker said that he told Bird, "I’d love to give you goo. I want to give you goo. But four transformations are enough! Please!"
13. IT’S THE ONLY PIXAR MOVIE WITHOUT THE PIZZA PLANET TRUCK. (MAYBE.)
Bird was asked why The Incredibles would be the only film in the Pixar oeuvre to not have the studio's iconic Easter egg that started with Toy Story, only to say he didn’t ask any animators to put it in there—but that doesn’t mean someone didn’t sneak the truck into one of the sets without his knowledge.
14. THE "A113" EASTER EGG DEFINITELY MADE IT IN.
"A113' is a classroom number at the California Institute of the Arts, where Bird and several others in the animation industry learned about graphic design and character animation. Bird was the first person to purposely drop in an "A113" reference, when he did so on the 1987 TV show Amazing Stories. It has since been in every episode of The Simpsons Bird worked on (Bird was a creative consultant and director on the series from 1989 to 1998 and directed the “Do the Bartman” music video), as well as every Pixar film. In The Incredibles, Mr. Incredible has a meeting in Conference Room A113, and he’s later held on Level A1, Cell Block 13 on the island.
15. IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH AYN RAND OR NIETZSCHE.
Some reviews interpreted the movie’s talk of celebrating mediocrity and Syndrome claiming that if everyone was super, then no one would be as sounding like Objectivism or from the words of the German philosopher. Bird found both claims to be “ridiculous.”
16. THERE WAS A DVD EXTRA OF A FAKE 1960S CARTOON PILOT TITLED THE ADVENTURES OF MR. INCREDIBLE.
The film's backstory, which presumably is canon, was that Bob Parr allowed a studio to use his likeness for a Saturday morning cartoon before the superheroes were forced underground, and Mr. Incredible and Frozone were watching the unaired pilot for the first time. Craig T. Nelson (Mr. Incredible) and Samuel L. Jackson (Frozone) provided in-character commentary.