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Feature: The Incredibles
Pixar brings family values to CG animated movies with this super-smash film. Director and writer Brad Bird reveals how the movie soared…
Director and writer Brad Bird has made two animated movies. The first, a hand-drawn adaptation of Ted Hughes’s novel The Iron Giant, was a commercial failure that recouped under half its budget at the box office, and helped sink Warners’ animation studio. The most recent, The Incredibles, is a global runaway smash that grossed $260million in the US alone, making it one of the most successful films of 2004. Yet, despite their differing fortunes, both of Bird’s movies are perfect entertainment for all ages. They’re both adored by critics, and work especially well on the DVD format.
“Twice now I’ve gotten to make the movie that I set out to make,” says Bird as we meet in Los Angeles. “With The Iron Giant more people are discovering it all the time. If somebody sees it, they recommend it.”
Like his previous movie, Bird actually conceived The Incredibles as a hand-drawn animate, although its fortunes changed once his story caught the imagination of John Lasseter and Pixar. They were attracted to a story about a family that demanded a huge visual tapestry of the kind that the studio had already excelled in, with the Toy Story movies, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo.
The Incredibles is the tale of the Parrs: dad Bob (voiced by Craig T Nelson) works in a bank, mom Helen (Holly Hunter) is a housewife, and they have three kids. Yet this is an unusual family, as Bob once went by the alter ego of Mr Incredible, a superhero who would save the world on a regular basis aided by his future love Elastigirl – until a series of law suits from those he saved put the career into disrepute. But now evil is on the prowl again in the form of the crazy Syndrome (Jason Lee), and it’s up to the Parrs to unite as a superteam and save the day…
“I was going through a period where I was very happy working on The Simpsons and I was trying to get movies off the ground and having trouble. I was having trouble with the same kind of bureaucracy that you see in the movie, where wonderful things weren’t happening because of some middle-manager.
“At the same time I was starting a new family and I think I had some anxiety about where to put my time. I felt like if I put in enough time necessary to make it in the movie business I would be slighting my family, and if I was a great dad then I would never make it in the movie business. I just kept returning to this idea in my mind because it engaged me, because I related to it in some weird, abstract way.”
So what kind of audience did Bird aim for? “I don’t know how to make a movie for a vaguely defined group,” he says. “The only thing that I know how to do is to make a movie that I would want to see, and hope that other people agree with me.
by Harry Thompson
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The Incredibles © Disney/Pixar
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