The One Thing in Every Superhero Movie That Brad Bird Banned From ‘Incredibles 2’
Pixar builds an elaborate world for each of its movies. The development process on each one takes years; in that time, a team of hundreds of artists, designers, and animators create fully realized universes for their respective stories. One of the things I’ve become fascinated with in my years covering Pixar is the way they create those universes, and how they define the rules within them. There is, for example, an internal Pixar document called “The World of Cars Owner’s Manual” which lays out the ground rules for that series’ unique premise (a cheerful dystopian future where all organic life on planet Earth has inexplicably been replaced by sentient, talking cars). Everything that happens in a Cars movie or short or toy or theme park ride, must abide by the guidelines established in the Owner’s Manual.
When I returned to Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California to cover Incredibles 2 earlier this year, I was determined to learn whether that film had a similar rulebook. According to the Pixar employees I spoke with, there wasn’t, at least not in any physical form. There were, however, a few rules that the filmmakers were instructed to follow as they began shaping this long-awaited sequel. And there was one thing — something that appears in almost every other superhero movie — that writer/director Brad Bird absolutely refused to allow in Incredibles 2.
In the world of Incredibles, there are no three-point landings.
(If you’re unfamiliar with three-point landings, this supercut should get you up to speed.)
Incredibles 2 story supervisor Ted Mathot told me Bird “banned” three-point landings from the film. The reason? “You see it in everything,” Mathot explained. “And Brad was like ‘I do not want to see any three-point landings!’”
To some extent, Mathot continued, it was “kind of a joke.” But if it was a joke, it was one the staff adhered to anyway. “When we’d draw something,” he said, “we’d have to come up with some other way for them to land.”
Layout supervisor Mahyar Abousaeedi told me about another rule he followed in constructing Incredibles 2, one he had originally learned from working with Brad Bird on Ratatouille: No unmotivated camera movements allowed. “There always needs to be a reason why the camera is moving,” Abousaeedi told me. “Whether it’s following an actor, or an object. You’re not just moving the camera to move the camera.”
He then recounted the eureka moment he’d had with Brad Bird on Ratatouille. “[Bird] was reviewing some of our work,”Abousaeedi said, “and he basically asked one of the artists ‘Who is the camera operator in this sequence?’ We had put the camera in an in-between place. It was neither down below with Remy and it wasn’t up above with the humans.”
Bird instructed the animators to “think about the camera operator, and know the audience is going to wonder whose point of view it is.” So in Incredibles 2, every shot and angle is done for a specific storytelling or character reason.
Most of the other rules for the creators of Incredibles 2 were grounded in the setting, which is an unspecified era in the past. (Based on the architecture, fashion, and styling, it seems like the film takes place at some point in the late 1950s or early 1960s.) That meant there were no fist pumps after something cool happened, and there were no cell phones either (although the original Incredibles did feature a sort of prototype iPad six years before Apple introduced the real one).
Superhero comics featured dramatic poses from their earliest days, so there’s no anachronistic problems with three-point landings. It’s just that Brad Bird wanted his superhero movie to standout in a sea of other ones. So when Incredibles 2 opens on June 15, you’ll see Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Frozone, Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack do many cool things with their powers. But they definitely will not soar through the air and then alight on the ground with a flourish.
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