When you think about how much work goes into movie costume design, does animation even enter your mind? I didn’t think so, but it will now. I recently had the pleasure of visiting Pixar Animation Studios for a special Incredibles 2 press day and one of the learning sections that surprised me the most was on custom design and just how much work goes into it, I had no idea. I now see animated characters and what they are wearing in a whole new light and with a lot more appreciation.
It was a real honor to sit and listen to these women speak about their work and their passion for design, animation and film. I’m really excited to share some of their presentation highlights here on my blog. Supporting talented women in arts and film means a lot to me and these women go above and beyond to be the best at what they do, the proof is in the product. Just wait until you see the amazing details within the character custom designs in Incredibles 2
Has a strong passion for custom design, particularly mid-century, which makes her a perfect fit for the Incredibles world. She started out by telling us that animation character custom design is really no different than it is for live action. She uses her own creative process that has two equal parts. The first “being theatrical” includes looking at the big picture. Using Edna’s fashion line for example, started with looking at her style over-all, which is bold and striking. She pulls from Edna’s personality, movie lines and character traits such as her dislike for models. Each design goes through a lot of changes. She starts drawing and then starts to combine, rearrange, reinvent and reapportion just as Edna would do, and then it begins to really feel like Edna.
Her trick is to not think of the custom as separate from the character, they are actually one. Custom choices should support the story telling and if they’re done well they will tell you more about the character themselves and their relations.
The second part of her process, “being creatively practical”, sounds boring, but it’s actually not, it’s pretty challenging. It’s about being creative, clever and efficient, especially when it comes to background characters. Especially when it comes to background characters. When creating background characters we’re talking literally hundreds of men, women and children. She actually studies everyday people from the time period of the film and sewing patterns. The goal is to find simple designs that compliment the main characters without being eye catching. Basic designs that can be mixed and matched with only simple design changes, like colors and textures. The study of real clothing comes in next, because how the clothing moves with the character and how the character moves within the clothing is real important. Then the focus is on the small details and accessories. Every little thing is studied and noted down to the smallest details, like buttons, zippers and jewelry.
Bryn worked on the first Incredibles and shared her respect for the design ideas and how she was able to return to them while moving forward with Incredibles 2. With fourteen years between films, she expressed how nice it is to have newer technology and new team members to work with. Her main focus was the family. Each family members had a full wardrobe and to help with that she used several actors to reference. Example one of the actors they looked at for Bob was Paul Newman, and for Helen they used Mary Tyler Moore and Audrey Hepburn, because they were strong, career minded and fabulous. It’s amazing how much of the wardrobe and small details can shape a character.
Fun character costume design facts
In the first Incredibles the super suits were shaded onto the character’s bodies and were not garments, the logo stretches a lot and does some funny things in several action scenes. In the new film the team members actually built the super suits so they are garments on top of the characters like regular clothing. In Incredibles 2 they have a real fabric look, made from a pattern and are able to move more with each character.
The easiest and most money saving character to dress in the film is Dash. To keep him looking like a regular boy, they created one t-shirt and a pair of jeans and just changed the look of them with simple shading and design. Note; Dash is always in yellow, orange and red, the Incredibles colors in both films.
Also noteworthy, whenever Jack-Jack is home alone with Bob, you’ll notice he is never dressed and Bob is tired, Jack-Jack is only dressed when Helen is home.
Fran, a confessed costuming nerd that loves to sew, shared with us about her job perfecting the movement in animation wardrobe. For me, this has been a real art-form gone unaccredited. I had no idea how much work goes into creating such scenes. Think about it – these character costumes are filled with unique and technical challenges. They have to be able to fit characters that break the laws of physics, that can change their shape in milliseconds and they also have to fit within their uniquely designed worlds. They also have to start from scratch everytime, they can’t take costumes from the movie “Up” and use them in the Incredibles, that just wouldn’t work.
To make the above costumes for Edna’s lounge-wear, the artists supplied paintings, photographs and even a physical sample of what she was hoping for. They then created a 3D sculpture on the computer to work on the movement and lighting. They use that sculpture like a pattern to try out different movements. It’s a much longer process than I am describing, as they go through a lot of trial and error to get each scene right. The details of lengths, creases, wrinkles, textures and how they look at every angle during every movement is a job in itself.
Fun animation facts
You will notice the family’s hair have all received an upgrade for Incredibles 2, as Pixar developed and adopted a new hair tool. Seeing Helen’s hair hold it’s pointed iconic shape but also move naturally during action shots is pretty impressive.
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In INCREDIBLES 2, Helen (voice of Holly Hunter) is called on to lead a campaign to bring Supers back, while Bob (voice of Craig T. Nelson) navigates the day-to-day heroics of “normal” life at home with Violet (voice of Sarah Vowell), Dash (voice of Huck Milner) and baby Jack-Jack—whose super powers are about to be discovered. Their mission is derailed, however, when a new villain emerges with a brilliant and dangerous plot that threatens everything. But the Parrs don’t shy away from a challenge, especially with Frozone (voice of Samuel L. Jackson) by their side. That’s what makes this family so Incredible.
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INCREDIBLES 2 opens in theatres everywhere on June 15, 2018!
Watch for more Incredibles 2 updates be posted here soon! You can also read my previous blog posts about my day at Pixar Animated Studios for the Incredibles 2 Press Event by clicking here.
Disclosure: I was provided with travel, food and lodging in exchange for my coverage. All opinions expressed are still honest and my own. Some photos and images were provided by Disney/Pixar.