As we’ve discussed before, like a lot, animators working for Disney and Pixar are frequently left pulling their hair out when higher ups insist on realising things that are, in some cases, quite literally impossible with the technology available to them. To their credit, the animators usually pull off these feats. The one exception we’re aware being when the director of The Incredibles told animators to turn a baby into goo and they were all like, fuck that.
As mentioned in the intro Disney does this, a lot. For example, as we’ve mentioned before, animators working on The Incredibles initially assumed animating the character of Violet as she was described in the script – with long hair that covered most of her face for much of the film – would be impossible. Largely because the technology to render a character with that trait literally did not exist at the time, forcing Pixar animators to up and invent it themselves.
Now for most companies pioneering a new technique for rendering the human anatomy would be a noteworthy achievement but for Disney it’s something they do with pretty much every new film they work on. For example in Brave they created new software to realise Merida’s curls, for Frozen it was one that rendered snow – fittingly called Matterhorn – and for the Marvel movies they’ve developed a number of the new technologies to realistically age and more importantly de-age characters so that they’ll own the likenesses of actors they employ forever. Condemning to an eternity of toiling away in digital agony in one of the countless properties Disney now owns.
Moving back to The Incredibles while countless advancements were made in regards to rendering human beings, with the technology to render hair and clothing being something animators were especially proud of, there were a few, shall we say issues. The main one being that director Brad Bird steadfastly refused to winnow down any of his ideas for the story. In particular, it’s scale.
This resulted in Pixar having to cleave its animation team in two, tasking one with dealing with characters and the other with environmental stuff with that team being further divided due to the sheer complexity and more importantly, number of digital environments present in the film. As an idea of how difficult all of this was to ultimately realise, when queried about what the most difficult singular thing to animate in the film was, the film’s technical director plainly responded –
” The hardest thing about The Incredibles was there was no hardest thing. Brad ordered a heaping helping of every expensive item on the menu. We’ve got it all: fire, water, air, smoke, steam, explosions… and, by the way, humans.”
Something Bird was keenly aware of and saw him near exclusively hiring people who were bored of working on the same thing day in day out and wanted to challenge themselves. Challenges that, by all accounts, the team kicked the shit out of with the notable exception of a last minute request from Bird to turn a baby into goo.
To explain, at the film’s climax the character of Jack-Jack manifests superpowers for the first time midway through being kidnapped by a guy who, fun fact, was physically modelled on Brad Bird.
During this scene Jack-Jack sets himself on fire, turns into a demon-baby and briefly dons the Metal Cap from Mario 64. One thing Jack-Jack doesn’t do though is turn into goo much to the annoyance of Bird. You see, Bird wanted Jack-Jack to showcase five different transformations including one where he’d turn into a goo-monster. A request the animators patiently listened to before telling Bird in no uncertain terms to fuck all the way off the edge of their dicks. After several arguments Bird eventually backed down, though apparently not enough because low and behold in the film’s sequel Jack-Jack turns into fucking goo.