The Incredibles

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(L to R) Dash, Violet, Mr. Incredible, and Elastigirl from the CGI-animated film The Incredibles. (Disney/Pixar / The Kobal Collection).

The Incredibles

(pop culture)

One of the greatest critical and commercial successes from Pixar Animation Studios, The Incredibles is a computer-animated motion picture about a family of superheroes. This contemporary classic premiered in 2004 and was distributed by Walt Disney Pictures (the Walt Disney Company bought Pixar in 2006). Although filled with comedy, The Incredibles also succeeds in working as a suspenseful and serious superhero adventure saga.

The Incredibles was directed and written by Brad Bird. A protégé of Milt Kahl, one of Walt Disney’s leading animators known as his “Nine Old Men,” Bird became a director and executive consultant on The Simpsons in its first eight years. Bird directed Warner Bros.’ 1999 animated film The Iron Giant, which makes references to both Superman and Will Eisner’s The Spirit.

The Incredibles’ title characters include Bob Parr, alias Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), who is superhumanly strong; his feisty wife, Helen, alias Elastigirl (played by Holly Hunter), who can stretch any part of her body; their initially shy teenage daughter, Violet (voiced by author Sarah Vowell), who can turn invisible and generate protective force fields; and her rambunctious younger brother, Dash (voiced by Spencer Fox), who can move at superspeed. Bob and Helen also have a new infant son, Jack-Jack, who proves to have superpowers of his own.

Other major characters include the supervillain Syndrome (voiced by Jason Lee), who as a boy tried to become Mr. Incredible’s sidekick and as an adult tries to destroy all superheroes out of frustrated envy. His sultry assistant is Mirage (voiced by Elizabeth Pena). Bob Parr’s best friend is the African American superhero Frozone (portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson), who has freezing powers. Brad Bird himself voices Edna Mode, the eccentric woman who designs The Incredibles’ costumes. (Bird has stated that he intended Edna to be a combination of fashion aficionado and gadget builder along the lines of James Bond’s Q; others have noted similarities to famed costume designer Edith Head.)

The film opens by showing how, soon after Mr. Incredible married Elastigirl, the federal government forced them and all other superheroes into retirement due to an onslaught of lawsuits. Years later Bob and Helen live in a suburb as the parents of three children, though Bob is frustrated at having to work at a dull desk job—a metaphor for a conformist society in which no one is allowed to use his talents to stand out from others. Bob secretly goes to work as Mr. Incredible for Mirage, only to captured by her employer Syndrome, who has been killing off the retired superheroes. Violet and Dash are stowaways when Helen goes to find Bob. The family go into action together as superheroes to combat Syndrome’s minions and then to stop his gigantic Omnidroid robot from destroying a major city.

Though distinct in its approach, The Incredibles bear similarities to Marvel’s own superhero family, the Fantastic Four. Violet has the same powers as Susan Richards, the Invisible Woman. Bob has superstrength like the Thing, and his alias “Mr. Incredible” resembles Reed Richards’ name “Mr. Fantastic.” Elastigirl has the same power as Mr. Fantastic, and the same superhero name (minus the hyphen) as Rita Farr of DC Comics’ Doom Patrol. Perhaps partly in response, Rita recently changed her alias to “Elasti-Woman.” Dash’s name and superpower seem to be homages to DC’s super-speedster, the Flash. The similarities are appropriate because The Incredibles echoes the superhero genre of comics’ Silver Age, while nodding to other examples of 1960s pop culture; for example, Michael Giacchino’s score evokes the music of Sean Connery’s James Bond films of the era.

The Incredibles won the 2004 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and BOOM! Studios published the comics miniseries The Incredibles: Family Matters, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Marcio Takara, in 2009, followed that same year by an ongoing monthly The Incredibles comics series. The marketplace also saw a flood of Incredibles tie-in merchandise, including costumes, toys, and movie collectibles. —PS & GM