When we think about animation, we think about drawing characters on a computer and making them move. What you don’t realize is that animation has a lot (if not more) departments that perform specific tasks for a Disney Pixar film like storyboarding which is the concept art and starting point to the film. Effects for an action scene, someone to animate the hair, and even costume design.
Thank you to Disney Pixar for bringing me to California to learn more about the animation process for Incredibles 2.
We got an inside look at the mid-century modern aesthetics of the wardrobe and costumes created for all of the Incredibles 2 characters. We sat down with Shading Art Director Bryn Imagire, Tailoring Lead Fran Kalal, and Character Artist Deanna Marsigliese to see what goes into the prep and execution of the costuming department.
Bryn Imagire, the Shading Art Director who also worked on The Incredibles shares with us what it was like working on Incredibles 2 now 14 years later. “Technology is so much more advanced. The suits were shaded unto the bodies of the models. So they aren’t garments. In the first film, you’ll notice that the logo stretches a lot and does all these weird, funny things because it’s actually their skin,” Bryn Imagire said.
“Since we are in the world of the fabulous Edna Mode, our costumes had to live up to her standards,” Tailoring Lead Fran Kalal said. “Our costume designers, tailors, shading artists, and shot simulation artists have to start from scratch on every film to create costumes that fit characters that break the laws of physics. That can change their shape in milliseconds, and they also have to fit into their uniquely designed worlds.”
“Costume design for animation is really no different than costume design for live action. In fact, one could argue that it’s more difficult,” Deanna Marsigliese Character Artist said. Deanna Marsigliese looks and lives the mid-century life through her daily wardrobe. She thinks it is one of the reasons Pixar was so keen on having her work on this film. She explained to us that there are two aspects of costuming in animation:
- Creatively theoretical – Abstract thinking through storytelling. “I’m looking at the big picture to focus on what I’m trying to say. How I’m going to aid the storytelling with my costume designs,” Deanna Marsigliese said.
- Creatively Practical – Backup characters need hundreds of costumes.
The team’s first assignment was to create Edna Mode’s fashion line. This isn’t something that we will see in the film but was more of an exercise for the storytelling that fashion can do. They looked at Edna’s style which is bold and dramatic. What is Edna’s true motivation? She hates models. So how does Edna create looks for the people that she loathes? Edna never looks back. She celebrates supers, so she works that into her designs.
Incredibles 2 Costume Inspiration
The team looked at famous actors and figures that they thought embodied the spirit of each character. Bryne said this is the process that allows us to think about the character and how costuming can shape that character.
Bryn Imagire’s character profiles.
- For Bob – Paul Newman- Handsome, robust, and a good solid family man.
- For Helen – She is going back into superhero work, so they looked at Mary Tyler Moore, Aubrey Hepburn, and Marilyn Monroe. They felt strong and are career minded and fabulous at the same time. Helen’s new super suit was designed by [Deavtech]. She has to run around in the dark more and needs to be inconspicuous. We couldn’t use the white suit with the red boots and gloves because it was too flamboyant.
- For Violet – She is rebellious, but the 50’s rebellious design didn’t feel right for her. (leather jackets) so we looked at more 1960’s with cuffed jeans, Keds, and sweaters seemed more her style.
- For Dash – He’s just a normal kid that wears t-shirts and jeans. So we saved a lot of time making one t-shirt and shading it in different colors and patterns. But they were always The Incredibles colors: yellow, orange and red.
- For Jack-Jack – Whenever Bob is home alone with him he keeps him in diapers. Bob’s just too tired. So the only time you see clothing on Jack-Jack, it is when Helen is home.
- For E (Edna) – Her head is an oval, and her body is a triangle. Edith Head is the designer that we looked at in the first film. Brad said that E is German and Japanese so they looked at designers and they always looked comfortable compared to what they are creating for their models, which always looks really crazy and uncomfortable. As a piece of sculpture. I also started looking at nature, which is a very Japanese thing to do. I looked at animals, mushrooms, flowers. I made practical models with metal, paper, and snakeskin to make me think more abstractly. I used a shedded snakeskin, and I feel like Edna would be conscious of the environment and use-reuse discarded materials in a new way.
- For Evelyn – Patty Smith, Gloria Anderson, Diane Keaton and Annie Lennox. Bohemian, smart and relaxed in her own style but that she’s made a lot of money. Patty Smith was a heavy influence because she was always wearing very man’ish cut shirts. If the shirts where a masculine cut they were made from very gauzy materials or had dainty designs on them, so it blurred the lines between masculine and feminine design. Like she wanted to step into a man’s world.
Art and Fashion Meet Math and Science in Costume Animation
Tailoring Lead Fran Kalal explains to us that it’s tailoring’s job to “Take what we know about art and fashion to make the outfits and what we know about math and science to make them move.”
So how does that translate into the world of animation? They have to tessellate the garments. That means “we turn it into a bunch of triangles and those triangles are a series of points connected with springs or slinkies,” Fran Kalal said. “We tell those slinkies and springs how to behave. We program these outfits to move like one fabric or another. We can tell those slinkies those springs to be stretchy. Do or don’t fold easily. Be lightweight or be heavy. An example of density and turning off gravity. We have access to these forces that you don’t have in the physical world.”
How the characters actions affect the garment. Elastigirl is the prime example of a character that stretches the limits on what a costume can and should be able to do. Mrs. Incredible’s suit also took advantage of a new technology that was developed for this film to let the fabric shrink and stretch dynamically so that it wouldn’t break the texture that we have on there.
Pixar also developed and adopted a new hair tool. A whole team of people that work on hair and making sure that Helen’s signature swoop in the back moves and reacts to wind but snaps back into place after a ride on the Elasticycle.
Costuming the Background Characters or Incredibles 2
Costuming the primary characters of the movie uses eye-catching designs, but the background characters need to blend in and not be distracting to the audience. The team studied mid-century sewing patterns and saw that everything has clean silhouettes and is perfectly tailored.
Deanna Marsigliese explains they took the iconic 50’s adult females and refit the designs work on a multitude of body types. “This is where it gets creative,” Deanna Marsigliese said. “Once we decide on the wardrobe pieces we bring in the expert tailoring team, and then we pick their brains to see how smart and efficient we can be together and we come up with strategies.” Deanna Marsigliese continues, “The strategy is inspired by an actual sewing pattern. Two separates made from the same fabric combine to make a dress. Two pieces, multiple uses. Another strategy is using the same basic pattern for the shirt but doing partial design changes. The collar, the sleeve length.”
This gives the team a bunch of designs to dress all of these background characters. Fran Kalal shares with us that there were 12 unique garments for the male background characters and resized them to 6 different body types. By creating variations in color and patterning to create 72 unique costumes. The females have 20 unique garments and seven body types giving the team 64 costumes for the women. So what they did was “pin” an outfit to a character using a least 250 little points per shirt that can morph from a tall guy to a thin guy, and all they have to do is change the pattern or color of the shirt. This makes it easy to clothe all those background characters.
I learned so much from this presentation and had no idea that so much design went into the costumes of the characters. I assumed that the process was a lot like it was 14 years ago when the costume was more like a skin on the character.