Bird, who was Pixar's first outside director, developed the film as an extension of 1960s comic books and spy films from his boyhood and personal family life. He pitched the film to Pixar after the box office disappointment of his first feature, The Iron Giant (1999), and carried over much of its staff to develop The Incredibles. The animation team was tasked with animating an all-human cast, which required creating new technology to animate detailed human anatomy, clothing and realistic skin and hair. Michael Giacchino composed the film's orchestral score.
The film premiered on October 27, 2004, at the BFI London Film Festival and had its general release in the United States on November 5, 2004. The film performed well at the box office, grossing $633 million worldwide during its original theatrical run. The Incredibles was met with high critical acclaim, garnering high marks from professional critics, and provoking commentary on its themes. The film received the 2004 Annie Award for Best Animated Feature, along with two Academy Awards. It became the first entirely animated film to win the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.
Public opinion turns against superheroes – also called "Supers" – due to collateral damage from their crime-fighting activities. After several lawsuits, they are forced into civilian relocation programs. Fifteen years later, Bob and Helen Parr, formerly known as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, and their children Violet, Dash, and baby Jack-Jack live as a suburban family. Bob dislikes suburban life and his white-collar job, and occasionally relives his glory days with his friend Lucius Best, formerly known as Frozone, by secretly acting as vigilantes at night.
One day, Bob loses his temper and job after his supervisor refuses to let him stop a mugging. Returning home, Bob finds a message from a mysterious woman named Mirage, who convinces him to become Mr. Incredible again and gives him a mission to destroy a savage tripod-like robot called the Omnidroid on the remote island of Nomanisan. Bob is able to find and destroy the Omnidroid by tricking it into ripping out its own power source.
Bob finds the action and higher pay rejuvenating; he begins rigorous training while waiting for more work from Mirage. Discovering a tear in his suit, he visits superhero costume designer Edna Mode. Mode, assuming that Helen knows what Bob is doing, makes new suits for the entire family. However, she rejects Bob's request for a cape, citing the large number of Supers who perished when their capes got caught in something.
Leaving for Nomanisan once again, Bob discovers that Mirage is working for Buddy Pine, a disaffected former super-fan whom Mr. Incredible had rejected. Having adopted the name Syndrome, he has been perfecting the Omnidroid by hiring different Supers to fight it, adding new features on the rare occasion that a Super wins. Now that it is capable of defeating Bob, Syndrome intends to send the machine to the city of Metroville; there, he will secretly manipulate its controls to defeat it in public, becoming a hero himself. Later, he will sell his inventions so everyone will become equally "super", making the term meaningless.
Meanwhile, Helen visits Edna and learns what Bob has been up to. Edna activates a beacon she built into the suits so Helen can find Bob, inadvertently causing him to be discovered and captured. Helen borrows a private plane to head for Nomanisan, but Violet and Dash have stowed away wearing their own suits, leaving Jack-Jack with a babysitter. Syndrome shoots down Helen's plane, but she and the children survive and reach the island. When Bob is informed that his family is dead, he grabs and threatens to kill Mirage, but his restraints prevent him when Syndrome calls his bluff.
Helen infiltrates the base, discovering Syndrome's intentions to send the Omnidroid to Metroville in a rocket. Distraught by Syndrome's callousness when her life was threatened, Mirage releases Bob and tells him his family is alive. Helen arrives and races off with Bob to find their children. Dash and Violet are spotted and chased by a number of Syndrome's guards, but fend them off with their powers before reuniting with their parents. Unfortunately, Syndrome captures them, leaving them imprisoned on Nomanisan while he follows the rocket to Metroville.
The Parrs escape and travel to Metroville in a spare rocket. True to its programming, the Omnidroid recognizes Syndrome as an opponent and attacks the remote on his wrist, making him incapable of controlling it. The Parrs and Frozone team up to fight the Omnidroid; the battle is indecisive until Bob comes across the remote, which proves the key to destroying it. Returning home, the Parrs find Syndrome, who plans to kidnap and raise Jack-Jack as his own sidekick to exact revenge on the family. As Syndrome tries to escape to his airplane, Jack-Jack's own shapeshifting superpowers start to manifest, and he eludes Syndrome's grasp. Bob and Helen use their powers together to rescue Jack-Jack, in the process causing Syndrome to be sucked into the jet's turbine by his cape, killing him and causing the plane to explode.
Three months later, the Parrs witness the arrival of a new villain called the Underminer. They don their superhero masks, ready to face a new threat.Craig T. Nelson as Bob Parr / Mr. Incredible, the patriarch of the Parr family, possessing super-strength and limited invulnerability
Holly Hunter as Helen Parr / Elastigirl, Bob's wife, who possesses the ability to stretch her body like rubber
Sarah Vowell as Violet Parr, the Parrs' eldest child, who can become invisible and generate an impact-resistant force shield
Spencer Fox as Dashiell Robert Parr / Dash, the Parrs' second child, who possesses super-speed
Samuel L. Jackson as Lucius Best / Frozone, Bob's best friend, who has the ability to form ice from humidity.
Jason Lee as Buddy Pine / Incredi-Boy / Syndrome, a former superhero fanatic who has no super powers of his own but uses advanced technology to give himself equivalent abilities
Eli Fucile and Maeve Andrews as Jack-Jack Parr, the Parrs' infant third child, who initially shows no powers but eventually reveals himself to have a wide range of shape-shifting abilities
Brad Bird as Edna Mode, the fashion designer for the Supers
Elizabeth Peña as Mirage, Syndrome's agent
Bud Luckey as Rick Dicker, a government agent who is responsible for helping the Parrs stay mundane and undercover
Wallace Shawn as Gilbert Huph, Bob's supervisor at his white-collar insurance job
John Ratzenberger as The Underminer, a new villain who appears at the end of the film
Dominique Louis as Bomb Voyage, a villain from the past who uses Buddy's interference in Mr. Incredible's heroism to escape
Michael Bird as Tony Rydinger, a popular boy at Violet's school who develops a crush on Violet
Jean Sincere as Mrs. Hogenson, an elderly woman who seeks help from Mr. Incredible for an insurance claim
Kimberly Adair Clark as Honey Best, Frozone's wife
Bret Parker as Kari McKeen, Jack-Jack's babysitter
Lou Romano as Bernie Kropp, Dash's teacher
Wayne Canney as the principal of Dash's school
The Incredibles as a concept dates back to 1993 when Bird sketched the family during a period in which he tried to break into film. Personal issues had percolated into the story as they weighed on him in life. During this time, Bird had inked a production deal with Warner Bros. Animation and was in the process of directing his first feature, The Iron Giant. Approaching middle age and having high aspirations for his filmmaking, Bird pondered whether his career goals were attainable only at the price of his family life. He stated, "Consciously, this was just a funny movie about superheroes. But I think that what was going on in my life definitely filtered into the movie." After the box office failure of The Iron Giant, Bird gravitated toward his superhero story.
He imagined it as an homage to the 1960s comic books and spy films from his boyhood and he initially tried to develop it as a 2D cel animation. When The Iron Giant became a box office bomb, he reconnected with old friend John Lasseter at Pixar in March 2000 and pitched his story idea to him. Bird and Lasseter knew each other from their college years at CalArts in the 1970s. Lasseter was sold on the idea and convinced Bird to come to Pixar, where the film would be done in computer animation. The studio announced a multi-film contract with Bird on May 4, 2000, breaking Pixar's mold of having directors who had all risen through the ranks. The Incredibles was written and directed solely by Brad Bird, a departure from previous Pixar productions which typically had two or three directors and as many screenwriters. In addition, it would be the company's first film in which all characters are human.
Bird came to Pixar with the lineup of the story's family members worked out: a mom and dad, both suffering through the dad's midlife crisis; a shy teenage girl; a cocky ten-year-old boy; and a baby. Bird had based their powers on family archetypes. After several failed attempts to cast Edna Mode, Bird took on her voice role himself. It was an extension of the Pixar custom of tapping in-house staff whose voices came across particularly well on scratch dialogue tracks. During production, Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli visited Pixar and saw the film's story reels. When Bird asked if the reels made any sense or if they were just "American nonsense," Miyazaki replied, through an interpreter, "I think it's a very adventurous thing you are trying to do in an American film."
Upon Pixar's acceptance of the project, Brad Bird was asked to bring in his own team for the production. He brought up a core group of people he worked with on The Iron Giant. Because of this, many 2-D artists had to make the shift to 3-D, including Bird himself. Bird found working with CG "wonderfully malleable" in a way that traditional animation is not, calling the camera's ability to easily switch angles in a given scene "marvelously adaptable." He found working in computer animation "difficult" in a different way than working traditionally, finding the software "sophisticated and not particularly friendly." Bird wrote the script without knowing the limitations or concerns that went hand-in-hand with the medium of computer animation. As a result, this was to be the most complex film yet for Pixar. The film's characters were designed by Tony Fucile and Teddy Newton, whom Bird had brought with him from Warner Bros. Like most computer-animated films, The Incredibles had a year-long period of building the film from the inside out: modeling the exterior and understanding controls that work face and body – the articulation of the character – before animation could even begin. Bird and Fucile tried to emphasize the graphic quality of good 2-D animation to the Pixar team, who'd only worked primarily in CG. Bird attempted to incorporate teaching from Disney's Nine Old Men that the crew at Pixar had "never really emphasized."
For the technical crew members, the film's human characters posed a difficult set of challenges. Bird's story was filled with elements that were difficult to animate with CGI back then. Humans are widely considered to be the most difficult things to execute in animation. Pixar's animators filmed themselves walking to better grasp proper human motion. Creating an all-human cast required creating new technology to animate detailed human anatomy, clothing, and realistic skin and hair. Although the technical team had some experience with hair and cloth in Monsters, Inc. (2001), the amount of hair and cloth required for The Incredibles had never been done by Pixar until this point. Moreover, Bird would tolerate no compromises for the sake of technical simplicity. Where the technical team on Monsters, Inc. had persuaded director Pete Docter to accept pigtails on Boo to make her hair easier to animate, the character of Violet had to have long hair that obscured her face; it was integral to her character. Violet's long hair, which was extremely difficult to animate, was only successfully animated toward the end of production. In addition, animators had to adapt to having hair underwater and blowing through the wind. Disney was initially reluctant to make the film because of these issues, feeling a live-action film would be preferable, though Lasseter vetoed this.
The Incredibles not only dealt with the trouble of animating CG humans, but also many other complications. The story was bigger than any prior story at the studio, was longer in running time, and had four times the number of locations. Supervising technical director Rick Sayre noted that the hardest thing about the film was that there was "no hardest thing," alluding to the amount of new technical challenges: fire, water, air, smoke, steam, and explosions were all additional to the new difficulty of working with humans. The film's organizational structure could not be mapped out like previous Pixar features, and it became a running joke to the team. Sayre said the team adopted “Alpha Omega," where one team was concerned with building modeling, shading and layout and another dealt with final camera, lighting, and effects. Another team, dubbed as the character team, digitally sculpted, rigged, and shaded the characters, and a simulation team was responsible for developing simulation technology for hair and clothing. There were 781 visual effects shots in the film, and they were quite often visual gags, such as the window shattering when Bob angrily shuts the car door. In addition, the effects team improved their modeling of clouds, using volumetric rendering for the first time.
The skin of the characters gained a new level of realism from a technology to produce known as "subsurface scattering." The challenges did not stop with modeling humans. Bird decided that in a shot near the film's end, baby Jack-Jack would undergo a series of transformations, and in one of the five planned he would turn himself into a kind of goo. Technical directors, who anticipated spending two months or even longer to work out the goo effect, stealing precious hours from production that had already entered its final and most critical stages, petitioned the film's producer, John Walker, for help. Bird, who had himself brought Walker over from Warner Bros. to work on the project, was at first immovable, but after arguing with Walker in several invective-laced meetings over the course of two months, Bird finally conceded. Bird also insisted that the storyboards define the blocking of characters' motions, lighting, and camera movements, which had previously been left to other departments rather than storyboarded.
Bird self-admitted that he "had the knees of [the studio] trembling under the weight" of The Incredibles, but called the film a "testament to the talent of the animators at Pixar," who were admiring the challenges the film provoked. He recalled, "Basically, I came into a wonderful studio, frightened a lot of people with how many presents I wanted for Christmas, and then got almost everything I asked for."
The Incredibles is the first Pixar film to be scored by Michael Giacchino. Brad Bird was looking for a specific sound as inspired by the film's design – the future as seen from the 1960s. John Barry was the first choice to do the film's score, with a trailer of the film given a rerecording of Barry's theme to On Her Majesty's Secret Service. However, Barry did not wish to duplicate the sound of some of his earlier soundtracks; the assignment was instead given to Giacchino. Giacchino noted that recording in the 1960s was largely different from modern day recording and Dan Wallin, the recording engineer, said that Bird wanted an old feel, and as such the score was recorded on analog tapes. Wallin noted that brass instruments, which are at the forefront of the film's score, sound better on analog equipment rather than digital. Wallin came from an era in which music was recorded, according to Giacchino, "the right way", which consists of everyone in the same room, "playing against each other and feeding off each other's energy". Tim Simonec was the conductor/orchestrator for the score's recording.
The film's orchestral score was released on November 2, 2004, three days before the film opened in theaters. It won numerous awards for best score including Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, BMI Film & TV Award, ASCAP Film and Television Music Award, Annie Award, Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award and Online Film Critics Society Award and was nominated for Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media, Satellite Award and Broadcast Film Critics Association Award.
Several film reviewers drew precise parallels between the film and certain superhero comic books, like Powers, Watchmen, Fantastic Four, and The Avengers. Indeed, the producers of the 2005 adaptation of Fantastic Four were forced to make significant script changes and add more special effects because of similarities to The Incredibles. Bird was not surprised that comparisons arose due to superheroes being "the most well-trod turf on the planet," but noted that he had not been inspired by any comic books specifically, only having heard of Watchmen. He did comment that it was nice to be compared to it, since "if you're going to be compared to something, it's nice if it's something good".
Some commentators took Bob's frustration with celebrating mediocrity and Syndrome's comment that "when everyone is super, nobody will be" as a reflection of views shared by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche or an extension of Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand's Objectivism philosophy, which Bird felt was "ridiculous." He stated that a large portion of the audience understood the satire whereas "two percent thought I was doing The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged." Some purported that The Incredibles exhibited a right-wing bias, which Bird also scoffed at. "I think that's as silly of an analysis as saying The Iron Giant was left-wing. I'm definitely a centrist and feel like both parties can be absurd."
The film also explored Bird's dislike for the tendency of the children's comics and Saturday morning cartoons of his youth to portray villains as unrealistic, ineffectual, and non-threatening. In the film, Dash and Violet have to deal with villains who are perfectly willing to use deadly force against children. On another level, both Dash and Violet display no emotion or regret at the deaths of those who are trying to kill them, such as when Dash outruns pursuers who crash their vehicles while chasing him, or when both of them witness their parents destroy several attacking vehicles with people inside, in such a manner that the deaths of those piloting them is undeniable. Despite disagreeing with some analysis, Bird felt it gratifying for his work to be considered on many different levels, which was his intention: "The fact that it was written about in the op/ed section of The New York Times several times was really gratifying to me. Look, it's a mainstream animated movie, and how often are those considered thought provoking?"
The film opened on November 5, 2004, as Pixar's first film to be rated PG (for "action violence"). Its theatrical release was accompanied with a Pixar short film Boundin'. The promotional campaign included an official website with video segments, games, and printable memorabilia. While Pixar celebrated another triumph with The Incredibles, Steve Jobs was embroiled in a public feud with the head of its distribution partner, The Walt Disney Company. This would eventually lead to the ousting of Michael Eisner and Disney's acquisition of Pixar the following year.
In March 2014, Disney CEO and chairman Bob Iger announced that the film would be reformatted and re-released in 3D.
The film's 2-disc collector's edition DVD set was released on March 15, 2005. This release also includes Jack-Jack Attack and Mr. Incredible and Pals, two Pixar short films made especially for the release of the film, and Boundin', a Pixar short film which the film premiered within theaters. It was the highest-selling DVD of 2005, with 17.38 million copies sold. The film was also released on UMD for the Sony PSP. It was released on Blu-ray in North America on April 12, 2011. The film was also released on VHS on March 15, 2005.
Despite concerns that the film would receive underwhelming results, the film's domestic gross was $70,467,623 in its opening weekend from 7,600 screens at 3,933 theaters, averaging $17,917 per theater or $9,272 per screen, the highest opening weekend gross for a Pixar film (the record was later broken in 2010 by Toy Story 3, with $110,307,189), the highest November opening weekend for a Disney film (the record was broken in 2013 by Thor: The Dark World with $85.7 million), the highest-opening weekend for a non-sequel animated feature (the record was broken in 2007 by The Simpsons Movie, with $74,036,787), and the highest opening weekend for a non-franchise-based film for just over five years when Avatar opened with $77,025,481. This opening was the second highest for an animated film at the time. The film was also number one in its second weekend, grossing another $50,251,359, dropping just 29 percent, and easily out-grossing new animated opener The Polar Express. The film ultimately grossed $261,441,092, as the sixth highest-grossing Pixar film behind Toy Story 3 ($415.0 million), Finding Nemo ($380.8 million), Up ($293.0 million), Monsters, Inc. ($289.9 million), and Monsters University ($268.5 million) and the fifth highest-grossing film of 2004. Worldwide, the film grossed $631,442,092, and is thus the sixth highest-grossing Pixar film behind Toy Story 3 ($1.063 billion), Finding Dory ($1.029 billion), Finding Nemo ($936.7 million), Monsters University ($743.6 million) and Up ($731.3 million), and ranked fourth for 2004. It is also the second highest-grossing 2004 animated film behind Shrek 2 ($919.8 million).
The film received a 97% approval rating at review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 234 reviews, with an average rating of 8.3/10. which, as of June 2017, makes it the 19th highest-rated animated film of all time. The site's consensus reads "Bringing loads of wit and tons of fun to the animated superhero genre, The Incredibles easily lives up to its name." Metacritic, another review aggregator, indicates the film was met with "universal acclaim", garnering a score of 90/100 based on 41 critics. Audiences polled for CinemaScore gave the film a "A+" on an "A+ to F" scale.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times give the film three-and-a-half stars out of four, writing that the film "alternates breakneck action with satire of suburban sitcom life" and is "another example of Pixar's mastery of popular animation." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone also gave the film three-and-a-half stars, calling it "one of the year's best" and saying that it "doesn't ring cartoonish, it rings true." Giving the film three-and-a-half stars as well, People magazine found that The Incredibles "boasts a strong, entertaining story and a truckload of savvy comic touches."
Conversely, Eleanor Ringel Gillespie of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was bored by the film's "recurring pastiches of earlier action films", concluding that "the Pixar whizzes do what they do excellently; you just wish they were doing something else." Similarly, Jessica Winter of The Village Voice criticized the film for "playing as a standard summer action film", despite being released in early-November. Her review, titled as "Full Metal Racket," noted that The Incredibles "announces the studio's arrival in the vast yet overcrowded Hollywood lot of eardrum-bashing, metal-crunching action sludge."
Travers also named The Incredibles as #6 on his list of the decade's best films, writing "Of all the Pixar miracles studded through the decade, The Incredibles still delights me the most. It's not every toon that deals with midlife crisis, marital dysfunction, child neglect, impotence fears, fashion faux pas, and existential angst." The National Review Online named The Incredibles No. 2 on its list of the 25 best conservative movies of the last 25 years, saying that it "celebrates marriage, courage, responsibility, and high achievement." Entertainment Weekly named the film No. 25 on its list of the 25 greatest action films ever and No. 7 on its list of the 20 best animated movies ever. IGN ranked the film as the third favorite animated film of all time in a list published in 2010. In 2012, film critic Matt Zoller Seitz declared The Incredibles as the greatest superhero film he has ever seen: "That thing works as a James Bond spoof; a meditation on identities, secret and otherwise; a domestic comedy; a statement on exceptionalism vs. mediocrity, and the perils of the nanny state.... And yet it all hangs together. No part feels perfunctory or stupid. It’s all deeply felt." He would also later name the film as the "greatest action movie of the aughts, with [Hero] and [Kung Fu Hustle] following close behind."
The film won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, beating two DreamWorks films, Shrek 2 and Shark Tale, as well as Best Sound Editing at the 77th Academy Awards. It also received nominations for Best Original Screenplay (for writer/director Brad Bird) and Best Sound Mixing (Randy Thom, Gary Rizzo and Doc Kane). It was Pixar's first feature film to win multiple Oscars, followed in 2010 by Up. Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal called The Incredibles the year's best picture. Premiere magazine released a cross-section of all the top critics in America and The Incredibles placed at number three, whereas review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes cross-referenced reviews that suggested it was its year's highest-rated film.
The film also received the 2004 Annie Award for Best Animated Feature and the 2005 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, and it was nominated for the 2004 Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. It also won the Saturn Award for Best Animated Film. The American Film Institute nominated The Incredibles for its Top 10 Animated Films list.
It was included on Empire's 500 Greatest Films of all time at number 400.
Several companies released promotional products related to the film. In the weeks before the film's opening, there were also promotional tie-ins with SBC Communications (using Dash to promote the "blazing-fast speed" of its SBC Yahoo! DSL service) Tide, Downy, Bounce and McDonald's.
In July 2008, it was announced that a series of comic books based on the film would be published by BOOM! Studios in collaboration with Disney Publishing by the end of the year. The first miniseries by BOOM! was The Incredibles: Family Matters by Mark Waid and Marcio Takara, which was published from March to June 2009 and collected into a trade paperback published in July of that year.
A video game based on the film was released on the PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, Game Boy Advance, PC, and Macintosh, as well as on mobile phones. Though based on the film, several key scenes are altered from the original script. A second game, The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer, was released for the PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS, as well as on Windows and OS X. Taking place immediately after the film, the sequel focuses on Mr. Incredible and Frozone as they battle with the megalomaniacal mole, The Underminer. A third game, The Incredibles: When Danger Calls, was released for Windows and OS X. It is a collection of 10 games and activities for the playable characters to perform. Another game, Kinect Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure, was released on March 20, 2012, for Xbox 360. It features characters and missions from five Pixar's films: The Incredibles, Up, Cars, Ratatouille and Toy Story. The Incredibles characters also star in Disney Infinity, which was released in August 2013. The playset for The Incredibles is featured in the starter pack.
Director Brad Bird stated in 2007 that he was open to the idea of a sequel if he could come up with an idea superior to the original film: "I have pieces that I think are good, but I don't have them all together." During an interview in May 2013, Bird reiterated his interest in making a sequel. "I have been thinking about it. People think that I have not been, but I have. Because I love those characters and love that world," said Bird. "I am stroking my chin and scratching my head. I have many, many elements that I think would work really well in another Incredibles film, and if I can get ‘em to click all together, I would probably wanna do that."
Disney announced their intentions to develop The Incredibles 2 in March 2014. Bird returned to direct and write the screenplay. Nelson, Hunter, Vowell, Jackson, and Bird will also return to voice their characters, while Dash will now be voiced by Huck Milner as Fox's voice had deepened in the intervening years. The film will follow immediately from the end of The Incredibles with the Parrs facing the Underminer. The film will focus on Holly Hunter's character, Elastigirl. Originally, The Incredibles 2 was to be released on June 21, 2019 as Pixar's next film after Toy Story 4. Due to delays on that title, Pixar swapped the releases, and currently The Incredibles 2 is set for release on June 15, 2018.