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‘The Incredibles’ Then and Now: Revisiting the Super Family After Over a Decade

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The Incredibles featured image

It’s here. The 14-year wait for a sequel to Disney and Pixar’s hit animated film The Incredibles is over, and it’s finally time to discover what happens next to the super family of five. It’s the longest wait for an animated theatrical Disney sequel to date, and it both feels like eons have passed and like no time has passed at all.

It’s probably been about ten years since I last watched The Incredibles, having seen it to the point of near-memorization in its early days. I revisited the film this past week, and I’m pleased to say I not only found it just as enjoyable as when it first came out, but was also able to admire it in new ways that my teenage self couldn’t fully appreciate. Nostalgia aside, I may have lost interest in some childhood films I used to hold dear, but The Incredibles is not one of them.

Director Brad Bird has said that at its core, The Incredibles is about family. Sure, the superhero elements and action are huge selling points, but the realistic family dynamic is what differentiates The Incredibles from the rest of the superhero flicks in the genre. Bird referenced his personal family experiences when writing the screenplay for the first film, and it shows because all the interactions feel incredibly true to life.

The Parr family having dinner in The Incredibles

Both then and now I was able to spot startlingly accurate similarities between the Parr’s and my own family. Some characteristics might seem generic, like the energetic young boy, the introverted teenager, the multitasking mom, or the distracted dad. However, it’s the intricacies of how these characters are portrayed that makes them come to life, including the expertly written dialogue and the nuanced facial expressions and body movements.

Helen and Bob argue in The Incredibles

Bob and Helen were the most accurate portrayal of real parents I had ever seen in an animated production, especially when they were arguing, and their perfectly imperfect relationship is still one of my favorites in all of fiction. I saw myself in Violet, as I was also a painfully shy, sarcastic teenager who got into fights with my younger brother. She was immediately accessible in a way I hadn’t seen before, since the majority of animated films I had seen focused on adults or kids as the main protagonists. And while I’m not a mother and I won’t pretend to know what that’s like, I can now put myself in my own mother’s shoes far better than I could in my youth, and it’s given me a new appreciation for Helen, whom I had already loved for being such a dynamic female superhero.

The characters may be a highlight of the film for me, but there is so much goodness to unpack that even they just scratch the surface.

The Incredibles end credits

I don’t think I fully acknowledged the heavy stylization of The Incredibles when it first came out, from the costumes and the set pieces to the cutout-style end credits and the rollicking Michael Giacchino score. But all these things are so much more apparent now, and at a time when many animated films of the past decade have started to look and sound like each other, I truly appreciate The Incredibles having such a strong sense of identity and style.

In hindsight, I’m embarrassed to admit I had never realized the film took take place in the 1960s. I had thought the filmmakers were just adding some retro elements to the modern day, but in reality, the era was supposed to be a 1960s vision of the future. After having learned this, I feel even deeper in love with this world and its simultaneous love letter to the past and Tomorrowland-eque view of the future. No wonder Bob was reading the newspaper! (Which incidentally is also where we get a clear indication of the date: May 16, 1962.)

Bob Parr reading the newspaper in The Incredibles

The Incredibles made bold cinematic and storytelling choices that were out of the ordinary for an animated family film. To start with, one of the first scenes features a cop car chase full of gunfire, fast action, quick cuts, and the strange sensation of watching the animated version of a live-action thriller.

Content-wise, The Incredibles struck the perfect tone; there were some truly dark elements, but the script handled them maturely and didn’t beat audiences over the head. In the first part of the film, Bob foils a citizen’s attempted suicide. It’s heavily implied that Helen suspects her husband is cheating when he’s out on his ‘business trips.’ The villains aren’t afraid to kill, even children.

Syndrome's secret database in The Incredibles

Just upon my most recent viewing did I catch the nuances in the scene where Bob hacks into Syndrome’s secret database and watches a visual sequence of superheroes and Omnidroid models. I had known the supers shown were murdered, but hadn’t realized that the order represented which machines killed them and which super had necessitated upgrades to each particular model in order to finish the job. It’s that subtle revelation that makes the extent of Syndrome’s actions all the more horrifying.

Young Buddy Pine in The Incredibles

The deeper messages of the film remain just as poignant now as in 2004. Concepts like “when everyone is special, then no one will be” and the character arc between the rejected Buddy/Syndrome and his mistakenly idolized hero Bob/Mr. Incredible are widely applicable to the real world then and now. The Incredibles raises awareness of complicated issues we might not want to acknowledge, especially in an animated family film, and does it by seamlessly tying them into an engaging narrative. I’m eager to see if the sequel will touch on similarly weighty topics, but even if it just expands upon what was explored in the original, it will still be refreshing to see.

The only area in which The Incredibles has aged is in the visuals department, which is inevitable given today’s technological climate. That being said, even being accustomed to today’s visual standards, I never felt the graphics or animation hindered the story, and the characters’ expressions did not feel limited by the now-dated technology. That’s a testament to The Incredibles pushing the tech available at the time, and the ability of a solid script to outweigh its visuals. As the years pass, The Incredibles, like all CG films, is only going to look more dated, but I believe the narrative will stand the test of time.

The Incredibles family hug

Taking all the above into account, I can confidently say that The Incredibles remains one of my favorite animated movies, and it’s still a dream come true that we’re finally seeing a sequel in any capacity, let alone one with the same director and the majority of the same voice cast. Brad Bird has stated before that he would not work on a sequel to The Incredibles if he didn’t think it was as good as or better than the first one. Considering the current sequel and remake-laden industry, I have an enormous amount of respect for that. It also makes me more excited than ever for the Parr family’s next big screen adventure.

How do you think The Incredibles has held up in the 14 years since its release? Do you enjoy or notice certain things now that you might not have when you first saw it? Are there other animated films that you appreciate more now, seeing them at a later age?

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About Amber

Amber is an imaginative storyteller and visual artist whose greatest ambition is to tell meaningful stories that resonate with people. Since she was young, Amber has enjoyed escaping to faraway worlds through animation, and has continued to follow animation into adulthood because of its limitless storytelling possibilities. Picking favorites is nearly impossible, but Amber would say her top animated films include The Little Mermaid, The Incredibles, The Emperor’s New Groove, and Frozen. She graduated with a B.A. in Interactive Media/Graphic Design and a minor in Journalism, and is currently working as an advertising designer. When she’s not at her day job, Amber can be found working on digital illustrations and photo edits, drafting a new fiction story, or crafting a new cosplay. Send her a tweet at @amber_ld.