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‘Incredibles’ Director Pressured by Pixar Success
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Expectations for Pixar Animation Studios’ latest computer-animated creation, superhero satire “The Incredibles,” are running so high that the pressure for blockbuster success is, well, incredible.
And for that reason alone, it may seem odd, if not incredible, that Pixar entrusted the film, its first centered on human characters and tailored for adults as well as children, to a director who has made just one movie — a commercial misfire loved by the critics.
Brad Bird, who directed and conceived “The Incredibles” about a retired superhero depressed by life, says he is feeling the pressure of great expectations even though he’s not worried about maintaining Pixar’s hot box office streak — five smash hits from “Toy Story” to “Finding Nemo.”
“It’s ridiculous … If this thing makes $1 less than ‘Nemo,’ on its opening (on Friday), somebody’s going to say ‘it’s the beginning of the end for Pixar,”‘ Bird told Reuters.
“The Incredibles” marks a departure for Pixar. Its past films revolved around talking toys, lovable animals and comical monsters. They were perfect characters to win over kids, and their jokes were sharp enough to make parents laugh.
However, “The Incredibles” is built around a more adult tale about a dad, Bob Parr, once the crime-busting superhero “Mr. Incredible” who has now slid into mid-life crisis.
In his earlier days, Bob (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), was known for his super strength. His wife, Helen (Holly Hunter), was “Elastigirl” and idealized for her super stretching limbs.
After an unfortunate incident, however, they were put in a government superhero protection program. Bob is now a bored insurance adjuster, and Helen is a housewife caring for their three children, Violet, Dashiel and baby Jack Jack.
Unbeknownst to Helen, Bob goes back to busting bad guys, and his ultimate target is the menacing villain named Syndrome (Jason Lee), who threatens to take over the world. But when he confronts Syndrome, Mr. Incredible finds only more trouble. Helen and the kids must save him.
Bird admits some of the action, which spoofs James Bond and recent comic-book films like “Spider-Man,” may get too intense for young Pixar fans.
“I think a lot of kids will have a blast at this, but I think probably a lot of really small kids, or those who are easily startled, maybe should wait a few years because some of the scenes are kind of intense,” he said.
Adding to the uncertainty around “Incredibles” is that Pixar’s other movies were conceived and developed within the company. “The Incredibles” is Bird’s creation. He comes from outside. He sold the script to Pixar and was hired to make it, based in part on his previous film “The Iron Giant” which won critical praise but made only $23 million at the box office.
He said the directors and producers at Pixar, including “Toy Story” originator John Lasseter, offered advice, but never tried to steer him away from his original ideas. Nor were they overly concerned about the box office.
“Pixar goes, ‘You never know what a movie is going to do, and the bottom line is we love this movie. We made it the best way we know, and the rest is up to the movie gods,”‘ he said.
The film is the sixth and next-to-last film in a highly profitable but deeply troubled partnership between Pixar and the Walt Disney Co. . The pair have earned $2.6 billion in global box office receipts from 1995’s “Toy Story” to last year’s “Finding Nemo.”
But Disney and Pixar have been unable to forge a new agreement and their relationship is slated to end in November 2005 with the premiere of their last contracted film, “Cars.”
“Nemo” hauled in $70 million in its opening weekend in the United States and Canada, earning $340 million in those countries.
Some box office experts are predicting that “The Incredibles” will gross more than $500 million in world-wide box office as compared to worldwide grosses of more than $860 million for “Nemo.”
Says Bird, “Many movies we think of as being groundbreaking and smash hits that came out of nowhere. Many of them were made with a struggle and people didn’t believe in the makers.”
He’s right. That is what happened with “Toy Story” in 1995, and we all know what its outcome — in-credible.