I love getting into deep conversations about the production of this or that shot or effect in a movie. In my freelance work, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with a lot of the best creatives in the business. Once in a while, it’s all about animation, which is close to my heart for perhaps obvious family reasons. One of these moments happened when I was digging into the production of Incredibles 2 with the production designer at Pixar, Ralph Eggleston. I previously posted a snippet of the interview with him, where he talked briefly about pitching for the short he made with Pixar, For the Birds, which went on to win the Oscar for Animated short.
Some of Ralph Eggleston’s favourite production story angles during the production of films like Brave, Wall-E and UP was the development of the color script. While story arcs would drive the movie through its peaks and troughs, the color script would illustrate and accentuate the dramatic emotions of that arc through the use of thematic shades of color.
One of the differences between producing Incredibles 2 and the previous few movies from Pixar is that Eggleston actually didn’t get to do a Color Script for the show. “About a year out from release, we found we had a year less time to make the film,” Eggleston says. “Toy Story 4 wasn’t going to be ready for its 2018 release and so it was decided to switch the dates for that of Incredibles 2, and boy that seemed like a really fun decision at the time. Little did we know just how challenging that would be but we pulled it off.”
In doing this, the Incredibles 2 crew at Pixar used some new tech to its fullest extent. As the new technology of USD was brought online at the studio, the artists were able to start lighting the film a whole lot earlier than before. Eggleston would normally have time to design the Color Script and understand the emotional through-lines. “The Color Script is an illustration of the story as much as it is an illustration of the emotions of the characters throughout that story,” he explains. “On this production, the film was changing so much under our feet as we were making it and we had a year less time.”
Eggleston blocked it out very roughly with color themes and ideas, doing paintings of scenes, reference and working closely with the DOP (Mahyar Abousaeedi) and he was able to take it to eleven from there.
Abousaeedi has a long career with Pixar, as DOP on Cars 2, and Ratatouille. One of the main inspirations for the lighting on the film is Russell Metty’s work on Douglas Sirk films like Written on the Wind or All that Heaven Allows. Working without the Color Script made making Incredibles 2 a different kind of film production but Ralph Eggleston isn’t afraid of working differently. “We always making films better at Pixar, and there’s always the point in production where the story falls into place, and with a year less time, it focused us in on finding new ways of working,” he said.
“In the original Incredibles movie, you saw city streets and the same six people in the background throughout the whole production, because that was all they could afford to render,” he says. In this film, Eggleston knew Pixar had the talent and technology to do it. He filled a room with drawings from the artists and each one drew men, women and babies, kids, all clothed in the wardrobe of the fifties and sixties. “When Brad Bird came in for the art review,” Eggleston says, “I told him I don’t want you to tell us what you like. I want you to tell us what you don’t like. Out of the 500-odd drawings, he pulled down about eight drawings.”
Ralph Eggleston handed the rest across to Character Art Director Matt Nolte, and “they just picked it up and ran. Hats off to the creatives for taking it and making it work so beautifully,” he says.
Written by Paul Hellard