Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead. Please Proceed at YOUR OWN RISK.
Jack-Jack Parr likes to sit back with his bottle and hear a good bedtime story from his dad, Mr. Incredible. Well-versed in baby talk with a penchant for throwing food, Jack-Jack seems like the typical toddler. Looks can be deceiving, as he may turn out to be the most powerful super in the Parr Family.
As we already know, Jack-Jack surprised us all with powers of his own at the end of the first film. Yet, the rest of his family missed the mayhem, so we didn’t get a chance to see him at his full potential. “The family has no idea he has powers,” says producer John Walker. “At the end of the first film the audience gets the first glimpse of what Jack-Jack can do—like bursting into flames and turning into a demon baby—but the Parrs didn’t see that all happening.”
He’s just a baby, and his powers reflect his needs, wants, and ever-changing emotions. Which is a real challenge for even the best parent. “Anyone who’s taken care of a regular baby day in and day out knows that it can be exhausting,” says writer/director Brad Bird. “Toddlers have curiosity and mobility—but zero judgment. And Jack-Jack isn’t just trying out one power—he has a multitude of powers going on.”
Jack-Jack is given a bigger opportunity in Incredibles 2, as he has a larger role. Because of that, filmmakers wanted to do everything they could to let him shine in his big on screen moments. “We studied how babies move,” says supervising animator Tony Fucile. “They have all kinds of quirks that only careful observation revealed—the way they walk on their toes or catch themselves when they fall. There is a blend of athleticism, when they can control themselves—and awkward wobbling, when they can’t.”
Jack-Jack was given a full makeover, including a chubbier look, added articulation, and more expressive features. They all come into play when he unleashes his awesome powers.
Here some of Jack-Jack’s powers, so far:
• Bursting into flames/pyrokinesis
• Laser vision
• Levitation and the ability to hang out on the ceiling and walls
• Multiplication – splitting into multiple Jack-Jacks
• Phasing – moving through closed doors
• Projecting bolts of electricity
• Transforming into heavy metal
• Turning into a demon baby
During a special presentation at Pixar Studios, we learned from the animators how they created the effects for Jack-Jack’s powers. According to effects supervisor, Bill Watral, many of Jack-Jack’s powers are effects driven. But achieving the actual effects wasn’t the toughest task the team addressed. “One of our biggest challenges with Jack-Jack was maintaining the look of the baby whether he’s turning to goo or on fire,” says Watral. “No one wants to see a burning baby, for instance, so we spent a lot of time making sure he was always appealing and funny.”
Technological advances allowed Watral and his team to enhance the character’s look within effects like flames. “Reading Jack-Jack’s face was really important,” he says. “We created a shading treatment so that his facial expressions were clear: ‘I’m on fire but that’s OK! This is fun!’ We don’t want anyone to forget that this is a baby with powers. The effect shouldn’t outshine the humor, which can be harder to achieve than a big explosion.”
Just when you think you’ve seen everything, then comes Jack-Jack’s demon transformation. “Anyone who’s been around little kids knows that toddlers can be awful when they’re having a tantrum,” says supervising animator Dave Mullins. “So seeing that personified in demon baby with big teeth and muscles is just perfect because that’s what it feels like when your kid goes off the rails.”
Filmmakers made a separate model to represent demon baby Jack-Jack. “We start with Jack-Jack as he’s getting mad,” says Mullins. “He starts turning red and on one frame of film, we switch to the other model that’s been scaled down in size and color, and scale him up to the full demon baby over the next few frames. It’s seamless.”
“Incredibles 2” is now playing in theaters. Read our movie review here.