If you saw Incredibles 2 this past weekend, you are now familiar with the memorable and hilarious raccoon scene (our new favorite!) as well as Jack-Jack’s various, ever surprising set of powers. One of these powers, his ability to burst into flames, literally lights up the screen.
“On the film, I was tasked with creating the Jack-Jack fire effect,” said Effects Artist Jason Johnston. To create this effect 14 years after the first time we saw Jack-Jack’s very flammable skill, the team revisited the first Incredibles film.
“After looking at the original, we decided to take the opportunity to redesign the look,” Johnston said. Why? Because Jack-Jack’s “role while on fire would be bigger in Incredibles 2, and it would have more screen time, and we would need to read his animation, especially in his face. Also, because technology has changed so much, we can really do more and flesh out the look.”
Various test animations were created to “[develop] the look of the fire.” The team had a version that was close to the original, versions with different color gradations, different eye effects, different skin colors, and more.
“We met with the Art Director, Ralph Eggleston, and he was very specific in that Jack-Jack is the source of the fire, he’s not on fire,” Johnston added. “And what that means is that there’ll be no smoke and no embers ever coming off of him, but things that he has lit on fire can have them.”
Another crucial element: “We also don’t want it to be scary.”
The effects animators used objects that “are fuel sources of fire, that when they’re burning, they don’t actually look like they’re on fire,” like barbecue fire starter cubes,” as reference while developing the effect, but they also experimented with characteristics they knew would definitely not make it into the final product.
“[It’s] really important to do tests that push the visuals into something that’s completely wrong. You might find something you didn’t expect,” Johnston mentioned.
They played with the size and levels of the flames, as well as experimenting with a red skin tone. “Although this was a step in the right direction, we felt like he looked too much like a red devil baby.”
All these tests “allowed everyone to look at the same images, talk about what they liked and what they didn’t, what worked and what didn’t. All of these tests helped shape the final look.”
Ultimately, thanks to the aforementioned developments in technology over the past 14 years (and a lot of hard work), the animators were able to create a realistic look that hit all of the points director Brad Bird was looking for.
“Jack-Jack has many powers, and they’re all so fun to see how he uses them in this film,” said Johnston. “They were equally as fun to create, and we had a blast working on them.”
Incredibles 2 is in theatres now!