Behind the Scenes: Runaway Train Action Sequence
The trailers for INCREDIBLES 2 have been out for a month already, so I know you’ve already seen a few of them on TV or the movie theater. There is so much action in those teasers.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much action I saw during our screening of the first 22 minutes. So. Much. Action. But, do you ever think about everything that goes into making those action scenes? I know I didn’t until I had the chance to sit down and talk with Story Supervisor Ted Mathot, Layout Supervisor Mahyar Abousaeedi, Animator Kureha Yokoo, and Effects Artist Amit Baadkar.
Story Supervisor Ted Mathot
Story Supervisor Ted Mathot broke down the runaway train scene for us, including some challenges and happy accidents. We started with viewing the story reel with the temporary sounds and voices to see how it worked together and how it changed from the story reel to the finished product we saw on screen in the film.
Story Reel: All films start in story reel – a drawn version of the film. The attempts to communicate what we want to happen in the film. It’s also a reference point for production when it gets sent there to create the film. It’s all temporary and helps craft the scene as they move through.
See the Elasticycle and train in this sneak peek video
Ted thought they had a really great story to build a foundation upon. But thought, “How can we improve on this?”
3 Things to improve from the story reel.
- Introduction of the police.
- We introduced the police cars that Helen gets tangled within the scene. We have to make a case for the Supers being legal again. In order to do that we have to show Helen doing something only a super can do vs. what can the public or the police do.
- Insert Elasticycle – Elastigirl is the only one with the Elasticycle.
- Getting a phone call from home (on the Elasticycle) during the train chase.
- “We want to balance mundane with super. We never want to be super for too long without being mundane. We never want to be mundane too long without something super.”
- Introduce a phone call from home while Helen is in a high-speed chase.
- Balance is what makes an INCREDIBLES movie.
- Helen stopping a high-speed train.
- How do we make it better? We want something that only Helen can do. How can she use her Super abilities and knowledge to stop this train?
Layout Supervisor Mahyar Abousaeedi
Layout Supervisor Mahyar Abousaeedi is over the layout, camera, and staging department.
“Much like planning a live action sequence, we faced similar challenges. We worked with a stunt coordinator to create some of these action sequences.”
Issues addressed during the Runaway Train sequence
- The speed of the Elasticycle
- Brad [Bird] wanted faster, faster, faster.
- The train was going 150 miles per hour. How does Helen keep up with that?
- We spread out the buildings and created room so that Helen can have fluid movement while moving and racing the train.
- Elastigirl uses her abilities to stop the train and they extended the set.
- Cinematically, they added a turn so she didn’t have to slow down, and watched her move up [i.e. the side of the buildings] vs. forward in the scene.
- Remapping how Helen uses her abilities
- Worked with animation to integrate some of these ideas to the ending of the sequence. We had this idea but there were no storyboards for this as they were so far into production.
- Her ability to catch the wind vs. run.
- Using thinking and making her use clever ideas to stop the train.
Animator Kureha Yokoo
Kureha Yokoo is an animator on the film. Her boss knew that she loved motorcycles and asked if she wanted to help out in the early stages of the scene. She says that it was super fun.
During our discussion, she went through the design process of the Elasticycle.
The design process of Elasticycle
- Brad [Bird] wanted a few things:
- Elasticycle should be cool,
- The form should follow function
- Should become an extension of Helen
- Should showcase her strength.
What does that look like?
We saw initial drawings and exploration. Some of the ideas included:
- Motorcycles with different number of wheels
- Helen wears it like a costume
- Does it split in two?
- Does her body become the structure of bike?
- Does it have a release mechanism?
These are all things they tried to figure out. Once they did that they put Helen on the bike and fit her to the bike.
Some features are revealed to the audience during the movie, such as that the bike transforms but doesn’t feel like a Transformer. There were real issues and they used a real motorcycle to figure out how this bike works.
When deciding what the Elasticycle does Kureha says that it was a very collaborative process. The used cross-pollination within the departments to create the Elasticycle. “What is possible with the bike?” We found situations that would make Helen use the bike and how the Elasticycle would work. They explored concepts throughout the process.
They used lots of motorcycle references, different types of riding, and the configurations of the motorcycles based on the type of riding. How would the bike move when split and how Helen could use it in unconventional ways? Defined a language for the bike.
“Because the elasticycle doesn’t exist in reality, we wanted to make sure there were enough realistic components to the elasticycle. Each collaborator added to the direction and creation of the elasticycle. Balancing the super and the mundane. Reminding the audience that Helen is super but not infallible, she’s vulnerable and subject to peril. This is important because they want you to care about the characters.”
Effects Artist Amit Baadkar
There was a team of six effects artists that worked on glass destruction, smoke, water, and fire. They mimic the effects of the real. Did you know that it can take minutes to hours to create? So much attention to detail in the effects department.
Effects used in Runaway Train sequence
- Glass destruction
- you want to feel the impact of the glass breaking in the building that Helen was driving on.
- Break the rules: when creating the glass destruction effect, they had to break the rules of real glass destruction. The shards are larger in size, and they added additional lighting to achieve the effect they wanted.
- Smoke created by the Elasticycle’s tires.
- Wanted the smoke to reenact the movements of elasticycle.
- Wanted to create the effect, but not draw the audience’s eye to the smoke.
- Divide and conquer: Cluster
- They repeat the effect on many computers and then combine them into one to give the appearance of one smoke simulation. This cuts down on several hours of simulation time.
- They wanted to give the effect of danger, loss of control.
- The train is moving at high rate of pace.
- Made the train static and the environment move around it. It made the simulations faster.
- The big explosion
- A very exciting effect for any visual effects.
- Hero effect takes center stage – we want the audiences eye to be drawn to the explosion.
- Make it big, but not too big.
- Added sparks to smoke and fire effects.
- Mimic electrical/fuel explosion.
Now you know how much work goes into one sequence! I’ll never look at an action scene the same again. Be sure to hit the theaters when INCREDIBLES 2 opens on June 15, 2018.
INCREDIBLES 2 Activity Sheets and Coloring Pages [Printables]