It wouldn’t be a Pixar movie without inside jokes sprinkled into the action but The Incredibles comes wrapped in code tougher to crack than usual. Here’s a dossier on some of the film’s cleverest subtextual content. (WARNING: If you are spoiler-sensitive, back away.)
COUPLE OF GEEZERS After the Incredibles vanquish villain Syndrome’s renegade robot, two senior citizens remark, ”That is old-school” and ”No school like the old school.”They’re not just talking about superhero battle strategy. The faces are caricatures of Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two veteran Disney artists who worked on all the studio’s greatest hand-drawn animated pictures from the ’30s through the ’70s, including Pinocchio, Bambi, and The Jungle Book. Thomas and Johnston were major inspirations to Incredibles writer-director Brad Bird, who also tipped his hat to the duo in 1999’s Iron Giant (look for the locomotive engineers). The voices actually belong to Frank and Ollie, as well — though Thomas passed away two months ago, before he could see this CG homage.
NUMBER GAMES Slinky sidekick Mirage tells Mr. Incredible to report to room A-113 for a briefing. That’s the number of the Cal Arts classroom where Pixar director John Lasseter (the Toy Story films) first met Brad Bird. It’s a favorite in-joke for the pair, previously referenced as license plates in Bird’s 1987 pilot episode of Family Dog (part of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories series) and the original Toy Story, then as a flight number in Toy Story 2.
NAME GAMES Incredibles producer John Walker’s name is inscribed on the diplomas hanging in the school principal’s office, and pops up in dialogue about ”the Walker policy” at the Insuricare company, where Bob Parr works. The map in Mr. Incredible’s car is of Emeryville, the California city where Pixar’s headquarters are located, and Pixar employees show up in store names (like Lozano Records).
BLUE, RED, AND BLACK Brad Bird isn’t a huge comix geek. But he does love Will Eisner’s The Spirit, a moody, noirish seven-page mini comic book that ran weekly in newspapers from 1940 to 1952. So when Mr. Incredible shows up to a dinner in a blue suit, red tie, and black mask, he’s aping the outfit the Spirit wore — and echoing an earlier nod Bird made to the character in Iron Giant (wherein a Spirit comic book was part of the title alien’s pop-cultural education).
EAU DE MEMORIES Just before he frantically searches for his missing super-suit, cool guy Lucius (a.k.a. Frozone, voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) splashes himself with Hai Karate cologne?a popular fragrance in the ’60s and ’70s. TV commercials (sports stars such as Fran Tarkenton were spokesmen) showed the scent making the ladies so crazy, guys had to resort to martial arts to fend them off. The bottle warned, ”Be careful how you use it,” and came with a self-defense tutorial. The scent is evidently not manufactured anymore, but now that Pixar has resurrected the baby-boomer touchstone, Hai Karate’s price on eBay probably just went up.