Lou Lumenick talks with the brains behind The Incredibles and The Iron Giant.
Q: “The Incredibles” generated quite a lot of ink on op-ed pages, where pundits debated the film’s thesis that mediocrity is celebrated in America and that people with special abilities were being discouraged from being quite so special. Were you surprised?
A: The idea that “The Incredibles,” a mainstream animated feature, was thought of as provocative was wonderful to me. I was very gratified, though I thought some of the analysis was really kind of goofy.
Q: Such as?
A: Some pieces compared the viewpoint to the objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand. I thought that was silly and the writers were humorless. I was into Rand for about six months when I was 20, but you outgrow that narrow point of view. Some compromise is necessary in life.
Q: So do your own children have the kind of trophies for dubious achievements that you make fun of in “The Incredibles?”
A: Of course. They have trophies for seasons where they tried really hard in sports and seasons where they didn’t. Which makes the trophies worthless. The nice, kind intention is that everyone will be happy every single moment of their life. But life isn’t that way, life has disappointments – and we can learn from them, but not if every single fall is cushioned by a pillow.
Q: So how would you describe yourself politically?
A: Somewhere in the middle. Both the extreme left and the extreme right end up eating their own tail, defeating the very objectives that they state. My previous film, “The Iron Giant,” was seen wrongly as a left-wing film and some people have misconstrued “The Incredibles” as having a right-wing agenda. Both those analyses are very limited.