Edna Mode

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Edna Mode
Edna Mode promotional image.jpg
First appearance The Incredibles (2004)
Last appearance Incredibles 2 (2018)
Created by Brad Bird
Voiced by Brad Bird
Information
Full name Edna Mode
Nickname(s) E
Species Human
Gender Female
Occupation Fashion designer
Costume designer
Scientist
Auteur
Nationality German

Edna "E" Mode[1][2][3] is a fictional character who appears in Disney-Pixar’s computer-animated superhero film The Incredibles (2004). She is an eccentric fashion designer renowned for designing and creating the costumes of several famous superheroes before they are all forced to retire, having worked particularly closely with the superheroes Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl (Bob and Helen Parr), with whom she has maintained a close friendship. When the couple resumes their superheroic careers after several years, Edna assists both characters individually, first by supplying Mr. Incredible with a new super suit and then informing Elastigirl of her husband's whereabouts.

Based on Q from the James Bond franchise, Edna was created by director and screenwriter Brad Bird to explain how superheroes obtain their extravagant costumes, something he realized is rarely explored in superhero films. Bird also decided to voice the character himself after several actresses proved incapable of supplying Edna’s unique accent, which has been described as a combination of Japanese and German. Bird understood that, in addition to fashion expertise, the character would also need to be proficient in science, engineering and technology in order for her costumes to withstand the strains of superhero activity. Appearance-wise, Edna is believed to have been primarily based on costume designer Edith Head, although there has been constant speculation as to whether or not other real-life figures in the entertainment industry had inspired Edna, particularly Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.

Despite her comparatively minor supporting role in the film, Edna has established herself as the film's breakout character. Bird also received high praise for his voice acting, earning an Annie Award for Voice Acting in a Feature Production for his vocal performance. Edna is considered to be one of Pixar's greatest characters. Edna is expected to return in the film's upcoming sequel, Incredibles 2 (2018).

Development[edit]

Creation and voice[edit]

Having watched several superhero-themed films and television shows prior to developing The Incredibles, director and screenwriter Brad Bird had often found himself wondering who is responsible for making the superheroes' "flamboyant" costumes.[4] Bird conceived Edna upon discovering that, despite featuring characters dressed in fancy, extravagant costumes, traditional superhero films rarely offer any explanation as to how superheroes came to obtain these outfits, or who provides them in the first place.[5] The director wanted to counter the trope of a muscular superhero sewing his own costume, finding it hard to believe that superheroes would suddenly develop a strong enough interest in fashion to design their own outfits.[5] Therefore, Bird decided that if the world were to be populated with superheroes, there would naturally also be people responsible for designing their costumes who must also have a background in science and engineering,[6] envisioning Edna as a scientist and technical genius in addition to being a fashion designer.[5] The director elaborated, "The way I saw it, the costumes had to be created by somebody with a scientific and engineering background", thus conceiving Edna as "a half-German, half-Japanese, tiny powerhouse of a character".[6] The Incredibles was the first Pixar film to earn a PG rating; Edna is considered to be one of the studio's earliest attempts at approaching "darker, edgier comedy," which is particularly demonstrated by the scene in which the character cites several graphic examples of capes directly resulting in the deaths of several superheroes, one of whom is shown being consumed and killed by a jet turbine.[7]

In addition to creating the character, director Brad Bird also provides the voice of Edna,

Edna's was named after EMode, a software Pixar used at the time the film was made.[8][9] Bird identified Edna as the "most fun character" he had written for the film, recalling, "Any day that I was writing her, I was one happy camper."[5] Bird's voice for the character originated during the story boarding process, during which various Pixar employees typically temporarily provide characters' voices while the filmmakers and animators organize the film's pacing and staging in order to "get a sense of the film."[10] Although these voices are usually eventually replaced by professional actors and voice actors, there are some situations in which "those voices stick", as was the case case with the voice Bird had created for Edna.[5] Bird had also provided the temporary voices of other characters during this time, including Bob Parr and Syndrome.[11] Several actresses had been considered for the role; one actress, whom Bird is particularly fond of, constantly asked Bird to repeatedly demonstrate his interpretation of one of Edna's lines until telling him that he should simply voice the character himself since he "kind of got a beat on it".[5] The role was also offered to actress and comedian Lily Tomlin, who declined upon hearing Bird's interpretation, feeling she could not voice the character as funnily as he did.[12] Finally succumbing to "popular demand" from his fellow Pixar employees, Bird joked that he was ultimately cast as Edna simply because he was both affordable and available at the time.[13] A similar tactic was used for several other supporting characters in the film: animator Bret Parker voices Kari, the Parr family's babysitter, writer Bud Luckey voices government agent Rick Dicker,[14] and production designer Lou Romano voice's Bernie Kropp, Dash's teacher.[11]

Bird described Edna's voice as a combination of a Japanese and German accent, deciding to draw influence from these to countries because "they're two small countries that have amazing design and amazing technology", citing cameras and cars of examples of technology in which they specialize.[5] Although Bird's performance is considerably broad, he avoids allowing Edna to become too much of a caricature in order to maintain the illusion that she is one of the film's smartest characters.[15] In the Italian and French versions of the film, Bird's comic accent is replaced by that of French-Italian singer and former fashion model Amanda Lear, who offers a more seductive, "biting" interpretation.[16] Lear said that dubbing Edna's voice was not an easy process, but accepted the job after being offered the role upon seeing the film at the Cannes Film Festival in order to fulfill her dream of having always wanted to voice a Disney character.[17] Edna was the first character Lear was hired to dub in Italian.[17]

Personality and design[edit]

Bird believes that he shares some of Edna's personality traits, specifically the way in which he prefers to be involved in virtually every aspect of his projects, including storyboarding, writing and cinematography simultaneously,[10] admitting that he and his character have a high level of self-confidence and lack of self doubt in common when it comes to their work.[6] The character went through several different appearances during the development process, ranging from taller and fatter to older, younger and thinner.[14] Inspired by the impact countries such as Japan and Germany have on the world despite being comparatively smaller in size, Bird decided that Edna would resemble this by being "'a tiny character that dominates the room when she gets into it."[5] Her home was deliberately designed to be significantly larger than she is to emphasize this idea.[5] Edna's small stature was also inspired by singer Bette Midler, of whom Bird had always been a fan. The director recalled being surprised by Midler's height when he first met her "Because when she's onscreen, she absolutely dominates the screen. And it just struck me how much personality was in this small body."[5] In terms of animation, Bird wanted all of the film's characters to move differently from each other, providing Edna with a very confident walk to represent the fact that she has "never experienced doubt in her life."[11]

Famed costume designer Edith Head is believed to have been a primary source of inspiration for the character's appearance.

According to Thomas S. Hischak, author of 100 Greatest American and British Animated Films, Edna is just as concerned with the appearance of the costumes she designs as she is about their use and practicality,[18] proving capable of designing outfits that can stretch, change their shape and resist oncoming attacks such as missiles and fires.[16] Bird described Edna as a character who is "not remotely intimidated by superheroes or anyone at all", refusing to accept the word "no" when it is used in opposition to her opinions or beliefs.[6] Edna's ethnicity has been identified as half-German and half-Japanese.[6][19][20][21] Both Edna's physical appearance and voice are based on those of costume designer Edith Head,[12] with whom she shares her signature round glasses and black bob cut.[16] According to Oscars.org, the character is inspired by both Head's signature glasses and "forthright personality".[22] Bird described Edna as a combination of both Head and Q, a character featured in the James Bond franchise.[23][3] The director has generally declined to confirm any direct influences on the character, insisting that Edna is "not based on a specific person."[24] However, animator Teddy Newton, who co-designed Edna with Bird, revealed that he and Pixar were inspired by the film Unzipped (1995), a documentary depicting the petulance of fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi and stylist Polly Allen Mellen.[23]

Bird stated he has constantly been told by various fans and viewers that the character reminds them of at least 15 different celebrities since the character debuted in The Incredibles.[23] In an article discussing who Edna is based on, Entertainment Weekly's Steve Daly cited Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, designer Coco Chanel and actress Lotte Lenya as possible influences, while drawing similarities between the character's use of large-framed glasses to architect Philip Johnson, producer Robert Evans, talent agent Swifty Lazar, studio executive Lew Wasserman, and fashion editor Carrie Donovan.[23] Some critics have suspected that the character is also based on Mary Quant and Una Jones.[25] Acknowledging that there are several female fashion designers who wear glasses upon whom Edna could have been based, Bird admitted that the character was inspired by author Patricia Highsmith and actress Linda Hunt.[14] The director elaborated, "When you're designing a character, you're just saying - who is that? ... We tried a lot of stuff and we kept saying no, no, more like this, but I like the nose on this one, and maybe the pageboy cut, maybe glasses should be bigger ... and you end up with something that reminds you of Edith Head and you of Linda Hunt."[14]

Characterization[edit]

Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, one of the celebrities to whom Edna's appearance has constantly been compared.

100 Greatest American and British Animated Films author Thomas S. Hischak believes that Edna offers "a whole new viewpoint to the world of superheroes", in addition to demonstrating the film's "oddball silliness".[18] Vogue Italia published a biography of Edna, in which author Valentina Fabbri described her as a character who "knows she’s the best and she doesn’t hide it, and her lack of modesty is equalled only by her intuition", with whom it is virtually possible to have a conversation because "she tends to dominate."[16] Due to her combination of genius-level intellect and "craziness," Fabbri identified Edna as "a fun, bubbly caricature of the magicians of fashion" by "embod[ying] their talent and charisma, their vices and virtues."[16] Screen Rant's Victoria Robertson observed that the character "has a lot of personality packed into a small exterior, taking stereotypical traits often attributed to designers and making them her own", firstly remaining proud of her own work at all times.[26] Oliver Lyttelton of IndieWire identified Edna as quite possibly the film's most intelligent character.[15] Edna's criticisms of fashion can come off as unpleasant at times, but are exaggerated to the point of which audiences find them to be comical.[17] Edna prefers to always think about the future, finding dwelling on the past to be distracting from the present, as demonstrated by her line "never think about the past, dahling, it distracts from the now",[27] and thus has proven capable of determining the needs of her superhero clientele before they have the opportunity to finalize their ideas themselves.[16] Her personality has been described by GamesRadar+'s Joshua Winning as "brassy" and "no-nonsense".[20] Q13 Fox described Edna as "a gifted designer, an assertive life coach and a witty talker."[3]

Scott Tobias of Rolling Stone called Edna "a reminder that the superhero suit needs to the perfect synthesis of form and function", without which "greatness as both a crimefighter and an icon is impossible."[28] She absolutely refuses to incorporate capes into her new designs due to the accessory having a history of contributing to the deaths of superheroes in the past, among them Dynaguy, Thunderhead, Stratogale, Meta-Man and Splashdown,[9] presenting them as a "montage of superhero couture faux-pas".[29] Ultimately, her knowledge of the dangers of capes results in the death of the film's villain Syndrome.[15] In terms of her own appearance, Edna is costumed in "futuristic black" attire, wearing a black dress that boats square lines.[16] Estimating her height to be off approximately three feet, The Tyee's Dorothy Woodend wrote that Edna is dressed in Issey Miyake pleats while being of "indeterminate gender".[30] VPRO drew similarities between the character's hairstyle and personality to that of Vogue editor Anna Wintour,[9] the resemblance to whom Tech Times' Katherine Derla identified as "The first thing viewers are likely to remember upon seeing" the character.[31] Slash Film's Angie Han joked that Edna's "no-nonsense demeanor" would leave Wintour "quaking in her Chanel boots."[32] Derla also wrote that Edna is capable of "run[ing] the world" but opts to operate from behind the scenes instead.[31] The term "diminutive" is often used to describe the character's height.[20] Considering herself to be "too talented" to design clothes for normal humans,[16] Edna resents having been forced to resort to designing clothes for supermodels during the 15 year-long absence of superheroes,[24] dismissing them as "Spoiled, stupid little stick figures with poofy lips who think only about themselves".[3] In addition to being a talented fashion designer, Edna has also demonstrated proficiency in psychology. In addition to designing their clothes, she offers advice to her clients whenever she feels that they require it,[16] demonstrating a "zero-tolerance policy for emotional weakness" which, according to The Dissolve's Charles Bramesco, represents Bird's "lament[ing] regular folks’ tendency to impede awesome people from being awesome."[33] Edna is known for her tendency to refer to her cohorts as "dahling".[8][21]

Appearances[edit]

Edna first appears in The Incredibles (2004) as a fashion designer and close friend of the titular characters.[16] During the “glory days” of superhero activity, Edna is one of a few elite guests present at the private wedding of Bob and Helen Parr, then better-known to the public as the superheroes Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl. After all superheroes have been outlawed and forced into retirement as a result of several lawsuits,[20] Edna does not return until approximately midway through film when she is paid a surprise visit by Bob, who has secretly resumed superhero work undercover. Bob initially asks Edna to repair his original super suit, but she ultimately convinces him to allow her to design him an entirely new outfit on the condition that capes not be incorporated whatsoever due to safety concerns, ending her retirement from superhero work.[34] Helen soon discovers that Bob's suit had received a patch job, determining that the only person capable of repairing a super suit would be Edna. Later during the film, Helen also visits Edna in the hopes of finding more information about her husband's whereabouts upon learning that he has decided to resume superhero work without informing her. Although the downfall of superheroes has forced Edna to resort to working with fashion models, much to her chagrin, she has kept herself occupied by designing a complete set of super suits for Helen and her family, including children Violet and Dash, which she reveals to Helen. Though their reunion is brief, Edna provides a distraught Helen with the encouragement she needs to resume her identity as Elastigirl to save her husband and ultimately their marriage, in addition to introducing her to the homing device Edna has placed in her husband's suit which allows her to track his exact location.

Edna stars in the Disney on Ice play Disney Presents Pixar's The Incredibles in a Magic Kingdom Adventure. She somehow anticipates an emergency at the Walt Disney World Resort (the Parrs chose to go there after their initial vacation plans were foiled by Mother Nature). Then she hears about a robotic version of Syndrome interrupting the Main Street Parade and holding Mickey and Minnie Mouse hostage. When the Parrs arrive to become the Incredibles, she tells them that she had heard all about the incident and then monologues about how "ridiculous" Syndrome's homemade super-suit looks. After the day is saved, Edna goes with the Incredibles and Frozone to see the Enchanted Tiki Room (Helen wanted the family to go to the Room first, but her idea was rejected by the rest of the family). It is revealed in this play that she has a trio of comical assistants who apparently are Supers themselves—as evidenced when one of them is flattened in an ironing machine and recovers without getting hurt.

In an interview with Comic Book Resources, Boom! Studios writer and editor-in-chief Mark Waid disclosed that Edna will have a cousin, Doc Sunbright, who serves as a doctor for the Supers, and that Sunbright will end up being a major player in Boom! Comics' first Incredibles story arc, "Family Matters", as he has to find out why Mr. Incredible's powers are fading.[35]

Critical reception[edit]

Upon her debut, the public immediately became fascinated with Edna, becoming enamored with the character's combination of irreverence and sulkiness.[16] The National Post described Edna as "exactly the kind of person you want at your dinner party".[27] Edna has frequently been called a scene-stealing character.[10][23][24][36] Dubbing her "One of the great scene-stealing characters in The Incredibles", HowStuffWorks contributor Vicki Arkoff described Edna as "deliciously deadpan".[6] Dorothy Woodend, writing for The Tyee, described Edna as "a more interesting creature than all the Incredibles put together." Describing her as "a personage I'd like to see more of", Woodend continued that the character "literally steals the show, and does fabulous things with it, darling."[30] Referred to as one of the film's "high point[s]", Kevin Lally of Film Journal International described the character's anti-cape montage as "pricelessly funny."[37] Notable Biographies identified Edna as "one of the audience's favorite characters".[2]

Bird has also garnered critical acclaim for his performance. Nell Minow of Common Sense Media wrote that Bird "plays the funniest character in the film",[38] while AllMovie's Perry Seibert described his performance as "screamingly funny".[39] Pete Vonder Haar of Film Threat wrote that Bird contributes "the best work" to the film as Edna in terms of dialogue and vocal performance, calling her rant about the "idiocy" of capes "priceless."[40] Empire's Colin Kennedy dubbed Bird's voice work "an unmistakable highlight".[41] In 2005, Bird won an Annie Award for Voice Acting in a Feature Production at the 32nd Annie Awards for his performance as Edna,[42] in addition to being rewarded for writing and directing the film.[43] Bird was rewarded over actor Samuel L. Jackson, who had been nominated in the same category for his role as Frozone.[44]Bird revealed that fans tend to be more impressed by the fact that he provides Edna's voice than his success as a director and writer, explaining, "If I say a line in Edna’s voice, that’s far more delightful than the fact that I spent four years wrestling something into being."[45]

Impact and legacy[edit]

Edna's popularity has established her as the film's breakout character.[46][47][48][49] Vogue Italia contributor Valentina Fabbri wrote that Edna's debut ended "superheroes [dressed] in homemade outfits".[16] According to Fabbri, Edna is also considered to be "one of Pixar’s best-loved characters".[16] Uproxx contributor Donna Dickens wrote that the character "went down in pop culture history" from the moment she uttered the phrase "No capes!”[50] Edna has constantly been ranked among Pixar's greatest characters by several media publications,[51] including The Guardian.[8] In their article "Animated Characters Done Right: Top 10 Pixar Movie Characters", Tech Times ranked Edna seventh.[31] IGN ranked Edna eighth in their ranking of the "Top 10 Pixar Characters", calling her "a pint-sized fashionista with a personality ten times her size who has a flair that only a superhero could truly appreciate."[52] Rolling Stone placed the character ninth on the website's list of "25 Best Pixar Movie Characters", ranking her ahead of Mr. Incredible (24), Violet Parr (20) and Elastigirl (14).[28] Contributor Scott Tobias wrote that the character "stops the action cold just to have a sequence about appropriate action-wear for the specially abled, culminating in a brilliant screed on the impracticality of capes."[28] Unranked, Q13 Fox called Edna one of Pixar's "Pixar’s 15 best characters".[3] Including Edna among the studio's 20 best characters, Victoria Robertson of Screen Rant cited the character as "proof of how important even the most minor characters in a film can be."[26] GamesRadar+ included Edna among Pixar's "50 Greatest Pixar Characters Of All Time", with author George Wales crowning her "One of Pixar's finest comic creations".[53] GamesRadar+ considers Edna to be among Pixar's 12 greatest supporting characters, crediting her with leaving a "Lasting Impression".[20] D23.com recognized Edna as one of Pixar's "23 Favorite ... Supporting Characters", calling her "An icon in her own right" and "a force to be reckoned with."[34] Slash Film ranked Edna Pixar's sixth best female character, crowning her "the wisest character in the entire Incredibles universe" due to her anti-cape stance, which she described as the film's "most valuable piece of advice".[32] The Odyssey Online published an article discussing "Why Edna Mode Is The Disney Heroine We Never Knew We Needed", in which author Erin Farmer dubber her "the real heroine of the Disney Franchise", additionally comparing her motivational speeches to those of Mahatma Gandhi.[54] GamesRadar+ ranked the scene in which Edna is introduced the 12th best moment in a Pixar film, deeming her "the perfect embodiment of the film's tongue-in-cheek approach to realism".[55] Entertainment Weekly ranked Edna's anti-capes speech the 12th best Pixar movie moment.[7] In 2015, E! ranked Edna 10th on their list of "11 Forgotten Disney Characters Who Should Totally Be Your Favorites".[56]

At the 77th Academy Awards in 2005, Edna presented the Academy Award for Best Costume Design alongside actor Pierce Brosnan.[16][20] IndieWire ranked Bird's performance as Edna the 14th "30 Best Voice Performances In Pixar Movies".[15] Kiko Martinez of the San Antonio Current found Bird's performance to be worthy of an Academy Award, ranking him among "15 Actors Who Should’ve Won an Oscar for Their Voice Work".[57] To promote the film's upcoming sequel in which Edna is scheduled to appear,[58] Disney released a mockumantary-style teaser trailer that features various celebrities involved in the fashion industry paying tribute to Edna and describing ways in which the character has influenced them over the years ever since she decided to venture into haute couture.[50] Disney revealed the trailer at the D23 Expo in 2017.[50] Fashion models Heidi Klum, Kendall Jenner and Rachel Zoe are among the celebrities who speak about Edna's influence on the fashion industry.[59] Rachel Kolb of Uproxx wrote that having Edna design new costumes for the family in Incredibles 2 would be one way to ensure that the sequel is better than the original.[60] Beginning in 2018, Edna has been used heavily in Incredibles 2's first advertising campaign.[46] In February 2018, the character's likeness was used heavily on several bus and subway posters within Manhattan, New York surrounding New York Fashion Week.[46] Disney-Pixar's announced on their Twitter account: "If you thought she’d miss #NYFW, you thought wrong, dahling".[46] The poster features a closeup image of the character, accompanied by the caption "It's been too long, dahlings."[47]

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