Violet Parr

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Violet Parr
First appearance The Incredibles (2004)
Last appearance Incredibles 2 (2018)
Created by Brad Bird
Voiced by Sarah Vowell
Information
Full name Violet Parr
Nickname(s) Vi
Species Human
Gender Female
Occupation Student
Superhero
Family Bob Parr (father)
Helen Parr (mother)
Dash Parr (brother)
Jack-Jack Parr (brother)
Nationality American
Abilities Invisibility
Force field generation and manipulation

Violet Parr is a fictional character who appears in Pixar's animated superhero film The Incredibles (2004). The eldest child of Bob and Helen Parr (Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl), Violet is born with the superhuman ability to render herself invisible, as well as generate and manipulate durable force fields. Voiced by actress Sarah Vowell, Violet is a shy junior high school student who longs to fit in among her peers, a task she fears is hindered by her superpowers. Throughout the course of the film, she matures and becomes more confident in both herself as a young woman and abilities as a superhero.

Created by writer and director Brad Bird, Bird decided to grant Violet the ability to turn invisible because he felt that it was indicative of struggles teenage girls experience while growing up. Bird cast Vowell as Violet upon hearing her contributions to the radio program This American Life, becoming her first voice acting role. New computer technology was developed to animate Violet's long black hair, which animators identified as the most difficult aspect of the film as that much hair had never been animated in a computer animated film before.

Development[edit]

Creation and voice[edit]

Brad Bird conceived Violet Parr as "a teenage girl who just wants to be invisible".[1] In early drafts of the film, Violet is an infant as opposed to a teenager, as Bob and Helen Parr were originally intended to be introduced much earlier as former superheroes who have just begun to attempt to live as normal humans.[2][3] Violet is voiced by American author and actress Sarah Vowell. Vowell recalled that she was cast as Violet relatively "out of the blue".[4] While casting the show's main characters, Bird had been listening the National Public Radio program This American Life.[1][5] During one of Vowell's regular appearances on the show,[1] Bird heard her once contributed a about her real-life experience with her father building a canon and traveling with him to shoot it. Bird wanted to cast Vowell based on her description of the event,[4] deciding she was perfect for the role upon hearing her voice and calling her to offer her the part.[1] The animators animated a test scene to Vowell's dialogue from the radio show in which Violet is depicted being startled by a gun that continuously goes off in her hands.[4] Vowell had a history of having been offered various voice acting roles before The Incredibles but had always declined; her agent told Bird "She's a serious writer and she wouldn't do this, so don't waste your time!"[5] Despite experiencing some hesitance because she had never done voice acting before,[1] Vowell then accepted the role upon receiving an e-mail from the film's producer, agreeing to participate in the film because she believe's Pixar is "the best at what they do, the most universally culturally revered", jokingly comparing the offer to "if Nelson Mandela showed up asking for your help to fight racism."[4] IndieWire contributor Oliver Lyttelton observed that no casting decision was as "as unexpected as director Brad Bird’s choice to cast Vowell", who had had very little acting experience prior.[6] Vowell ultimately decided to accept the role based on a sole image she had been sent of the character prior to agreeing: a drawing of Violet and her classmates, all of whom are happy and outgoing-looking apart from the main character, who is instead outfitted in dark, baggy clothes, hunched over and hiding behind her hair. Vowel concluded, "That kid? I can be that kid. I was that kid. I love that archetype of the morose, shy, smart-alecky teenage girl."[4]

Vowell said that, like Violet, she "is a little smart-alecky and also has a weird dad with a strange hobby".[4] She found the opportunity to voice a superhero "thrilling" because, in real life, she considers herself to be "more of a walking Woody Allen movie" due to her fears of driving and swimming, joking, that it is "fun to listen to my voice do things that, when it’s in my regular body, it would never get to do.” Vowell concluded, "I guess I do sound kind of cartoonish" and "about 20 years younger than I am".[7] Vowell said that the process of recording for the film was similar to working in a radio station, apart from the fact that the process required more standing up, gesturing and usually working closely in the room with Bird.[4] The film also required Vowell to depart from her typically underplayed, deadpan tone of her writing and radio performances due to being broader and requiring more "exclamation points."[7] For the scene in which Violet and her family's plane crashes into the ocean, Vowell drank from water bottles while gurgling and gulping to simulate the sound of someone drowning. Despite using a towel as a bib, Vowell still got considerably wet during the process, explaining, "I feared I might be electrocuted what with spilling and spitting all that water near so much electrical equipment." Vowell also found the process of producing non-verbal sounds such as laughing, yawning and screaming on cue to be the most difficult part of the process, "something my radio essays and documentaries hadn't prepared me for." During her first recording session in which the actress was struggling to sound as though she had just been hurt, Vowell asked Bird to hit her in the arm help her replicate the sound of her character being punched. Vowell recorded her screams towards the end of the film making process in order to preserve their voices, calling the process of screaming "fun" and claiming, "I don't think I had screamed, really screamed, for about 20 years" at that point.[4] Bird insists that Vowell "knocked it out of the park" with her performance.[5]

Vowell created a documentary about her work on the film, "Vowellet: An Essay by Sarah Vowell",[8] which is included on The Incredibles DVD release.[7] In the documentary, Vowell explores the difference between voicing a superhero and becoming an action figure while writing about presidential assassinations,[8][9] contrasting the two careers.[10] The animators animated violet to some of Vowell's dialogue from the documentary.[10]

Personality and design[edit]

Bird had always been more interested in the main characters themselves than their superpowers.[2] When deciding upon the Parr family's powers, Bird drew inspiration from the roles of typical nuclear families,[11] basing both their superpowers and personalities on them.[1] Describing Violet as "a typical teenager ... who’s not comfortable in her own skin", forced to reside "in that rocky place between being a kid and an adult", Bird felt that invisibility was the most suitable ability for the Parr family's daughter.[1] Describing her as someone who would much prefer if other people did not look at her,[2] Bird elaborated that some teenage girls are prone to insecurity and defensiveness,[12] and thus gave her the power to become invisibile and create a protective shield.[11][13][14] According to Vowell, Violet's superpowers of invisibility and force fields are, like the rest of her family, "psychologically representational of who she is"; a teenage girl longing to remain hidden while protecting herself.[4] In terms of music, Giacchino created a theme for Violet that he described as "coy and mysterious".[1]

The Incredibles required the use of computer technology that was particularly advanced for its time, some of which computers had not yet been "taught".[4] Computers were used to simulate hair movement and determine where hair was to be placed on its characters.[15] Described as a new and time-consuming process at the time,[16] new programs and approaches were developed to assist the animators in animating Violet's long black hair.[17] Since organic material is still among the most challenging objects to animate in computer animation, Violet's hair proved to be the most difficult subject for the animators to master.[4] According to hair and cloth simulation supervisor Mark Henne, Violet's hair remained an "unsolved research project" for much of the film's production due to its type and length, which had never been featured in a computer animated film prior to The Incredibles.[17] For the majority of production, Violet's character model was entirely bald; producer John Walker would frequently plead with the animators to give the character some form of hair, to which they would respond "the hair is still theoretical",[4] remaining so until significantly late into completion of the film.[5] Vowell recalled seeing only a bald rendering of her character for most of the recording process.[16] Technical director Rick Sayre explained that the difficulty with Violet's hair was rooted in the fact that she has "no fixed hair style"; her hair constantly adopts new shapes and forms as it interacts with other strands of her own hair, as well as the rest of her body.[5] Despite its difficulty, the filmmakers resisted temptation to give the character a shorter, more manageable hairstyle, insisting on keeping Violet's hair long because its length plays such an integral role in her arc; Violet "is all about the fact that she hides behind her long hair ... It’s such a crucial part of the character that we had to get it right."[1] Violet is also the only member of her family to have black hair; her father, mother and brother have blonde, brown and blonde hair, respectively.[5] Bird explained that Violet's hair color is as a result of a "recessive gene."[5]

Henne and the animators sculpted five different hairstyles for the character to be used during various stages of the film, which were then modified and adjusted to suit different circumstances and environmental conditions including rain and wind, as well as the zero-gravity effects of her own force fields. Ultimately, Violet's hair became one of the film's accomplishments,[17] which Sayre dubbed "a significant advance in showing hair move in a believable manner while retaining its stylistic look ... no one had ever animated this kind of hair before for a CG film."[1] The difficulty of Violet's hair ultimately influenced Mirage's hairstyle, which was originally quite long until Sayre begged that they adopt it into something shorter and "cooler" due to having been so pre-occupied with Violet's hair for the majority of the film's production.[5]

Characterization and themes[edit]

Originally depicted as shy, timid and socially withdrawn girl, Violet prefers to remain unnoticed as someone who finds it difficult to fit in among her peers.[18] According to Alissa Wilkinson of Rolling Stone, the character's longing "to hide is familiar to virtually anyone who's ever been an awkward" teenager, as she pleads with her mother "What does anyone in this family know about normal?"[19] At one point, during an argument with her family she insists that her youngest brother Jack-Jack is the only "normal" member of her family as the character had yet to exhibit any signs of having superhuman abilities.[20] Film critic Roger Ebert observed that the superhero world occasionally proves to be "too much" for Violet;[21] she longs to be "normal" like her peers despite the fact that she is far from.[22] She has a tendency to hide behind her long black hair, which initially conceals most of her face for much of the film. She wears dark colors, representing the fact that she can be a particularly moody character.[18] A writer for IGN likened the way in which Violet's hair drapes across her face to actress Veronica Lake.[23] However, she grows more confident in both herself and her abilities as the film progresses, eventually emerging from behind her hair,[24] using a headband to wear her it back and adopting a more colorful wardrobe.[18][25] Violet is 14 years old,[26] weighs approximately 90 pounds and is 4’6 tall.[18]

According to the character's official character description, Violet is socially awkward, outspoken, sarcastic and intelligent,[27] while Pixar's official website describes her as "a typical shy, insecure teenage girl stuck at the crossroads between child and woman."[22] Maiden USA: Girl Icons Come of Age author Kathleen Sweeney dubbed the character a "shrinking violet" who has a tendency to mumble and come off as angry.[28] Identifying her as an "oral character", John Kundert-Gibbs, author of Action!: Acting Lessons for CG Animators, Violet's main arc revolves around go[ing] "from being invisible to visible to others."[29] Oliver Lyttelton of IndieWire believes that Violet has more in common with actress Thora Birch's character in the film Ghost World (2001) than most teenage girls.[6]

Violet shares her superpowers with the Marvel superheroine Invisible Woman.

Violet has the superhuman abilities to turn herself invisible and create force fields,[30][24] the latter of which she is still attempting to master at the beginning of the film.[10] Her abilities mirror the personality of someone who would rather avoid being looked at, as well as her insulated, protective nature.[2] Believed to have been born with these abilities,[20] Violet's powers have proven useful both in battle and whenever she simply wishes to disappear in her everyday life,[1] including hiding herself from her crush Tony Rydinger.[18] As a shy junior high school student, Violet's invisibility proves to be particularly useful,[31] though like her brother, she chafes against her mother's insistence that they live normal lives.[32] Violet's low self esteem also translates to her superpowers to the point of which she resents having them, demonstrated when she struggles to create a large force field to defend her family's jet from incoming missiles;[18] Kundert-Gibbs attributes Violet's inability to produce a force field during this moment to a general lack of energy, which the author believes also "seems to extend even to her , which is straight and without body", as well as her slouching demeanor.[29] However, Sweeney argues that Violet's inability to produce a force field of that size under her mother's orders is due to the fact that she is not yet accustomed to using her powers. After rescuing her children using her own powers, Helen warns Violet that she they can no longer afford to doubt their own abilities, assuring her that she has "more power than [she] realize[s]" and "When the time comes you'll know what to do. It's in your blood."[28] According to Sweeney, Violet transforms from a shrinking violet to "Ultra-Violet" by the end of the film.[24] Mic's Kevin O'Keeffe observed that Violet "uses the power of invisibility while growing out of her own wallflower sensibility."[33]

According to Ebert, Violet's force fields are made of "impregnable bubbles."[21] Sometimes her force fields demonstrate a zero-gravity effect on the objects they are surrounding,[17] and can be used to deflect heavy oncoming artillery.[18] Typically spherical, she can use her force fields to surround herself and anyone else she is willing to protect.[28] However, a particularly heavy, blunt force can potentially cause the wall of her force field to hit her and dissipate, leaving her vulnerable to attacks.[18] Despite this, Wilkinson believes that Violet remains the most talented member of her family,[19] and Violet ultimately grows unable to resist the temptation to fight crime alongside her family members.[27] Violet's superpowers are very similar to those of the Invisible Woman (Susan Storm-Richards),[34] a Marvel Comics superheroine and founding member of the superhero team Fantastic Four.[35] Fans of the film quickly cited these similarities when the film was released in 2004.[36] IGN identified Violet's powers as "The real giveaway of the F. F.'s influence on The Incredibles".[23] Similar to classic Marvel heroes, the character feels like her powers make her different than most people, and thus considers herself to be an outsider because of this.[23] According to Eric Lichtenfeld, author of Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie, the character has also demonstrated the ability to manipulate the energy of her force fields, much like the comic book superheroine.[37] According to Ottawa Life Magazine, she uses her ability to create force fields more often than her invisibility, although both powers have proven to be useful.[34]

Appearances[edit]

Violet debuted in The Incredibles (2004) as the first-born child and only daughter of Bob and Helen Parr, a pair of retired superheroes known to the world as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl. The character has two younger brothers: Dash and Jack-Jack. A junior high school student born with the superhuman abilities to turn herself invisible and project force fields, Violet is shy and insecure, and would much rather be a "normal" human despite her superhuman abilities. When Helen resumes superhero work in search of her father, Violet stows away with Dash onto the jet that Helen is piloting, where she struggles to create a large force field to protect the jet when it is attacked by Syndrome's missiles.[38] They end up traveling to Syndrome's private island, where Helen leaves Violet in charge of Dash in a cave. Helen encourages Violet to use her powers. Violet and Dash are eventually pursued by Syndrome's henchmen, truly requiring her to use her powers to defend herself from harm for the first time, beginning to realize her full potential during their first mission as a family and striving to master her abilities. Violet is instrumental in helping her family escape Syndrome's prison which she uses to disrupt the electromagnetic fields that are holding her and her family prisoner,[24] before returning to Metroville, teaming up with her family to destroy Syndrome's robot. Violet is scheduled to appear in the film's sequel Incredibles 2 (2018).[39]

Violet has made appearances in other media, with Vowell returning to voice the character in spin-offs and merchandise,[40] such as toys and cell phones.[7] Violet also appears in several video games inspired by the film. In Kinect Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure (2012), players explore six worlds based on various Pixar films, pairing them with Violet in some of the Incredibles-themed levels,[41] assisting her to navigate around hazards and obstacles.[42] Violet is available as an add-on figurine for Disney Infinity (2013), sharing her abilities from the film (her force fields are identified as "plasma shields" in the game).[43] When utilized, the character becomes the player character, and can be used in Toy Box mode, The Incredibles play set and her own adventure Violet's Stealth Mission, in which the player uses violet to collect as many collectibles as possible and remain undetectable by spotlights within a limited time.[43] In 2004, a children's book based on The Incredibles was published entitled The Incredibles: Violet's Incredible Diary, written by children's author Richard Dungworth.[44][45] Described as "Violet's side of the story", the book follows the film, written from Violet's perspective in the form of her personal diary.[46]

Reception[edit]

Rolling Stone ranked Violet the 20th "Best Pixar Movie Character", ahead of Mr. Incredible (24th), with author Alissa Wilkinson calling her "super-smart ... which makes the moment when she finally transforms into a confident superheroine (and asks her crush out on a date) that much more delightful."[19] IndieWire ranked Vowell's performance as Violet Pixar's 19th greatest voice performance, writing that her "quirky tones perfectly captures the kind of girl who wishes she could (and in this case actually can) fade into the background," continuing, "the way she eventually finds her own voice is one of the most moving aspects of the film."[6]

References[edit]

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