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When Does ‘Incredibles 2’ Actually Take Place?

The name of the game is anachronisms.

There’s a good chance that most people who watch Incredibles 2 will never once wonder what year the movie is supposed to take place in, which is totally fine. But, for the rest of us, the anachronisms of the film are utterly confounding. This is a world which features old-school TV remotes straight from the 1960s right alongside miniaturized cameras and trains equipped with anti-gravity technology. So, whats the deal? Does the universe of The Incredibles exist in an alternate sci-fi past? A bizarro version of the present? Or, some kind of retroversion of the future? The answer is either very simple or very complicated. Here are both options.

The Simple Answer: The Incredibles and Incredibles 2 Both Happen in 1962

Eagle-eyed fans will tell you that the chronology of both Incredibles films puts the vast majority of the action in the year 1962. And that’s because, in the first movie, Mr. Incredible reads a newspaper with the date “1962” visible on it. While this sounds a little weird, the new movie actually corroborates this time period with its references to The Outer Limits and Johnny Quest, two shows that did, in fact, air on TV in the 1960s. And with the exception of the “hovertrain” and the miniaturized camera tech in Incredibles 2,  the vast majority of the styles — from cars to clothing — seem to convey a 1960’s aesthetic. Finally, Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible’s attitude toward his wife being the bread-winner feels very Don Draper, another signal that he’s not a modern guy, and this isn’t the 21st century.

The Complicated Answer: The Whole Thing Is in An Alternate Dimension

Because the newspaper in the first movie clearly establishes news is being printed in a year that humans are calling “1962,” on some level, it would be madness to reject the idea that the movie happens in 1962. But, the obvious anachronisms might force us into madness. Even if we can write off the obvious sci-f tech (like anti-gravity) as part of the superhero portion of the narrative, there are a few real-world inconsistencies that prove this can’t be our version of 1962, even one that has hovertrain technology.

To use an example from another superhero movie: the most unrealistic thing about the original Christopher Reeve Superman movie isn’t the fact that he’s an alien from outer space who can fly, it’s Lois Lane’s incredibly fancy apartment, complete with an open-air veranda. How could she afford that on a reporter’s salary in 1978? And, the weird details in Incredibles 2 are similarly minute. We can accept the superpowers and the weird technology (we have to, it’s a movie about these things) but what about the small stuff?

Basically, with Incredibles 2, it comes down to those two retro TV shows and how much time actually passes in the movie. In our universe, The Outer Limits didn’t debut until 1963. Okay, so if the end of The Incredibles happens in the fall of 1962, then it’s possible that enough time passes during Incredibles 2 to bring the events of the movie into 1963.

But…the first episode of The Outer Limits didn’t air until September 16, 1963, which would mean nearly a year would have to pass between the beginning of the movie and the scene in which Jack-Jack is changing channels on the TV set. And, even if we accept that, then there’s another problem: Johnny Quest didn’t come out on TV until 1964 which then requires two years to pass during Incredibles 2, which we know isn’t possible because Jack-Jack is still a baby, and because Dash and Violet don’t get that much older either. (Obviously, a lunatic could point out that maybe all the members of the Parr family age more slowly than ordinary humans, but we’ll just leave that alone.)

So, what’s the deal? The only answer to the time period problem then is to decide that the Incredibles universe takes place in an alternate past, one in which The Outer Limits and Johnny Quest were both on TV much earlier than they were in our universe. And, if we want to figure out why this universe has a different timeline than our own, it might be fun to find the point at which the timelines diverge. But, that’s pretty obvious. This version of the 20th century has superheroes, and the one we lived through does not.

This all means that the existence of superheroes in the world of The Incredibles created a slight acceleration in technological advancements and in the creation of science fiction entertainment. If the increase in things happening sooner than did in our universe is exponential, then it stands to reason that an Incredibles sequel set in 1971 could feature TV shows and movies that shouldn’t have existed that year. In our universe, Dash would be a teenager 1971, and Violet would probably be in college. Has Star Wars already come out in this version of 1971? Did the Beatles stay together in this dimension? Do Dash, Violet, and Jack-Jack all have retro-cell phones at this point?

Hopefully, Incredibles 3 (should it ever happen) will address these and other burning questions. Until then, Incredibles 2 is out in movie theaters everywhere and you can stream the original movie at home right here. Just get ready to freeze-frame that newspaper shot.