- "I never look back, dahling. it distracts from the now."
- —Edna Mode
Edna Mode is a half-Japanese, half-German fashion designer and auteur. Known for her short stature and habit of calling everyone "dahling", she is highly accomplished at her craft and as demanding of others as she is of herself. Above all things, Edna Mode despises supermodels, "Spoilt, silly little stick figures", partly because they are too limiting - they show her clothes only on the perfect conditions of the catwalk, and only for one type of person - the supermodel. They certainly don't allow her to showcase her talents or use her imagination to its fullest. Superheroes with their many abilities, shapes and of course the situations they need clothes for, are the only challenge truly worthy of her talents.
Edna has created original custom-made outfits for superheroes since the "glory days", saying she "used to design for gods". In bonus material, Rick Dicker is known to recommend her to Supers with more challenging physical powers such as Elastigirl's elastic body.
Her job was important as the supers needed suits that both complemented their powers and abilities and made them look good in the process. It is apparent that she feels infinitely superior to all other designers in the world, and that she is always correct in matters of fashion - and many other matters too.
Edna is called out of a 15-year period of 'retirement' to repair damage to Bob's super-suit, but she instantly derides her own work as outdated, literally calling it a 'hobo suit'. She reluctantly agrees to fix the old suit, but also sets about designing a completely new suit for him and finds the finished result so beautiful that she cannot resist continuing with the design, expanding into suits for the rest of the Parr family. For safety reasons, she is very insistent on not including capes in the new design (recalling the cape accidents of Dynaguy, Thunderhead, Stratogale, Meta Man, and Splashdown), because while capes may look cool, they serve no practical purpose and have proven hazardous in the past. It is possible that Edna's vehement, almost rabid refusal to include capes stems from feelings of guilt, as she would have designed the suits worn by the supers who died and thus feel responsible for their deaths, though Edna would naturally never admit this out loud.
Later, when Bob's wife Helen discovers the rip of his super-suit has been mended, she immediately suspects Edna as she was the one who designed it and is the only one Bob would trust to fix it. She contacts Edna, wanting to talk about the suit, and Edna insists that she come see her almost immediately, thinking that she means to discuss the new ones she made for the family. Confused, Helen goes to Edna's mansion, where Edna reveals that she has designed super-suits for the entire family that match their abilities to a T, adding that each suit is equipped with a homing device.
Helen grows increasingly confused, realising that Bob has been keeping secrets from her and breaking down in tears, but rather than comforting her, Edna encourages her to go after Bob and find out what's going on for herself, demanding that she pull herself together because she is the famed Elastigirl. Edna then tells her that she knows where Bob is, so go, confront the problem, fight, win "and call when you get back, darling, I enjoy your visits."
Unwittingly, by activating the homing device, Helen alerts security features in Syndrome's island fortress, resulting in Mister Incredible's capture.
Since Edna placed a homing device in Bob's suit without telling him and before creating the suits for the other members of the family, it can be assumed that she places homing devices in all of her super-suits as a matter of course.
Edna returns in the sequel, albeit with a smaller role than she previously had. After learning of Jack-Jack's powers Bob is exhausted from having to deal with his unpredictable powers. At Frozone's urging Bob takes Jack-Jack to Edna to have her watch him. Though initially skeptical Edna quickly warms up to Jack-Jack when he demonstrates his powers (including at one point shapeshifting himself to resemble Edna). Realising that Jack-Jack's seemingly innumerable abilities presents a challenge like never before, Edna insists that she take care of Jack-Jack while Bob rests, almost shoving him out of the house so she can get to work.
Bob returns to pick up Jack-Jack a few days later (after he had slept for 17 hours straight). Edna eagerly demonstrates a new device she has made that predicts what powers Jack-Jack will use and activate a counter-measure to minimize the damage he could cause. The fee for the suit is that neither Bob, his family, or even Frozone will use any fashion designer other than her to create their super-suits - but she's defiinitely warmed up to Jack-Jack, and offers to baby-sit him for free any time they like.
Edna mentions that Jack-Jack reacts well to Mozart, a call-back to the previous movie in which baby-sitter Kari played Mozart in Jack-Jack's sleep because "Mozart makes babies smarter", proving that it was the Mozart that activated.Jack-Jack's powers.
Later in the movie, Frozone prepares to send the children to E for their own safety, but once he is hypnotised they realise they cannot risk going there as that move is now known by the Screenslaver and would be anticipated.
The Incredibles in a Magic Kingdom Adventure
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, Edna 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 Edna 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.
Behind the scenes
Director Brad Bird has stated that he intended Edna to be a combination of fashion maven and gadget builder along the lines of 'Q' from the James Bond movies. This link was further reinforced when the character, who is voiced by Bird himself, presented the Best Costume Design Oscar at the 2004 Academy Awards, alongside Pierce Brosnan, who played James Bond in several films.
There has been a great deal of speculation over the years about potential inpsirations for Edna Mode's appearance and personality, some of which has been confirmed:
- Some believe that Edna is based on real-life fashion icons, such as Hollywood costume designer Edith Head and fashion designer Mary Quant. However, Brad Bird stated on Twitter that Edna wasn't based on Edith Head, saying that "People from MANY countries [...] were convinced I based E on a local icon".
- Bird however stated that he imagines Edna as half-German, half-Japanese, both being small countries with big impacts on the world, both technologically and fashion-wise.
- Her name refers to EMode, a small piece of custom design software used by Pixar (not related to other similarly-named software). Calling the character "Mode" is also a pun on the French and German words for fashion. Her hairstyle, personality, and appearance at European fashion shows may be a connection to Vogue super-editor and fashion force Anna Wintour.
- Others believe that Edna may be based on costume designer Una Jones, who shares not only her physical appearance with the character, but also her personality. Jones is also acquaintaned with many Pixar staff, as she lives near Orlando, in central Florida.
- Edna's hairstyle, ultra-diminutive stature, and facial features strongly resemble actress Linda Hunt, who portrayed fashion editor Regina Krumm in Robert Altman's 1994 film Prêt-à-Porter. Her catchphrase of "dahling" may be also a reference to actress Tallulah Bankhead.
- In addition to Brad Bird, Edna is voiced by the following actors and actresses:
- Thuraya Ibrahim in the Arabic version (female)
- Favio Posca in the Argentinian version (male)
- Nadia Carvalho in the Brazilian Portuguese version (female)
- Eric Kot in the Cantonese version (male)
- Emma Penella in the Castilian Spanish version (female)
- Jiří Strach in the Czech version (male)
- Paul Haenen in the Dutch version (male)
- Anu Lamp in the Estonian version (female)
- Amanda Lear in the French and Italian versions (female)
- Mechthild Großmann in the German version (female)
- Halász Aranka in the Hungarian version (female)
- Tetsuo Goto in the Japanese version (male)
- Dario T. Pie in the Latin American version (male)
- Olga "Kora" Jackowska in the Polish version (female)
- André Maia in the Portuguese version (male)
- Zuzana Kronerová in the Slovak version (female)
- Ewa Fröling in the Swedish version (female)
- Asif Ali Baig in the Indian version (male)
- In the Disney on Ice live show A Magic Kingdom Adventure, Edna is played by Pia Airaksinen and voiced by Kevin Delaney. Edna's comedic assistants are played by Shae Green, Kristian Ryan, and Richard Stringer.
- Brad Bird says that he had approached Lily Tomlin as the voice of Edna, but when he demonstrated the voice he was looking for, Tomlin suggested that he did well enough to perform himself.
- In the special features section of the special edition DVD of The Incredibles, Edna is "interviewed" about her work in the film. When asked whether working with superheroes was difficult, she replies, "Superheroes are easy, dahling. Mediocrity is much more difficult to work with -- and it is in such great supply."
- An animated Edna (voiced live by Brad Bird) presented Best Costume Design -- with Pierce Brosnan -- at the 77th Annual Academy Awards.
- "Your boy's suit I designed to withstand enormous friction without heating up or wearing out, a useful feature. Your daughter's suit was tricky, but I finally created a sturdy material that can disappear completely as she does. Your suit can stretch as far as you can without injuring yourself, and still retain its shape. Virtually indestructible, yet it breathes like Egyptian cotton."
- —Edna tells Helen Parr about her daughter and older son's suits.
- "Helen: "E, it's great to see you, but I gotta tell you, I've got no idea what you're talking about."
Edna: "Yes, words are useless! 'Gobble-gobble-gobble-gobble-gobble!' Too much of it, dahling! Too much! That is why I show you my work! That is why you are here!"
- —Edna and Helen
- "Edna: "I didn't know the baby's powers, so I covered the basics."
Helen: "Jack-Jack doesn't have any powers."
Edna: "No? Well, he'll look fabulous anyway."
- —Edna tells Helen she is guessing about Jack-Jack's powers, improvising them with the basics.
- "My God, you've gotten fat."
- —Edna, to Bob Parr
- Edna: "This is a hobo suit, dahling. You can't be seen in this. I won't allow it. 15 years ago, maybe, but now? Feh!"
Bob: "Wait, what do you mean? *You* designed it."
Edna: "I never look back, dahling! It distracts from the now."
- —Edna to Bob, about his torn supersuit
- "Edna: "I cut it a little roomy for the free movement, the fabric is comfortable for sensitive skin... "
(a sheet of flame erupts in front of the suit)
Edna: "And it can also withstand a temperature of over 1000 degrees. Completely bulletproof..."
(four heavy machine guns appear and open fire on the suit, without effect)
Edna: "And machine washable, dahling. That's a new feature.""
- —Edna to Helen, on Jack-Jack's supersuit
- Edna: "You need a new suit, that much is certain."
Bob: "A new suit? Well, where the heck am I gonna get a new suit?"
Edna: "You can't! It's impossible! I'm far too busy, so ask me now before I can become sane."
Bob: "Wait. You want to make me a suit?"
"Edna: "You push too hard, dahling! But I accept!"
- —Edna, telling Bob he needs a new supersuit
- Edna: "It will be bold! Dramatic!"
Bob: "Yeah. Something classic, like-- like Dynaguy. Oh, he had a great look! Oh, the cape and the boots..."
(Edna throws a wadded ball of paper at Bob's head)
Edna: "No capes!"
Bob: "Isn't that my decision?"
Edna: "Do you remember Thunderhead? Tall, storm powers, nice man, good with kids."
Bob: "Listen, E--"
Edna: "November 15th of '58! All was well, another day saved, when... his cape snagged on a missile fin!"
Bob (chuckles): "Thunderhead was *not* the brightest bulb..."
Edna: "Stratogale! April 23rd, '57! Cape caught in a jet turbine!"
Bob: "E, you can't generalize about these things--"
Edna: "Meta-Man! Express elevator! Dynaguy! Snagged on takeoff! Splashdown! Sucked into a vortex! NO CAPES!"
(Edna talks in a much calmer voice)
Edna: "Now, go on. Your new suit will be ready before your next assignment."
Bob: "You know I'm retired from hero work."
Edna: "As am I, Robert. Yet, here we are."
Bob: "E, I only need a patch-job. You know, for sentimental reasons."
(Exasperated, Edna takes the old suit)
Edna: "Fine. I will also fix the hobo suit."
Bob: "You're the best of the best, E!"
Edna: "Yes, I know, dahling. I know."
- —Edna warning Bob about the danger of wearing capes whilst discussing his new suit.
- "Helen (sobbing): "Now I'm losing him! What'll I do? What'll I do?"
Edna: "What are you talking about?"
Helen (stops crying): "Huh?"
Edna (shouts): "You are Elastigirl! My God..."
(Edna starts to smack Helen's head with a newspaper)
Edna: "Pull-yourself-together! "What will you do?" Is this a question? You will show him you remember that he is Mr. Incredible, and you will remind him who *you* are. Well, you know where he is. Go, confront the problem. Fight! Win!"
(Edna goes back to normal voice)
Edna: "And call me when you get back, dahling. I enjoy our visits.""
- —Edna giving back Helen's confidence
- Edna (into microphone): "Edna Mode."
(laser gun comes out from the ceiling and points at Helen, who gasps)
Edna: "And guest."
(the laser gun retracts)
- —Edna, going through an identification process
- She is one of the few female characters voiced by a male. However, she is voiced by actresses in some foreign language versions of The Incredibles.
- Her surname, Mode, directly translates to "Fashion" in German and French.