‘Incredibles 2’: Brad Bird On Making A Bold and Weird Animated Sequel For Everyone
Thursday, June 14th, 2018 at 8:10 pm
It has been 14 years since the first Incredibles hit theaters in 2004. Back then, superheroes weren’t such a big deal. But now they are at the forefront of the film industry. Most, if not all, are record-breaking films. But what separates Incredibles from the Marvels and the DCs is its timeless classic vibe.
Now Incredibles 2 has finally arrived. The sequel may look like it’s taking place in the ’60s, but it is able to connect to a modern audience with its likeable characters and universal stories. We were fortunate enough to sit down with our fellow journalists to talk to the cast and director Brad Bird about the long-awaited sequel. During our time, Bird spoke about why it took so long to do a sequel, some of the changes he made, and making a film for everyone of all ages. Check out what he had to say, below.
14 years may have passed since the release of the first Incredibles in 2004, but our family of superheroes has not aged a day. The sequel kicks off moments after the events of the first film. While that may seem strange, it was something Bird had planned on doing from the start. “I just wanted to do something bold and weird,” Bird said. “I think people take the time that passes very literally, and they think the characters should have aged. But if they age, their powers do not reflect the part of life they are at and the role of the family.” He compares that creative decision to his eight years working on The Simpsons, where they haven’t aged a day in nearly 30 years, and they seem to be doing just fine.
That rich, vibrant, and detailed retro look we saw in the first film continues to flourish in the sequel. Bird credits production designer Ralph Eggleston for bringing in those elements while also giving it a modern feel. The director says Eggleston would constantly read books, watch movies, and listen to music, all of which would influence the visuals in the film. “He thinks about it in terms of what is going to surprise people and he is not afraid to make bold choices,” Bird said. But these choices came at an inconvenient time because production was already in full swing. Not only that, the designs would ruin what they’ve already accomplished. However, Eggleston’s ideas turned out to be the right thing for the sequel. Much to Bird’s chagrin.
Although Bird had an idea of what the sequel would look like, 100% of it isn’t in Incredibles 2. But he knew what he wanted to have in it. “It’s about half this? Two-thirds this. The idea of the role switch, that the assignment would go to Helen and not Bob is one I had when we were promoting the first film,” Bird said. “I also knew we had the un-exploded bomb of Jack-Jack’s powers that the audience knew he had them but the Parrs did not. I had other notions that I wanted to see in an Incredibles movie like the raccoon fight. That was originally done for the first movie but there was no place for it. But I loved it.”
Changing the script comes with the territory. As does new release dates. But for Bird, that created some unwanted pressure. “The superhero part and the villain part always seemed to change,” Bird said. “When I came to Pixar and I said I had the other part of the story figured out. Four months after we got greenlit, John [Lasseter] and Nicole [Paradis Grindle] came on, we got a crew, we got the money, and a release date. Then the release date got moved up a year, and suddenly the pressure is huge and now that plot does work. Now I’m screwed and I have a release date.”
Still, Bird feels as though he ended up with the right version of the film.
“It wasn’t until a week ago that I was talking in one of these things and that’s when I realized it was true for the first movie,” Bird said. “Incredibles was the only project that came outside of Pixar and was pitched to Pixar. I had drawings, designs, and had outlined the whole thing, how it looked and all kinds of artwork I paid for myself. And if they didn’t want to make it, I was going to take it somewhere else.”
As for finally settling on a villain, the director said “But I came in with a villain that was a different villain than the one we wound up with. In exploring an alternate opening when I came to Pixar, I introduced a villain we killed off in the opening sequence and that was a better villain than the one we had. Suddenly, that was a better villain than the one we had, and that was Syndrome. For some reason, I don’t know why the villain comes last.”
Bird firmly believes that animated movies are an art form and would disagree that they are just for kids. “It’s for anyone who likes movies,” Bird said. “You don’t need to have a kid.” He says people constantly come up to him telling him that their kid enjoyed it. But what Bird wanted to know is if the parents enjoyed it as well. He says he made it for the parents, and it’s fine if the kids come as well. “I’m not a kid and I made something that I would want to see. We’re not kids.”
“I’m a kid,” Huck Milner, who voices Dash Parr, said.
One kind of film everyone seems to love are superhero films. As the popularity of superheroes started to grow, some worried that moviegoers would be burnt out with another superhero film. “There was a dark moment once the machinery kicked into gear and I realized two years from now, ‘There are too many superhero movies now. Are people just going to be sick of this in two years?'” Bird said. “And then I realized what excited me in the first place, not the superheroes, it was about the family dynamic. And people’s roles in different parts of their lives.” He added, “To me, a family is a continent of fresh opportunities because it’s so universal. I got excited again when I thought about it that way, and that’s what excited me about the first movie.”
So in order for the Parr family to grow, they will have to face new threats. It’s something that all heroes must go through in any good sequel. While the older members of the Parr family are out saving the world, Jack-Jack’s greatest test will be confronting a very hungry raccoon. We first saw a snippet of that confrontation at the D23 Expo. Needless to say, the clip was met with a rouse of applause. Bird says the idea of that came from Teddy Newton, one of the film’s first key designers. Originally, the idea was to have Jack-Jack fight a gang of raccoons, with one of them pushing Jack-Jack. Bird admits that it went a lot darker in the initial idea, with Jack-Jack and the raccoon going to the bottom of the pool.
“The idea always just killed me because raccoons look vaguely like robbers,” Bird said. “Teddy did a drawing where Jack-Jack is watching an old movie like he is in the film, and then he sees a classic robber with a mask. Then he looks out in the yard and sees a robber is stealing from his family. It doesn’t matter that it’s garbage, Jack-Jack doesn’t know that. He just knows he’s being robbed and he must do something about it. I loved that. It was so visual and clear, and it was such an off the wall idea that it was one of the things that I couldn’t wait to do if we got another Incredibles going.”
And on the classic look and feel, fans may recognize some of the distinct sounds of the past in footage from Johnny Quest and the opening narration to The Outer Limits. This was something that Bird wanted to have in the sequel. “One of my personal rules in an animated film is if they are watching something on TV, it should be animated,” Bird said. “Johnny Quest is an animated show so it fits into the universe and it’s the style of the film. It’s that kind of action-adventure style of the early ’60s.”
The use of the audio for The Outer Limits fit because its themes are similar with the Screen Slaver, the film’s villain. Like the show, the Screen Slaver talked about taking over the owner’s TV. An idea which used to scare Bird as a child. “I couldn’t leave the room, but I would be hiding from the TV,” Bird said.
But if there is anything that he loves from the ’60s, it’s Johnny Quest. “I love Johnny Quest. A lot of people don’t remember that it wasn’t made for Saturday morning. It was made for primetime. It came on at night. Adults watched it. People died in it. It had everything an eight-year-old wants in entertainment. It has mummies, pterodactyls, guns, a kid from another country who could levitate things, and a bodyguard who has a fling with a girl who might be dangerous. There are lasers, hyper foils, jetpacks, reptiles, robot spies, and I just about exploded when I saw the opening titles. So we just had to give Johnny Quest a shout out.”
Incredibles 2 opens in theaters on June 15, 2018. Find our review, trailers, and more right here if interested.