After 14 years, writer-director Brad Bird returns to the world of the Parr family for the highly anticipated sequel, Incredibles 2.
Written and directed by Brad Bird and released in 2004, The Incredibles –the animated story of a suburban family who moonlight as superheroes – became an instant and much-loved classic, as well as receiving two Oscars.
Meeting with Bird today at Pixar’s campus in Emeryville, Northern California, the filmmaker says he doesn’t regret waiting 14 years to make a sequel about the popular super-family.
“I just don’t think it’s the greatest idea creatively to follow up a successful film with its sequel. I think you want to take time, and for me, I was always thinking about it in the back of my mind, but I had other things that were more at the forefront,” says Bird, who would go on to write and direct another Pixar hit, Ratatouille, while also trying his hand at live action, directing George Clooney in Tomorrowland and Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.
But he retained a strong affection for his fearless family – Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Dash, Violet and baby Jack-Jack, as well as the clan’s eccentric costume designer Edna Mode, whom he also voices.
“I’d been mulling on them for quite some time until suddenly, it was 14 years later, and I went ‘Holy crap, I better get going.’ It’s not intentional or calculated in any way. If it were a cash grab, it probably would have been smarter to do it a lot sooner, but I waited until it finally seemed like the right thing to do,“ says Bird, who also directed animated favourite The Iron Giant.
When he finally decided to make Incredibles 2, the process was “easy as pie,” he says.
“It may seem outwardly like a bright-coloured pop confection but it’s actually strangely personal to me, and contains a lot of the things that I loved at the age of 10, which, I hate to admit, I still do love.”
The super-family, he says, carry a combination of characteristics from the family he grew up with and his own family today, with his wife and sons.
“Those characters are very comfortable to me and I have fun hearing them talk. And after you’ve made the first one with your ideal voice cast, you’re actually imagining Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sam Jackson and Sarah Vowell’s voices when you write, so it makes it easier to do their dialogue.”
While Incredibles 2 picks up just seconds after we left the gang in the 2004 original, the new film unveils baby Jack-Jack’s ever developing superpowers with a wry look at gender equality, as Mrs Parr/Elastigirl goes on assignment leaving Mr. Incredible as a stay-at-home dad.
Well aware that Incredibles 2 lands in a crowded superhero playing field, Bird muses:
“When we did the first film, the only two active big franchises were Spider-Man and X-Men. Batman had gone dark after ‘nipple Batman’ and Chris Nolan hadn’t done his films yet.
Superman had gone away and Marvel hadn’t yet kicked into high gear with Iron Man, so there was only a couple of films we were competing with. Whereas today, there’s a superhero every six inches, so I think it’s much harder to do a unique story now.
“Not only are there scads and scads of superhero films, but there’s superhero television shows, with a new storyline every week, so they’re chowing through potential spins on the genre at an ungodly rate.”
Fortunately Bird, 60, doesn’t view any of them as competition. “If we thought about Incredibles 2 as a superhero movie, we probably would have been stymied. But we always felt like what makes our film unique is that it’s about a family and their individual superpowers are based on iconic roles of men, women and children in the family – where the dad is always expected to be strong, the mum is stretched in a million directions, teenagers are defensive and insecure (so Violet has force fields and invisibility), 10-year-olds are energy balls, and babies are unknowns; they could have no powers at all or they could be the next leader of the free world.”
Bird was also fortunate enough to reassemble the original voice cast, with the exception of the late Bud Luckey who voiced Rick Dicker, now replaced by Better Call Saul’s Jonathan Banks. Spencer Fox, the original voice of Dash, was too old to voice a ten-year-old, so the character is now voiced by Huck Milner.
Incredibles 2 is in cinemas June 14.