It’s been 14 years since the superfamily famously known as The Incredibles last suited up, but now they’re back in the highly anticipated Pixar sequel Incredibles 2. At a recent press conference in Los Angeles, the cast and crew behind Brad Bird’s animated sequel discussed brining the superfamily back to the big screen and why exactly it took so long for The Incredibles to return.
“It’s been half this, two thirds this. The idea of the role switch; that the assignment would go to Helen rather than Bob I had when we were promoting the first film,” writer-director Brad Bird said of the long process of developing the story for the sequel.
Bird continued, “And I also knew that I had the unexploded bomb of Jack-Jack’s powers, that the audience knew that he had them, but the Parrs did not. And I had other notions that I just wanted to see in an Incredibles movie and some things like the raccoon fight that were originally done for the first movie and there was no place for it and I loved the idea. The superhero part, the villain part, it always seemed to change. When I came to Pixar and said I think I have the other part of the story figured out, the version that got green lit, about four months after we got green lit, [producers] John [Walker] and Nicole [Grindle] came on. We got a crew and we started spending money and got a release date. And then the release date got moved up a year. Suddenly the pressure is huge. That plot doesn’t work. Now I’m screwed because I have a release date and everybody is going Incredibles 2, Incredibles 2. And we were working on Incredibles 2. ‘You know what you’re doing, right? You know what you’re doing, right, right?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah. I know what I’m doing.’”
“Well, I didn’t read a screenplay. Because there wasn’t really one,” said Holly Hunter who reprises her role as the Parr family matriarch and superhero Elastigirl.
“You didn’t see the whole script?” Samuel L. Jackson, who is returning as the icy hero Frozone, asked Hunter.
“He’s the screenplay,” Hunter replied pointing at Brad Bird. “He was my walking encyclopedia.”
“You had pages,” Brad Bird wryly replied.
Hunter continued, “Yeah. He was my instruction manual. That’s it right there. It was a while before I truly realized what I was really going to get to do in the movie. And I was really thrilled. But it was like a retroactive thrill. Because over a period of months before I started gleefully singing during our recording sessions about how great my part was. To me, it was just really fun. I don’t think that this is a message movie in any way. I think it’s purely like luck, luck of the draw that this happens to be dovetailing with #MeToo and #TimesUp, but obviously time’s up. It happens to be serendipitously reflected in this particular movie. But at the same time, it’s character revelation period. Everybody is having revelations including Jack-Jack. All the characters are revelations to the audience and to themselves. And so I’m no exception as Elastigirl.”
“Even there’s a raccoon that goes on a heroes’ journey,” Sarah Vowell, the voice of the Parr daughter Violet, added.
Returning as the mighty Mr. Incredible is Craig T. Nelson, the patriarch of the Parr superfamily. “I was resentful when I was told where Mr. Incredible was going to be in this film. Not saving lives. Not exhibiting any kind of strength at all,” Nelson said of his character’s new form of heroics displayed in the sequel.
“We argued about it. And then I found out that I’m going to be helping save the family and Bob is going to learn how to be a dad and he’s going to learn about these kids. And then the process started when we were recording. It was just so much fun. The stuff I did with Violet and the two of us together and Jack-Jack and that whole discovery. And then Dash. Then having to deal with Elastigirl out there doing what I want to do and being able to give her the encouragement. Let her know that everything is okay. It was just a lot of fun. I’m so honored to be a part of it. To be doing this.”
“But only do we see the screenplay sometimes. We don’t know where we are in any scene. You’re like, is this in a car? I’m like hello. You’re trying to get a sense of the architect, the literal architecture of where the character is,” Sarah Vowell said of the challenges presented in recording the audio for a movie that isn’t quite fully written and animated.
“Everything has to be drawn from scratch,” Vowell continued. “And so like a live actor, they’re actually in the car or a facsimile there of. So trying to gauge, but like where it is. That is what the scene is about sometimes.”
Joining the cast as the young, high-speed juvenile superhero Dash is Huck Milner, who used the audition as an excuse to watch the original film multiple times despite the fact that the repetition drove his mother crazy. “Well, I saw the first movie when I was like five or something. My dad showed me it, because he really loved the first one. And I really loved it, too. And my favorite character was Dash probably. When I got the audition, I just was watching the movie over and over again and when my mom got sick of watching it, I used the audition as an excuse to watch it again.”
And this whole new journey has been a bit overwhelming for the young actor. “It was amazing and overwhelming,” Milner said of attending the film’s Hollywood premiere. “Because like in the beginning when I got out of the car, everyone was like sign this, sign this. I’m not used to that. Then when I got inside, I felt more welcome and I felt, it was just really amazing to be there.”
Another new addition to the world of The Incredibles is Catherine Keener as Evelyn Deavor, sister to fellow newcomer Bob Odenkirk’s Winston Deavor. These new characters are responsible for lobbying to get the Supers once again legalized, and use Elastigirl as the public face of their campaign.
“I’m realizing that Brad kind of mined a lot of the inside of these people in the characters,” Keener said of the film’s director. “All of these people are awesome. I would see any movie where Holly is a badass regardless of gender.”
Seeing the finished film left Bob Odenkirk awestruck. “I’ve been knocked out by the visuals in this film. And I’d only seen the little moments from it in the course of recording this. So to see it in the big beautiful color on the giant screen, I knew it was going to be amazing. And it’s beyond all expectations,” he said of the film.
Odenkirk continued, “Like everyone else, I didn’t read the whole script. There is never a whole script that you can read. So it’s the first time I get to see the whole story. And I’m once again amazed at Brad Bird’s talent as a writer and director and orchestrator of story. There’s like five movies in this movie. And they all work together to throw each other into relief and make each other better. And it was a hell of an experience.”
Also joining the cast of Incredibles 2 is Sophia Bush as the new hero Voyd. “One of the things that I just think is so cool about the whole thing is the layering of all the technology that makes these films look to all of us the way they look in Brad’s head,” said Bush. “It’s wild to see the early stages of animation and to watch some of the scenes and then see what they become in the final edit. And it’s also totally nuts to go into the studio. I know that technically I’m talking to Holly. But she’s not there. It’s like me and Brad. And I’m just yelling into a void going, ‘Am I doing this right?’”
Just at that moment, Bush realized that she had just namedropped her own character. “Oh God. I didn’t even mean to do that actually,” she said with a look of pure shock and embarrassment on her face. “That’s embarrassing. I’m sweating. That’s a subconscious trick that we play on ourselves. I’ve said Incredibles so many times today while describing the film.”
Just because 14 years have passed and everyone else is older doesn’t mean that the Parr family has aged, as Incredibles 2 picks up right where the first film left off. “I just thought it was kind of bold and weird,” Bird said of the decision to have no time pass between stories. “Because I think people take the time that passes very literally. And they think that linearly, the characters should have aged. But if they age, their superpowers don’t reflect the part of life that they’re in and their role in the family. So I worked on the first eight seasons of The Simpsons. And the Simpsons haven’t aged a day and they’re still on the air. So it worked for them. Why not us?”
Between this film and the first, Brad Bird is quite candid in how the villain seems to be the final obstacle to making a great animated tale of superheroism. “I think that we wound up with the right version of this movie. It wasn’t until about a week ago that I was talking in one of these things and I realized that was also true of the first movie,” Bird said. “The Incredibles was the only project that came outside of Pixar and was pitched to Pixar. I had drawings. I had designs. I had an outline of the whole thing, how it looked and all kinds of artwork that I paid for myself. If they didn’t want to make it, I was going to take it somewhere else. But I came with a villain that was a different villain than we wound up with. In exploring an alternate opening when I came to Pixar, I introduced a villain that we killed off in the opening sequence and that was a better villain than the one that we had. Suddenly, oh yeah, this guy is better than the one we had. And that was Syndrome. So the villain kind of for some reason, I don’t know why, but it kind of comes last.”
Brad Bird also wants people to know that everyone is welcome to see Incredibles 2. “Kids are strangely treated like beards for animated films,” he joked. “’I’m a single guy. But I want to see this. I found a kid. Can I come in now? Here is this kid. He was roaming the streets. I told him I would pay for his ticket. Will you let me in?’ And it’s like, No, man. It’s an art form. It’s for anyone that likes movies. And you don’t need to have a kid.’ People are constantly coming up to me, ‘My kid really enjoyed it.’ I go, ‘Did you like it?’ They go, ‘Oh yeah, sure. But Billy really liked it.’ And I’m like, ‘I made it for you and Billy can come.’ I’m not a kid and I made it something that I would want to see. We’re not kids and we worked on this.”
As to whether or not any members of the cast of Incredibles 2 get approached by kids recognizing their voices, Samuel L. Jackson assures us that it just doesn’t happen. “Kids don’t do that. Their parents do,” Jackson said with a wide grin. “They try to make the kid know who you are. ‘That’s Frozone, honey.’ He’s looking at you like, you don’t have a blue suit on. You’re not making ice stuff. So nah.”
“It’s embarrassing really,” said Craig T. Nelson. “Because the moms or dads are saying, ‘Look Bill, there’s Mr. Incredible. That’s Mr. Incredible there.’ And the kid is just staring at you. You don’t look anything like him.”
Employing a catchphrase from the film isn’t going to help Craig T. Nelson jar any child’s memory, he explained, “It’s been 14 years, I don’t remember what I said in the first one.”