Original-Cin Q&A w/The Incredibles 2's Brad Bird: 'You throw a rock now and you'll hit a superhero'

It’s been 14 years since we met The Incredibles.The Disney Pixar superhero family struck a chord with audiences worldwide, was nominated for four Oscars and won two – Best Animated Feature and Sound Editing.

The obvious question was, “When are we going to hear from them again?” 

Wait no longer. Incredibles 2 is here with all the familiar faces and some new ones too! 

This time around we discover that Jack-Jack, the baby in the family, has some tremendous powers that he puts to good use - especially when it comes to dealing with pesky raccoons (a skill set we all should have!). 

Original Cin’s Bonnie Laufer sat down with writer/director Brad Bird to discuss the sequel and how things have changed for him and this super family over the last 14 years. 

The Incredibles 2: They don't look 14 years older.f

The Incredibles 2: They don't look 14 years older.f

OC:Incredibles 2 picks up just where it left off but how for you has the landscape changed over the last 14 years?  

BRAD BIRD:  “At the time that we did the first film,  there were only two active superhero franchises. One was Spider-Man and the other one was X-Men. Batman had gone through its nipple phase and was hiding for a while waiting for Chris Nolan to release him in and give him life. 

“So the superhero field was a lot more open. Right now, that field is kind of dried-up like a soccer field that too many games have been played on. It hasn't been replanted enough, there's a lot of dirt clods and gopher holes. You know you throw a rock and now you’ll hit a superhero. So, it’s a very different landscape.”

OCBecause this one picks up right where the first one ends, do you see these two films as two parts of one big story?

 BB: “It could be seen that way, or they could be seen alone. It’s really not required that you see the first film. I truly believe people can just jump right in. 

Director Brad Bird

Director Brad Bird

“Having said that, you won’t understand it as well as people that have seen the first film. But I think you could drop into this and pick it up. The trick is reminding people of certain rules without being preachy with certain scenes. I think watching both films back to back would make a great double bill.”

OC:  I think one of the main things that made The Incredibles so popular is that everyone can pretty much relate to them. Even though they are superheroes, at the core they are family first and that’s their dynamic. How have they evolved that way? 

BB: “Well, that was always the conceit of the film - that the powers aren't just powers. They are powers that comment on a certain phase in your life, or your role in the family. Because dads are expected to be strong I made him super strong. Moms are pulled in a million different directions, so I made her elastic. 

“Teenagers are moody and unpredictable and so on. So, hopefully, any average person can connect with one or more of the characters because you remember being 10, you remember having energy like that and you remember being an insecure teenager. 

“I can tell you that  I've been the annoying little brother, and I've been the clueless father. So anyone who has experienced a family in any form can relate, and it doesn’t have to be biological. Family can be your friends. Anybody who's been in a tight group that looks out for each other can, hopefully, relate.

OC:  One of my all time favorite Pixar characters is Edna Mode (The Incredibles super-suits designer and friend) who of course you voice.  She does not disappoint in this sequel.  Is it hard to direct yourself?  Are you hard on yourself? 

BB: “You mean doing the voice?”

OC: Yeah.

BB: “You know, it’s weird. I actually think of her as a completely separate person and I know what she thinks and I know how she feels. But it's like I know her the way you would know a friend. 

“So I have to say, it's weird. I probably am a little harder on myself than any of the other voice cast, but I don't know. It’s probably good fodder for a psychiatrist.”

OC: Such a great cast. (Including Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell and Samuel L. Jackson). Did you have to twist any arms to get the voice talent back? 

BB: “No, and in fact, Samuel L. Jackson (Frozone) just went out and started telling people that we were doing it before I knew that we were. We were, like, ‘What? Sam said what? Oh i guess we better get to work on it!’  

“Everyone really enjoyed doing the first film. It was such a great experience. When they did the first film they didn't really know what it was, so they were a little guarded because they didn't read the whole script. They could only read their parts. 

“I never give out the whole script. I only give each actor their sections to read, so I explain things as best I can. They were a little unsure as to  how it was all going to fit together and then they were all very happy with how it turned out. 

“This time they knew what they were. They knew the tone of the film and they knew their characters well. So it was just like slipping on a favorite sweater for them.”

OC: It’s not like you haven’t been keeping busy the last 14 years. You directed a few live action movies including a Mission Impossible film and Tomorrowland. How has working on live action helped you as an animation director? 

BB: “It hasn’t helped me in any easily quantifiable way. It’s more that each film teaches me something about the medium. I feel like I have studied a lot for a long time. I’ve worked in it for most of my life, and yet it’s still mysterious to me. I feel like the more I know the more I realize that I don’t know.”

OC: You’re always learning. That never stops. 

BB: “Exactly. So, I think you learn some things just by telling more stories. Mostly, I have learned that some areas might not be a productive place for me to spend my time. At that point, I feel like I am in a trap so I will divert and move on to something else.  You never feel like you have it cracked, it always feels like you are struggling up hill.”

OC: Well, you don’t look like you are struggling at all. Plus, I just want to thank you for helping me solve my ongoing raccoon problem. I just need to get myself a Jack-Jack! 

BB: (laughs) “Yeah, just find yourself a tough toddler and your problem will be solved!”