Brad Bird Talks 'Incredibles 2,' 'Iron Giant,' 'Jonny Quest,' 'Outer Limits' And More [Interview]

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with director Brad Bird and producers Nicole Paradis Grindle and John Walker about their new film Incredibles 2. We talked about the reason to make an Incredibles sequel, the different variations the story took through development, Bird's thoughts on The Iron Giant in Ready Player One, the possibility of a Jack-Jack/Edna short film, the influence of Jonny Quest and Outer Limits on this movie, the unique collaboration with artist Eric Tan, and much more.

This interview is spoiler-free, so feel free to read it before or after you see the movie in theaters this weekend!

Brad Bird Incredibles 2 Interview

Peter Sciretta: Brad, I know you have notoriously been against the idea of making sequels. I remember I was at WonderCon, maybe a decade ago when you were promoting Ratatouille, and I think you on stage that sequels aren't in our business plan.

Brad Bird: Right. But I'm clearly not against sequels. I've done two.

Peter: Yeah. And they've turned out great. But what was the reason to make Incredibles 2?

Brad: Well, the most fun I ever had making a movie was the first Incredibles. And I always intended to do it, but just I had other things and I kept looking up and it's like having kids where they're little and you go get a cup of coffee and suddenly they're teenagers and you go "When did that happen?" And it's kind of like that. I suddenly looked up and it was almost too long. So I agreed to do it before we finished Tomorrowland. And we had, I had even taken a crack at the opening right before Mission: Impossible. And I worked with Ted Mathot, who was our story supervisor on the opening of the film. Even as far back then. So I had my toe kind of in the water. And I'd start to get involved and then something else would come up and I'd go, that seems fun. And there was no big plan to it really.

Nicole Paradis Grindle: But, I mean, this film also is like the most like completely original from your mind of any of the films that you've done too. So it's nice to go back to that.

Brad: Well, that was it. The first Incredibles is the only time I've gotten to take an idea from the first seed to completion. Iron Giant was a book. Ratatouille was Jan Pinkava's idea. And I came in on it. And Mission: Impossible is Mission: Impossible. And Tomorrowland, Damon Lindelof and Jeff Jensen had this idea. And it excited me. But Incredibles is the only time so far that I've been able to take one of my ideas all the way from the beginning to the end. And so it had a special place in my heart. Even though it looks hyper-commercial, it's kind of personal. Yeah.

incredibles 2 advance tickets

Peter: At heart, I'm a story guy. I love hearing these stories about the development process and how you got to from A to B or in the case of five to six year long Pixar productions, A to Z, 'cause there are so many changes. You said you started work on that opening, was it that same opening?

Brad: Yes, with the Underminer. But it involved different things. He had henchmen.

Nicole: Oh right, I forgot about them.

Brad: So you try things and they get too complicated or certain things work, but other things don't. And then it's kind of like you have separate play sets all over this very large hangar and you get interested in various things. You don't, and then at some point you get more interested in one thing and you kind of keep playing with that.

Peter: How did it evolve? What was the initial idea that you were working with?

Brad: I had the idea of the role switch when we were promoting the first film. That Helen would get the assignment rather than Bob. And it wasn't done on a political level. It was more like this'll really mess Bob up. And that'll be fun to watch. And I also knew that I had the unexploded bomb of Jack Jack's superpowers. Which the audience knew about, but the Parr Family did not. And I had other notions, like I always wanted to [spoiler invisotext, highlight to reveal] get the Incredobile back in there in some weird way. And have them play into the movie somehow. And oh I don't really want, I might, I'm saying spoiler stuff though. I don't wanna say that about the Incredobile. [end of invisotext] Let's just excise that for me, please.

Peter: I can hide that in the interview.

Brad: But the superhero plot part, the part with the villain always seems to be late arriving. The movie that I, the plot part that I pitched to Pixar and got greenlit about four months later we realized really didn't work. I mean, it had more, it was interesting, but it had more problems.

Incredibles 2 Villain - Screen Slaver

Peter: Can you share what it was?

Brad: It involved A.I. And...

Nicole: But didn't dovetail with the story you were telling.

Brad: It didn't connect with the family and it seemed to get more complicated the more you worked on it. And–

John: We were kind of ignoring the fact that Supers were illegal at the end of the first film. That's sort of something that came later in the process.

Brad: Right. Yes.

John: It's like hey, wait a minute, we've got this world where setup where are they legal, are they not legal?

Nicole: Well and that was the primary motive for Helen to leave the family, because otherwise it seems she just wants to get a job for the fun of it. No, she has to do this to support her family.

Brad: Yeah. So the family became the master that had to be served. And man, I rained pages that were cut, cutting them as soon as they were written. And–

Nicole: And they were good pages.

Brad: Yeah, but they were ultimately things that led us away from what the movie's really about. So I had to really kill darlings. And I killed a city worth of darlings on this one. That's just the way it was.

John: But that, all that organic process the Brad writes a couple sequences, we board those sequences and we see, we assemble the movie. It's very organic and on the, it's not like he's got the whole thing figured out, drops it in our laps and says, go make it. It's in that–

Nicole: No.

Brad: But no screenwriter writing has the whole thing the first time. Maybe, it's happened. But it's very rare. You write it and a lot of it is wrong, but some of it is right. And then you try to...

John: The difference is a lot of screenwriters don't have 300 people breathing down their necks going "We're making this thing right now, buddy."

Brad: Yeah, right.

John: Where is it, where is it, where is it?

Brad: Yeah, is this in or out? Is this in or not? Yeah, right.

John: And that's the, that's what's different at Pixar is that we're making it while he's figuring it out.

Brad: But that was not different from Iron Giant though.

John: No.

Brad: Same thing. Killer schedule. And figure it out on the run, you know.

John: Yeah.

Nicole: I mean, that's animation too. I wanna say that's just the way it works. And it's a visual medium, so I think it also serves the storytelling process to board it, to put it up there, to start seeing these characters. And you can feel whether it's working or not when you see it.

Brad: That's right. Yeah.

John: Yeah, we try to get it visual as fast as possible.

Peter: You mentioned Iron Giant. I love that film.

Brad: Oh thanks.

Peter: Seeing Iron Giant in Ready Player One, I wanted to ask you about that. Because he's kind of used as a weapon in that and that felt a little weird to me.

Brad: Uh huh. I don't know. I heard that he was in the book, the Iron Giant, one of my sons read the book and said he was in there. And I didn't go that deep with it. I was just like, Spielberg wants to use Iron Giant? Cool, he's my hero and he gave me my first break, so that's really cool. You know?

incredibles 2 trailer

Peter: You also mentioned Jack Jack and I love that short in the original DVD. Is there any chance that we'll get an Edna Mode babysitting Jack Jack short on this one? Because I feel like I need a short film to see what...?

Brad: Well, we are not talking about the Blu-ray too much. That's its own thing that we kind of has its own announcing schedule. But I think it'll be a good one. Yeah, it's got a lot of stuff on it.

jonny quest

Peter: I wanted to ask about Jonny Quest and Outer Limits. And I understand that those things inspire you, inspired this. But it's why are used in this movie. Until now, in Pixar, I think we've only seen Hello, Dolly in Wall-E. We haven't really seen pieces of the outside world, our outside world, in there. 

Brad: Well, I have a slightly different rule and that's that if you're do an animated film, what's on TV should also be animated. And Andrew and I kind of were comparing concepts with this. 'Cause Andrew went the other direction and I think it works very nicely in Wall-E. But I wanted to pay tribute to one of the things that made me wanna make The Incredibles, which is this animated show that has every single thing a young boy wants to see in entertainment. And the opening titles practically made me explode when I first saw them because every single thing that I liked was in this show. There were Komodo Dragons and jetpacks and lasers and Mummies and Pterodactyls and explosions and it was just like oh my God, you know. And very few people remember that when it premiered it was in primetime. And so it was also in the adult time of the night. It wasn't Saturday morning where it's been reclassified somehow as coming from. And people died in it. And Johnny Quest's bodyguard had an affair with Jezebel Jade and there was and she was kind of dark and it might be a bad guy, might not, you don't know. And I love that. It was an animated thing and it was didn't exclude kids. But an adult could have a rockin' good time watching that show. And what can I say? That's one of the things that made me wanna do Incredibles is just like to capture the feeling I had when I saw Jonny Quest.

outer limits

Peter: What about Outer Limits?

Brad: Outer Limits, it just seemed there it somehow dovetailed, first of all, Outer Limits scared the shit out of me. And even the opening titles where they're taking control of my television made me hide from it. And yet I wouldn't leave the room, but I would wanna hide. And there was something about that and the Screenslaver thing that really dovetailed nicely. And graphically I love the opening of Outer Limits. And it fit. If I waited another minute it wouldn't fit in our universe. But the graphic quality of the titles fit beautifully in the Incredibles world. So it just was too cool to not do.

Gallery Nucleus - Incredibles 2 Art Show

Peter: Eric Tan is an artist I love. I love his work and I think I discovered him through some of the released art on the original Incredibles. You have expanded that with this film and his involvement in theme parks. I know he doesn't work at Pixar, but is in Disney consumer products, but there seems to be an interesting collaboration you have with him and I've always wondered about it.

Brad: I don't think it was a strategy or anything. I just really like his work. And he seemed to get what our vibe was really readily. Teddy Newton who's kind of our version of Eric Tan and worked on and did a lot of design work on and was working on the Incredicoaster as well.

Peter: They have similar sensibilities.

Brad: They do. And he just seems like a friend of the pod. You know what I mean?

Peter: Yeah.

Nicole: He did not work up at Pixar.

Brad: He didn't work up at Pixar, but we loved the work. And I think it's the first time we've displayed artwork from outside the studio in our lobby, because it so fits with our film.

John: His work would just show up and we'd go, oh man.

Brad: Okay. Great.

Nicole: Done. Approved.

Brad: Done. Approved. Yeah.

underminer

Peter: One quick last thing, The Underminer reappears in the beginning of this film but is again a loose thread. Will we ever find out what happens to the Underminer?

Brad: You know, if you say no, then you're trapped by that. And if you say yes, then you're also trapped by that. So I'll just say [mumbles incoherently]. Yeah.