Brad Bird Incredibles 2 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.

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