Exclusive Interview: 'Incredibles 2' Director Brad Bird on Superhero Movies, Future 'Incredibles' Sequels and 'Star Wars'

Exclusive Interview: 'Incredibles 2' Director Brad Bird on Superhero Movies, Future 'Incredibles' Sequels and 'Star Wars'

It’s been 14 years since Pixar’s The Incredibles stormed the big screen, delivering one of the most memorable – and surprisingly relatable --superhero movies ever made. It’s currently the highest rated superhero movie on Rotten Tomatoes, and its story – about an unassuming suburban family who secretly have superpowers and fight crime on the side – resonated in a way that helped it grow to become one of Pixar’s most beloved movies.

Now they’re back for a sequel fans have been thirsting for ever since Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” dominated the airwaves, and with tickets for Incredibles 2 officially on sale here at Fandango (the film hits theaters June 15), we spoke exclusively to the director who very much shaped both Incredibles movies, Brad Bird.

“The Incredibles films are a gumbo made out of spy movies, superheroes and my own experiences with the family that I grew up in and the family that I have with my wife and son,” Bird told Fandango. “So, you kind of stir all those things in a pot, add copious amounts of popcorn and Coca-Cola, and you got it.”

We spoke to Bird about whether the explosion of superhero movies in the years since The Incredibles came out influenced his sequel in any way, as well as how, exactly, he wound up doing the voice for Incredibles scene-stealer, Edna Mode, who returns in Incredibles 2. Plus, could Marvel heroes ever show up in an Incredibles movie? Will there be an Incredibles 3? And will Brad Bird be directing a Star Wars film at any point in the near future? Read on to find out…

 

Fandango: Let’s start with the most important question: What happened to "The"? The first movie was called "The Incredibles", and now we're just "Incredibles 2". So, what happened to "The"?

Brad Bird: [laughs] I don't know. It just seemed extra. It just seemed like, if you’re talking about this, when people talked about it, they just said "Incredibles Two". They never said, "The Incredibles Two". On the first one it seemed perfect and on this one it seemed extraneous. So, it felt like we added the word "Two", so we took the word "the" away so that it was balanced.

 

Fandango: This is a sequel that fans have wanted to see for over a decade. Tell me about the moment where you knew you had an idea worth pursuing.

Brad Bird: It was never really that. It was that I had a notion that I thought was worth building from, which was that Helen would get the assignment rather than Bob. And I knew that I had an unwrapped present from the first movie, which was that the audience knew that Jack-Jack had powers, but the family did not. So those two things were pretty much my idea from about the end of the first film, when I was going out and promoting it. I had those notions in my brain.

And then it was a lot of ... I think that I thought I have a movie worth doing, and then we got going on it and the story line that I was originally interested in didn't quite serve the rest of the story - the family part - as well as it could have. So, I bailed on it and came up with another one. You can have enough of an idea to get you started but that doesn't always mean that you stay completely with that idea. I think that movies change as they grow. And you either surrender yourself to it or you fight it. And it's much better to surrender yourself and follow the story where it wants to go.

 

Fandango: So, is that why it took over a decade for this movie to happen? Is it because there was another story that ...

Brad Bird: No. No. That would be a false thing to say if I said that because it's not like I was only fixed on doing an idea that I'd already done. I always wanted to return to the family, but it wasn't like I did other projects because I couldn't come up with something for Incredibles 2. I had other things that I was interested in, that I wanted to do. And the toying around with another Incredibles was just sort of in my mind along with a lot of other things that I wanna do. So, it wasn't like a did these other things because I didn't have an idea for The Incredibles. It was more like, I just wanna tell all kinds of different stories and that was one of them.

Fandango: And why did you decide to pick it up right where the last one left off?

Brad Bird: Well, I thought it was ballsy. I thought it was interesting and not like anyone else. I think that there's a very literal mindset in people, that, because of live action, if a sequel comes 15 years later, the actors that were in the first one were going to be 15 years older and you need to address it. But in animation, unless their voices changes, we can pick it up. And I thought it was interesting and unusual to begin a movie that starts that much later than the first one, to pick it up the second that the last one ended. I thought it was really interesting.

 

Fandango: The first Incredibles came out right before this explosion of superhero movies. Does the sequel comment at all on the evolution of the genre? Did you look at any other superhero films for inspiration when you were making this?

Brad Bird: No. I think there were various iterations of this story and one of them had sort of a little bit of a commentary on that but we didn't end up making that one. So, I would probably say not. I think that if you start getting too inside with it, you're not focusing on what you should focus on, which is the characters in the story. So, I just kind of went, 'Okay, I'm in this little Incredibles universe.' And that's where I'm gonna stay. I'm not gonna have our characters commenting on DC or Marvel characters. They're kind of in their own universe, and that's the way I like it.

 

Fandango: What do you think of the explosion of the superhero genre since this movie came out? Do you welcome it? Do you watch them all? Do you think there's too many of them?

Brad Bird: I think Hollywood has a tendency, when something works, to beat it to death. But some of them I've really enjoyed. I haven't seen all of them. I've probably only seen about half of them. I really loved the first Iron Man, and I enjoyed The Dark Knight. And last year, I really enjoyed the one Mangold did with Wolverine, Logan. I thought Logan was really unpredictable, and smart, and kind of a sophisticated script. I thought Mangold did a really good job with it.

 

Fandango: You're introducing a lot more heroes in this film, right? How many is there? Some reports claim upwards of 25 or more.

Brad Bird: Well, I mean, they're in there, but that doesn't mean that they each have backstories and storylines. They might just be in a shot. They might just represent the fact that superheroes are starting to feel like society will accept them more, so they're coming out a little bit. But I wouldn't take it literally that there is, like, we're trying to outdo the Avengers or something by having more heroes than have ever been seen together. It's definitely not that. We're focusing on our guys and the rest are just in there a little bit, but only in so far that it helps the main story with the Incredibles.

Fandango: So, it would not be fair to say Incredibles 2 has more superheroes than Avengers: Infinity War?

Brad Bird: Yeah, no. It would not be fair to say. I'm sure Infinity War, I haven't seen it, but I'm sure it has more.

 

Fandango: Even if they're in the background, how does that process come together at Pixar? Do you go to a lot of people there and say, "Hey, we wanna just populate it with a bunch of heroes. Come up with your best ideas"?

Brad Bird: Yeah, we did that a little bit. Again, the story goes through a million iterations and some of the iterations, the other heroes had legitimate screen time. But we have x amount of time to do the things that we need to do, and the characters are sort of the master that you're serving. And if you start saying, "There were 10 explosions in The Incredibles, therefore, there's gotta be 30 in this one." You're just dead. I think that you just have to hang your hat on the story and see where it takes you.

 

Fandango: What can you tell us about the main villain in this film, Screenslaver?

Brad Bird: Yeah, that's fairly self-explanatory. Screenslaver uses screens to control people. And that's probably as far as I'll go. It's sort of implied in the trailer what his deal is. So, yeah, that's a fairly descriptive name for a villain.

 

Fandango: So, it's a man that's using screens to control people, basically, as part of the plot?

Brad Bird: Yeah, I’ll go with that.

Fandango: You return to the voice of Edna Mode in the sequel. What about this character inspired you take on that voice yourself in the first place?

Brad Bird: Well, it didn't really happen that way. What happened is that I did the voice for the scratch, which I do often. I also did the scratch voice of Bob, which you just record voices and you cast in-house. You have people around that are sort of like your characters, and you get a decent line reading and you do it for timing and to work on the reels. And then when you feel like you're ready for the main people, you go to the real voice cast, the real actors. And with E, I did the scratch voice.

And we went to this wonderful actress who I have long admired. And she tried. She did a few takes. And then she wanted to hear the scratch voice more and more. And so finally she kept saying, "Could you just read the characters lines into this tape recorder and leave them with me?" And I thought, "Well, this is odd. Why do you wanna listen to the scratch voice?" And then she came back after about a week and said, "You know what, you do it pretty well. You should do it. I find myself trying to sound like you. You sound more like ..." And at the same time John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton were going, "You should do the voice."

And so I kinda just went, "Okay." We just used some of the scratch recordings and I did some new recordings and that's sort of how it happened. We actually went out to another actress thinking, "Okay, now we're gonna get serious." And she kept asking me how I would do it. And you know, I just had this character in my head and I could describe her to people, and inevitably, when I was describing her, I would do that voice just to say, "This is the kind of personality she is." And then other people sort of convinced me that I should do it. So, it's very strange. I don't see myself as a half German, half Asian, tiny fashion designer, but there it is.

 

Fandango: If you could create like a playlist of some movies that inspired your take on the sequel or stuff that you were watching to get into that head space, what would be on there? What would be some of the genres, in particular?

Brad Bird: Well, I think that you can tell from the first film that my specific taste on superheroes has kind of got a lot of spy movie DNA in it, for some reason. I don't know exactly why that is. Maybe it's because when I was a kid, the Bond movies were a lot better at over-the-top action and heroics and villainy than superhero movies were. So, maybe that's where I got that superheroes are kind of a heightened over-the-top way of looking at conflict.

The spy movies of Bond and Man from U.N.C.L.E, and all that stuff were also an over-the-top version of heroics and villainy. So, somehow my wires crossed on that a little bit. I think it's because the films that got my adrenaline up in that way when I was a kid were spy movies and spy T.V. shows like Mission: Impossible. There's this certain amount of spy vibe that's in The Incredibles. I don't have specific movies that I'm thinking of as much. But there is a feeling of the spy films and T.V. shows of my youth that are kind of in there.

Fandango: So, you aren't watching a lot of Michael Keaton's Mr. Mom with Mr. Incredible being a stay-at-home dad in this one?

Brad Bird: No. Although that's probably ... I probably should have seen that. But no. I think that I've done some research in that area by being a father. So, I have on-the-job experience of being in over my head.

 

Fandango: Did you use some of your personal experiences in the film, situations you've been in?

Brad Bird: Oh, for sure. In the first film as well. The Incredibles films are a gumbo made out of spy movies, and superheroes, and my own experiences with the family that I grew up in and the family that I have with my wife and son. So, you kind of stir all those things in a pot, and copious amounts of popcorn and Coca-Cola, and you got it. So yeah, it’s really a mix.

Fandango: In the superhero genre, they rarely stop at part two. Does Incredibles 2 leave room for a part three? Have you thought about that at all?

Brad Bird: I have not thought about it and I do not welcome thinking about it for a while. I just got this one heading out the door so the last thing I wanna think about is another one. And it's not that I don't love the characters. I absolutely do, but I gotta do something else for a little bit. Cleanse my palate.

 

Fandango: We spoke a little bit about that explosion of Marvel movies since the first Incredibles came out. Did they ever come to you and say, "Hey, do you wanna cross these universes and throw Marvel characters in there?" Was that ever on the table?

Brad Bird: I've heard it discussed, not with me in particular, but I've heard it sort of thrown around a little bit. But at Pixar we've always felt like Marvel is Marvel, and Pixar is Pixar, and Lucasfilm is Lucasfilm. And they serve everyone better, including Disney, if they're separate. If you start crossing them too much it's like when you blend too many colors together, it starts turning into mud. So, that may make a marketing guy's mouth water but I don't think it makes artists excited.

Fandango: Speaking of Lucasfilm, they came to you about Star Wars awhile back, but your schedule was too busy. Have they returned? Are you thinking about doing one of those movies in the future?

Brad Bird: Well, I've known Kathy Kennedy a long time. And I've known George [Lucas] quite a while too. And certainly, that's a very fun universe and if I could think of something that would be perfect for that I would give Kathy a call, absolutely. They've sort of said if I have any notion that would fit in that universe to please contact them. I mean, I saw Kathy a week ago 'cause they were mixing Solo down the hall from us up here. So, I wouldn't rule that out. But I also have a lot of other ideas I'm very anxious to do.

 

Fandango: I'll leave you with this -- what do you hope audiences are talking about when they walk out of Incredibles 2?

Brad Bird: I just want them to have a really good time at the movies. My favorite kind of summer films are ones that leave you exhilarated when you're coming out of the theater with half a thought to get in line for the next showing. I would love if they just had a great time, and ate a lot of popcorn, and drank some coke. Find the biggest screen with the best sound system you can find and you'll have a good time at this movie. I guarantee it.

 

Incredibles 2 officially hits theaters on June 15, and you can snag tickets right now here at Fandango. When you do, you'll also receive one of these posters (one exclusive to Fandango!) below.

Incredibles 2 poster

Incredibles 2 poster

Like it? Share it:

Next Article by Peter Martin

'Bad Boys for Life' Nabs Release Date; Here's What We Know

'Bad Boys for Life' Nabs Release Date; Here's What We Know