Written and directed by Brad Bird, the animated action adventure film Incredibles 2 sees Helen (voiced by Holly Hunter) called upon to help bring Supers back while Bob (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) is left to navigate the day-to-day family life at home. When a high-tech super-villain known as Screenslaver hatches a brilliant but scary plot that the Incredibles can only overcome if they work together, Violet (voiced by Sarah Vowell), Dash (voiced by Huck Milner) and baby Jack-Jack jump in to lend a hand and their powers to help their parents save the world.
During a conference at the film’s Los Angeles press day, co-stars Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson, along with filmmaker Brad Bird, talked about the decision to pick up right where the last film left off, the role reversal with Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, how the sequel ideas have evolved, over the years, making a movie that all ages can enjoy, how The Incredibles may have influenced the Marvel Cinematic Universe, how the fight with Jack-Jack came about, and why there’s a shout out to Jonny Quest.
Question: Brad, why did you decide to pick things up right away with the sequel, instead of having an older Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack?
BRAD BIRD: I just thought it was bold and weird because people take the time that passes very literally and they think that 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. I worked on the first eight seasons of The Simpsons, and they haven’t aged a day and they’re still on the air. It’s worked for them, so why not us?
This film has a role reversal between Elastigirl and Mr. Incredible. Holly, what did you think about that role reversal, when you read the script?
HOLLY HUNTER: Well, I didn’t read a screenplay because there wasn’t really one.
SAMUEL L. JACKSON: You didn’t see the whole script?
HUNTER: [Brad is] the screenplay. He was my walking encyclopedia.
BIRD: You had pages.
HUNTER: He was my instruction manual. It was awhile before I truly realized what I was really going to get to do in the movie, and I was really thrilled, but it was a retroactive thrill, 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 luck of the draw that this happens to be dovetailing with #MeToo and Time’s Up, but obviously, time is up. I feel that way, personally, and it just happens to be serendipitously reflected, in this particular movie. At the same time, it’s character revelation. Everybody is having revelations, including Jack-Jack. All of the characters are revelations to the audience and to themselves, and I’m no exception, as Elastigirl.
CRAIG T. NELSON: I was resentful when I was told where Mr. Incredible was going to be in this film. He’s not saving lives or exhibiting any kind of strength, at all. We argued about it, and then I found out that I was going to be helping save the family, and that Bob was going to learn how to be a dad and learn about these kids. The recording process was just so much fun. The stuff I did with Violet, and Jack-Jack and that whole discovery, and then Dash, and having to deal with Elastigirl out there doing what I want to do and being able to give her the encouragement and let her know that everything is okay. It was just a lot of fun. I’m so honored to be a part of it and to be doing this.
Brad, since the first film, you’ve said that you had an idea for Incredibles 2. Has this always been your idea for the sequel, or has it evolved, over the years?
BIRD: The idea of the role switch, and that the assignment would go to Helen rather than Bob, I had when we were promoting the first film. I also knew that I had the unexploded bomb of Jack-Jack’s powers. The audience knew that he had them, but the Parrs did not. But, the villain part always seemed to change. When I went to Pixar and said, “I think I have the other part of the story figured out,” we got greenlit, we got a crew, we started spending money, and we got a release date. And then, the release date got moved up a year, and suddenly the pressure was huge. The plot didn’t work and I was screwed because I had a release date and we were working on Incredibles 2. They’d be like, “You know what you’re doing, right?” And I’d be like, “Yeah, I know what I’m doing. We’ve got two years left.” And then, it was a year and a half left, and they were like, “Do you feel comfortable? Everybody has high expectations, okay?” The villain plot kept changing because it just didn’t serve the story. Everyone had to adjust it constantly, which only made more anxiety, but I think that we wound up with the right version of this movie. That was also true of the first movie. The Incredibles was the only project that came from outside of Pixar and was pitched to Pixar. I had drawings, I had designs, I had an outline of the whole thing, and I had all kinds of artwork that I paid for myself. And 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, and 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. So, I don’t know why, but for some reason, the villain comes last.