Brad Bird and Producers on ‘Incredibles 2’ and How Babies Read the Room

     May 31, 2018


Last month, I got to visit Pixar for the Incredibles 2 press day. In the upcoming sequel, Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) has to stay home with the kids while Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) heads out into the world to do good deeds and salvage the reputation of the Supers.

During my visit, I got to sit down and talk with writer-director Brad Bird and producers Nicole Grindle and John Walker about the movie. During our conversation, we talked about what makes a sympathetic villain, how you craft a story arc for an infant character like Jack-Jack, the position of the Incredibles’ new benefactors, the Deavors, and much more.

Check out the full interview below, and click here for 85 things we learned from our visit. Incredibles 2 opens June 15th.

incredibles-2-new-posterSo this movie has a monorail sequence, and The Simspons also has the problems of monorail. What’s with the anti-monorail agenda?

BRAD BIRD: I actually am pro-monorail. I actually loved monorails. I think that’s a very cool thing, and that every city should have it. That doesn’t mean that villains can’t wreak havoc with it. By the way, I gave them shit on the Simpsons for trashing on monorails, ’cause I think monorails are cool.

Speaking of the villain, Syndrome had such a great set of definable antagonism with how he perceived himself and the value of his relation to supers. What does the villain in ‘Incredibles 2’ bring to the table?

BIRD: I think that the villain has a means to get people to do what he wants. And he has an interesting button to press. And he is sort of not even when you see him he’s not what you think.

And he has an equally persuasive motivation I think.

BIRD: Yes.

NICOLE GRINDLE: Yes, yes, yes. He’s sympathetic.

BIRD: But you just, we’ve laid out a mine field, and I’ve made through it like at the beginning of ‘Raiders of the Lost Arc’ where I don’t wanna get hit with the dart of you knowing too much before you see the movie.

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

BIRD: It could be seen that way, or they could be seen alone. It’s not required that you see the first film. 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 seeming like Harry the explainer, you know on the scenes. And making them feel organic. But yeah, if you wanted to do a double bill this would be a damn good one.

Something I noticed, and maybe I’m mistaken, but in the opening action sequence it looks like Violet is taking her force field and actually throws it to split something. Is that correct? Does she actually have the ability to-I was wondering if they sort of have new elements of their powers. Not to change the powers or things they couldn’t do before, but to say we’re putting something new on the table.

BIRD: Right. What people don’t remember is that there is a three month period between the second to the last scene of the first movie and the last scene. That that’s where the time has passed. Even though this movie picks up exactly where that movie left off, there has been three months between the body of the last movie and the last scene of the last movie. So she has had time to play with her powers, and she feels more encouraged now that they may be useful and necessary. She’s fascinated by them more, where she wanted to hide them and was embarrassed by them before. So we’re kind of preceding from that, that these guys are more comfortable with their powers and that they’re a little better at them.


Image via Disney-Pixar

We also get to see that Jack-Jack has more of a story this time around, how do you tackle doing a story for someone like Jack-Jack who doesn’t have dialogue? How do you create a character arc for him?

BIRD: Well I think that you have to be careful to not make him too cognizant of what’s going on. Babies are very good at detecting the vibe of the room. I remember there was a scene in ‘Tomorrowland’ that we were filming. It’s not in the film unfortunately. But the scene had a baby that was crying and driving people kinda nuts. And we needed the baby to be comfortable.

And on the set he was crying, and everybody was going up to him going, “Okay, it’s okay now!” “Yes, your scene is the next, please be happy!” And it was just making him more like, “Ahhhh!” You know? And finally I just kinda yelled at everybody and I said, “Everybody stop! Don’t look at the baby in the eyes, turn your heads away, and don’t give the baby anything and then when he stops, we will quietly start the scene, action.” And the baby’s going, “Ahhhh!” And everybody turned away and the baby went, “Ahhh, ahh, ahh.” And then everybody went, and we just went on with the scene. But because everybody was trying to make him … So babies are excellent temperature gauges for the vibe of the room.

But beyond that, they don’t understand the dynamics beyond that. So the key was even though this is an animated film, and they’re very caricatured, it was to not have him do stuff that a baby wouldn’t do. Meaning they imitate things, they get fascinated by something that’s shiny, and somebody talks a certain way they will get those cadences right away. But they don’t have complicated motivations. So if you have a guy that is the Swiss army knife of powers, but his motivations are the same as any baby’s that looks interesting, shiny, ow that hurts, I’m hungry, I’m crabby, you know? That becomes grounded again, and becomes more interesting.

Okay, so they recorded all this sound, the real baby sounds and we thought we were gonna have to get a whole bunch of new baby sounds. And the minute we started going into all the sounds from recording for the original film we found everything that we needed. So it’s the same baby that’s in the first film, and it’s all new sounds, and they’re all very specific to what the baby is feeling at the moment. And you’d be surprised how expressive babies are. So we used real baby sound, and they’re great. And we found everything we needed.

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