You can’t rush perfection, darling.
It’s been 14 years since The Incredibles introduced us to the best superhero family we’ve ever seen on the big screen (sorry, Fantastic Four), and considering how popular the Pixar comedy is, you may be wondering why it took so long to get the sequel, Incredibles 2, into production.
For writer-director Brad Bird, it all came down to story.
“The thing is, many sequels are cash grabs,” Bird told reporters during a recent press event to promote Incredibles 2. “There’s a saying in the business that I can’t stand, where they go, ‘if you don’t make another one, you’re leaving money on the table.’ It’s like, money on the table is not what makes me get up in the morning; making something that people are gonna enjoy a hundred years from now, that’s what gets me up. So if it were a cash grab, we would not have taken fourteen years – it makes no financial sense to wait this long – it’s purely [that] we had a story we wanted to tell.”
Despite the sequel taking more than a decade to make it to the screen, it also ended up being produced on a shorter timescale than anticipated, after the film’s original release date (June 21, 2019) was switched with Toy Story 4.
While Bird compared the experience with “running in front of a train, laying down track” as they attempt to get the film finished in time (they’re still working on it), he also admitted that scheduling swaps aren’t that uncommon in animation.
“I wouldn’t say often, but it has happened a number of times. The original Incredibles was supposed to be after Cars. It was gonna be Nemo, Cars, Incredibles. And our reels came together a little earlier than Cars did, so we moved up. And the same situation happened here with Toy Story 4,” he said. “They’ve been going a number of different directions in story, and it was concluded that we were a little further along than they were, so we moved up. So, that was a challenge for us, but the studio is three times bigger than it was during Incredibles. So if we didn’t choke, we could actually, theoretically, get the movie made, and that is what came to pass.”
Bird admitted that the proliferation of superhero properties in recent years has made it much harder to tell an original story; the first film debuted before Pixar’s parent company, Disney, purchased Marvel, and predated Iron Man by four years – meaning that the new film is entering a very different cinematic landscape from its predecessor.
“On some level, it’s like going out to the football field and there’ve been way too many games on it, and there’s this dried dirt with a few sprigs of grass, and everything’s kind of clunky, and life doesn’t grow there anymore. So there’s that aspect, where you feel like, ‘oh, Jesus, it’s really been covered,’” Bird said. “It makes it very challenging on a story level. Because not only do you have every superhero under the sun and cross-promoting films and blah blah blah blah blah, but you also have a bunch of television shows … So it’s easy to freak out and go, well, why even try? Everybody’s got everything done to death. But I return to, what makes us unique? And it’s this idea of a family, and that superheroes have to hide their abilities [from the public, due to Superhero Relocation Program]. And those things are actually unique to us, and there’s plenty left to explore.”
While Bird was cagey about revealing too much of the plot in advance (something Pixar and Marvel have in common), he did tease that much like the first film, Incredibles 2 will explore “the roles of men and women; the importance of fathers participating; the importance of allowing women to also express themselves through work, and that they’re just as vital as men are. And there’s aspects of being controlled by screens. There’s feelings about the difficulties of parenthood, that parenting is a heroic act.”
Bird revealed that he came up with two of the primary storylines in Incredibles 2 while he was developing the first film. “The two ideas that were in my head as the first movie was ending, like ‘oh, this would be interesting,’ was a role switch between Bob and Helen, and showing Jack-Jack’s powers, and exploring them, and making Jack-Jack a main character rather than a side character,” he explained. “Those were in from the beginning and never left the project. What changed is the villain plot. And that shifted endlessly. And it drove me insane. Because I always was faced with the release date, and if something didn’t work, I couldn’t sit there and try to bang on it. I had to throw it away immediately and go to another idea that solved some of the issues that the first idea didn’t have. So that half of the story was shifting always.”
We’ll have more on Incredibles 2 in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, check out our slideshow of concept art from the film’s gallery at Pixar and see if you can uncover any clues about the plot lurking in the photos.
Incredibles 2 hits theaters on June 15.