The highly anticipated Incredibles 2 finally arrives in theaters after a 14 year wait. And not much has changed. The sequel follows the Parr family as they continue to struggle juggling their daily lives with performing selfless acts of heroism. Problem is, being a super is still illegal, and one man could help change the public’s perception with the help of Elastigirl. But this would leave Mr. Incredible at home to take care of the children. Something he is clearly not accustomed to doing. But that role reversal will help him get closer to his children and be super in a very different way.
We had a chance to talk to the the original voice cast original actors, including Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell and Samuel L. Jackson, and director Brad Bird, plus Bob Odenkirk and Sophia Bush, about their thoughts on the film, the role-reversals, the way we see superhero films now, and if they get recognized on the street for their voice work in The Incredibles and Incredibles 2.
While having a script is very important for any film, a lot of the voice cast did not even get a script.
“Well I didn’t read a screenplay,” Holly Hunter, who plays Elastigirl said. The actress then pointed to Bird and referred to him as the screenplay. “He was my walking encyclopedia.”
“You had pages,” Bird said sarcastically.
“It was a while before I truly realized what I was going to get to do in the movie,” Hunter continued. “I was really thrilled. But it was like a retroactive thrill because it was over a period of months before I started gleefully singing during our recording sessions about how great my part was. But to me, it was really fun.”
“I don’t think this is a message movie in any way. I think it’s pure love and luck of the draw that it happens to be dovetailing into #MeToo and Times Up. But obviously Times Up, and I feel that way personally and it happens to be serendipitously reflected in this particular movie. But at the same time, it is character revelation, period. Everyone is having revelations, including Jack-Jack. All the characters are revelations to the audience and to themselves. In fact, I feel Violet’s adolescence, the jag, and the rage. There’s adolescence that I feel from Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, too.”
“I was resentful when I was told Mr. Incredible was going to be in this film, not saving lives not exhibiting any kind of strength,” Craig T. Nelson, who plays Mr. Incredible, said. “And then I found out I would be helping save the family, and Bob is going to learn how to be a dad and he’s going to learn about his kids. And then the process started when we were recording this, and it was so much fun. I mean the stuff I did with Violet, and the two of us together, Jack-Jack and that whole discovery, and Dash, and then having Elsatigirl out there doing what I want to do and being able to give her the encouragement by saying everything is okay at home. It was just a lot of fun. I am so honored to be doing this film.”
-So Many Layers-
There has been an incredible leap in animation since The Incredibles was first released in 2004. But what may look cool on screen, probably doesn’t look nearly as cool as what it looks like in an animator’s head. And when you got someone like Bird at the helm, it’s fun to see how it would look, especially when you are recording with someone like him.
“One of the things I think is so cool about the whole thing is the layering of the technology that makes this films look to all of us the way they do in Brad [Bird]’s head,” Sophia Bush, who plays Void, said. “It’s wild to see the early stages of animation and watch some scenes and see what they become in the final edit. It’s also totally nuts to go into the studio, and I know I am technically talking to Holly [Hunter], but she’s not there, it’s just me and Brad, yelling into a Void [intended pun as that is her character’s name]. I didn’t mean to do that, I am sweating.”
She added “That’s a subconscious trick that we play on ourselves. But it really is so much fun. And he knows what she’s done in the room, and he knows how our voices are going to sound together. So you just trust your captain, and when he tells you you’ve gotten it right, that the tone is right, the volume, the size of your voice. It’s very cool.”
Not having a screenplay is nearly not as bad as it sounds. In fact, it makes you have a better understanding of your character’s space. “Not only did we not get to see a screenplay, sometimes we don’t know where we are in any scene,” Sarah Vowell, who plays Violet Parr, said. “So you are like “Is this in a car? How loud am I?” You are trying to get a sense of the literal architecture of where the character is and everything has to be drawn from scratch. It’s not that they are at a kitchen table, it’s everything that a family is being at a kitchen table implies.
Bush agreed. “That’s so true. It’s like are you talking to a person that is far away as you and me or somebody in the back of the room. It does change what you do vocally.”
– Bob Odenkirk On Playing A Genuinely Sincere Guy –
Bob Odenkirk, probably best known now for playing the less-than-honest Jimmy McGill on Better Call Saul, voices Winston Deavor, the head of a telecommunications company who intends on changing the public perception on superheroes. His intentions mean well and he seems like a sincere guy, but audiences might be suspicious of him when the Screen Slaver terrorizes the city. Still, Odenkirk enjoyed everything about his experience at Pixar.
“It was super fun to see it, and I’ve only seen little moments of it in the course of recording this. To see it in the big beautiful color on the giant screen. I knew it was going to be amazing, and it was beyond expectations,” Odenkirk said. “I feel like there is new technology that no one is telling us about because of its got such richness and depth. It’s a great treat. I also didn’t read the whole script, there is never a whole script to read. So it is the first time that I get to see the whole story on the big screen.”
He added, “once again, I am amazed at Brad Bird’s talent as a writer and director and orchestrator of story. There’s like five movies in this one movie. And they all work together to throw each other into relief to make each other better and it was a hell of an experience. Everyone in my family, including my nieces and nephews – young -, son and daughter – teenagers -, everyone related to the story and everyone related to different characters and themes because there are so many and they are on delivered so well.”
Nicole Paradis Grindle, who is a producer on the film, said Odenkirk’s Winston Deavor, wasn’t so genuine or sincere at the start. But she was amazed at how the actor was able to adapt to the change. He added, “I loved it. I am not going to give away where he ends up, but when he starts he’s exuberant and excited. As he goes you start to see a real innocence to him that is a twist that is nice and surprising.”
– It’s okay to see an animated movie as an adult –
Animated movies are just as much for kids as they are adults. While they look like they are designed to be for a younger audience, they have surprisingly dark themes that could connect to a more mature audience. And Incredibles 2 has a nice balance of that. “I think we all felt that way when going into the first movie as well. It was a movie that could stand on its own. It’s not a kids movie. In a way, it’s more, not a kids movie,” Hunter said. “Kids totally dig it. There were a lot of kids at the premiere night who loved it. Even small kids loved Jack-Jack and loved Dash.”
“It’s like Bob said, the movie has a complexity that is really astonishing,” Hunter added. “It’s got five different movies and they all work in concert with each other and they all need each other, all five. And it’s an incredible fabric that has been woven together. It’s very sophisticated.”
Bird also agreed. It’s for anyone who likes movies,” Bird said. “You don’t need to have a kid.” He says people constantly come up to him telling him that their kid enjoyed it. But what Bird wanted to know is if the parents enjoyed it as well. He says he made it for the parents, and it finds if the kids come as well. “I’m not a kid and I made something that I would want to see. We’re not kids.”
– Bird Bits –
Brad Bird returns to direct Incredibles 2 after the first film had some what of a decade-plus long hiatus. But the sequel kicks off right where the film left off. That was purely intentional. It was a “bold and weird” idea. Which worked because “people tend to take the time that passes very literally. And they think that linearly, the characters should have aged,” Bird said. “But if they age, their superpowers don’t reflect the part of life that they’re in and their role in the family.” He compares that to his experience working on The Simpsons, where none of the characters have aged despite time continuing to move forward.
The director also addressed some of the problems production designer Ralph Eggleston gave to him while working on Incredibles 2. But these were the kind of problems that actually benefited the film. At one point during the production, Eggleston presented new and radical designs for the film, of which they would have ruined the progress they had made. According to Bird, the Parr’s new home had to work against them. “I’m listening to everything he’s saying, “that’s going to ruin this, and that’s going to ruin that, and we’re gonna have to start again,” Bird said. “But he’s totally right… and damn, why is he right?”
Bird always knew that he was going to have the family dynamics, role reversal, and Jack-Jack’s powers on display in the film. However, the one thing that constantly changed was the villain. “But I came in with a villain that was a different villain than the one we wound up with,” Bird said. “In exploring an alternate opening when I came to Pixar, I introduced a villain we killed off in the opening sequence and that was a better villain than the one we had. Suddenly, that was a better villain than the one we had, and that was Syndrome. For some reason, I don’t know why the villain comes last.”
– Superhero Craze –
So many things have changed since 2004. Superheroes are now more popular than they were before. And for some, there may be some slight superhero fatigue. Yet, that did not worry Brad Bird – or any fans of the film. While he acknowledges the idea that there may be too many superhero movies, Bird takes comfort in knowing his film is not like the rest. “I realized what excited me in the first place was not the superheroes, it was about the family dynamic.” Bird said. “And people’s roles in different parts of their lives. To me, a family is a continent of fresh opportunities because it’s so universal. I got excited again when I thought about it that way, and that’s what excited me about the first movie.”
– Jack-Jack –
Incredibles 2 also lets audiences see Jack-Jack’s powers fully-fleshed out. Yes, he has multiple powers, which mirror’s a baby’s unlimited potential. And in the sequel, we get to see a number of powers in action in a confrontation between Jack-Jack and a hungry raccoon. But as cute as that is on the big screen, there was a darker version of that, one that involved a baby in a swimming pool. During the Q&A, Bird said Teddy Newton, one of the film’s first key designers, came up with the idea for the first film, actually.
When the rest of the Parrs where doing homework or other chores, Jack-Jack would be inspired to save his home while he is watching an old movie with classic robbers. And since raccoons have eyes that distinctly look like robbers, the youngest member of the Parr family becomes inspired to save the day. Even if these raccoons are just rummaging through garbage.
“The idea always just killed me because raccoons look vaguely like robbers,” Bird said. “Teddy did a drawing where Jack-Jack is watching an old movie like he is in the film, and then he sees a classic robber with a mask. Then he looks out in the yard and sees a robber is stealing from his family. It doesn’t matter that it’s garbage, Jack-Jack doesn’t know that. He just knows he’s being robbed and he must do something about it. I loved that. It was so visual and clear, and it was such an off the wall idea that it was one of the things that I couldn’t wait to do if we got another Incredibles going.”
– Johnny Quest, The Outer Limits, And Rest Of The Silver Age –
Both Incredibles films have that distinct look of being set in the 60s, though, it is never specifically said more mentioned. Still, there are slight nods to that era. And one of the ways that Bird gets that across is the visuals and homages to that time. So when asked about why he added Johnny Quest and The Outer Limits, Bird said.
One of my personal rules in an animated film is that if they’re watching something on TV, it should be animated. Johnny Quest is an animated show, and it’s the style of the film: that kind of action-adventure style from the early 60s.”
While the look for that fits into the film, having a Johnny Quest nod was an absolute must for the director, as he has a deep love for the animated show. Bird said:
“I love Johnny Quest. A lot of people don’t remember that it wasn’t made for Saturday morning. It was made for prime time. It came on at night. Adults watched it. People died in it. It had everything an eight-year-old wants in entertainment. It has mummies, pterodactyls, guns, a kid from another country who could levitate things, and a bodyguard who has a fling with a girl who might be dangerous. There are lasers, hyper foils, jet-packs, reptiles, robot spies, and I just about exploded when I saw the opening titles. So we just had to give Johnny Quest a shout out.”
For the Outer Limits, that show’s premise fits with how the Screen Slaver’s got his message across to a wide audience. “They’re talking about taking control of your TV in that clip,” Bird said. “When I saw that as a kid, that scared the crap out of me.”
– Samuel L. Jackson, A Man Of Many Roles – That Kids Do Not Recognize –
Samuel L. Jackson may be the cool hard as nails tough guy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but he is the cool and smooth family friend and surrogate uncle to the Parr family in The Incredibles and Incredibles 2. While he does have a very recognizable voice, he firmly believes kids don’t recognize him as Frozone.
“Kids don’t do that. Their parents do. And then they try to make the kids know who you are,” Jackson said. “They’re looking at you like ‘You don’t have a blue suit on. You’re not making ice stuff. Nah! Where’s my super suit, honey? I don’t know!’ Now as they get older, the kids who were four when they saw the movie are now 18. They’ve been waiting. They’re knocking little kids over to get in line. My daughter’s 35, she’s knocking big kids over to get in line. We don’t get a new audience because we did a movie kids really like. They have no idea who we really are, in our real selves.”
Incredibles 2 opens in theaters on June 15, 2018.