Brad Bird goes back to basics with Incredibles 2 after 14 years
Writer-director of Incredibles 2 says there was no rush to release follow-up to superhero animation
Fourteen years. That's how long it took to make a sequel to the hit Pixar animated movie The Incredibles.
US writer-director Brad Bird said at our interview at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City: "There wasn't any gun to my head - 'You must do this now'. They were always like, 'When you're ready'. And I finally went, 'I think I'm ready, maybe'."
The original came out in 2004, long before the ubiquity of superhero movies.
The 60-year-old added: "The only active superhero franchises when we made the first one were Spider-Man and X-Men. So it was a different environment.
"But if you think about it in terms of there's been too many superhero movie stories told, you just won't even try. But I felt like what made ours special in the first place was that it was about a family, and that if I kept it about the family, we'd be all right."
In Incredibles 2, which opens here tomorrow, the story begins with the whole Parr family battling the villainous Underminer, introduced in the last scenes of the first movie. But the outcome isn't good.
Superheroes are still banned, and Elastigirl and Mr Incredible, Helen (Holly Hunter) and Bob (Craig T. Nelson) Parr, are unemployed.
When a telecom billionaire approaches them with a plan for a publicity stunt to win back the public's favour, it is matriarch Helen who takes the lead while Bob stays home with their kids Violet and Dash.
But a new mysterious brainwashing baddie emerges, and eventually the whole family has to pitch in, including baby Jack-Jack with his emerging superpowers.
Bird said making the first film was the most fun he's ever had in his career.
Keep in mind he also directed the Oscar-winning Ratatouille (2007) and cult favourite The Iron Giant (1999), as well as live-action films Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011) and Tomorrowland (2015).
The idea of another story with Jack-Jack's superpowers occurred to him when he was promoting the original.
He said: "I knew I had the unopened present of Jack-Jack's powers because the audience knew that he had multiple powers but the family didn't. I knew that if we made another one, that was a present I would get to unwrap. That core idea I've had since the first film. It was all the other stuff that I had to work on and work on and work on."
As artists do, Bird took inspiration from his own life.
"My wife's very dynamic and action-packed," he said, pointing to her at the back of the room. "That's the original Elastigirl right there."
He's also had some experience being a stay-at-home dad.
"I remember with my father too, him trying to learn the kind of math that I learned and not being able to do it the way it was in the book. I think that's kind of an eternal thing.
"I've been the annoying little brother. I have three older sisters and I annoyed every single one of them."
He added, tongue in cheek: "I had a lot of valuable research on that."
Then there's Edna Mode, fashion designer to the supers and close friend of the Parrs, the scene-stealing character he voices and reprises in Incredibles 2.
Bird said: "Edna is this ridiculously confident, never-has-a-doubt person I wish that I were. I know people like Edna. Someone who is tiny with big glasses and strong opinions and kind of dominates the room.
"What was interesting was when I was going around the world talking about the first film, the only character that every single country was convinced was based on someone from that country was Edna."
He added with a laugh: "In Paris, they go, she's based on (French fashion designer) Coco Chanel right? And I went, no. Here, they said that she was (US costume designer) Edith Head. Every single country had an Edna. In the end, the number got up to 27, I'm not kidding. I think that there's some kind of artistic icon that emerges out of every culture and they're kind of Edna-like."
Pixar's head John Lasseter, a casualty of the #MeToo movement, was very influential in Bird's career and had a hand in Incredibles 2 as well.
Last week, he announced he was leaving the company by the end of the year.
Bird said he hasn't spoken to Lasseter since the scandal, adding: "He is a longtime friend of mine and I love him dearly.
"He was really important in protecting the first Incredibles when the Disney studio didn't want to make it initially. He added a lot of good story notes (in the sequel) and it was different when he was gone and we started really making the film.
"But I literally don't know anything that you don't know. We haven't seen him and, you know, hope to."