Brad Bird Explains Why ‘Incredibles 2’ Is Set Right After the First Film
It’s been 14 years since Pixar’s The Incredibles debuted in theaters, but when Incredibles 2 opens later this summer, it will be as if no time at all has passed. The new film — written and directed, like the original, by Brad Bird — is set immediately after The Incredibles ends, and we’re talking immediately immediately. The first scene of Incredibles 2 is the final scene of The Incredibles, with the assembled superhero family doing battle with an villain named the Underminer.
The Incredibles’ ending might have seemed like a happy one for the superheroes, with husband and wife crimefighters Bob (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen (Holly Hunter), and their kids Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner, replacing Spencer Fox), and baby Jack-Jack all working together as a team out in public. But the first few scenes of Incredibles 2, which I saw as part of an advanced press day recently at Pixar Studios in California, make it clear that’s definitely not the case.
Despite the Incredibles’ superheroic efforts in the first movie, nothing’s changed for “supers.” Fighting crime in a mask and spandex (no capes!) is still outlawed. Plus, Bob lost his job during The Incredibles, and the family’s house was destroyed to boot. Bob or Helen are going to have to get a job, and fast. So that’s where the story of Incredibles 2 goes, with Helen finding a gig working for a pair of super-loving siblings who run a telecommunications company, while Bob becomes a stay-at-home dad.
It’s a fine premise for a sequel, but it does beg the question: With almost 15 years between films, and a nearly limitless array of potential storylines you could choose from, how did Bird settle on directly continuing his story from the first Incredibles? At that Pixar press day, Bird explained that his decision was rooted in his initial idea for The Incredibles.
Long before Bird came to Pixar, before he even made the ’90s animation classic The Iron Giant, he began thinking about a movie involving superheroes. “When I first had the idea,” Bird explained, “I went to a comic shop and thought ‘I’ve got to think of new powers.’ And after about a half an hour in a comic book shop, I realized every power has been done by somebody, somewhere.”
Then, Bird had an epiphany: The powers weren’t interesting. “What interests me,” Bird continued, “is the idea of having a family, and having there be a reason to hide the powers. Once I had that insight into what I wanted to do I picked the powers based on who they were in the family.”
That one idea completely defined the Incredibles’ abilities. Men are expected to be strong, so Bob has super-strength. Mothers get pulled in a million directions, hence Helen is the stretchy hero Elastigirl. Violent’s invisibility and forcefields reflect a teenager’s insecurities; Dash’s speed embodies a ten-year-old’s relentless energy. And Jack-Jack’s sudden development of a bunch of powers in The Incredibles’ finale was an allegory for how babies are little blobs of unknown potential.
Bird’s concept was brilliant; but he felt it only worked with the characters in those very specific ages; move the family forward in time, and it falls apart. “The insight into those periods of your life and those particular perspectives disappears once you age them up,” he noted, before adding “I’m not interested in a college-age Jack-Jack. I’m just not.”
There was one more reason Bird offered for the direct continuation: “I also was on the first eight seasons of The Simpsons,” Bird chuckled, ”and [keeping the characters the same age] worked out rather well.”
Incredibles 2 opens in theaters on June 15.