The incredible changes ‘INCREDIBLES 2’ went through in its 14-year evolution
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
Every film experiences all kinds of shifting changes in the development process. If that necessary step is completed well, the blueprint formed will lead to a production that can easily bend and shape when new changes arise. Particularly in animation, the years long pre-production stage (which lasts, at minimum, four years) is fairly malleable. Writer-director extraordinaire Brad Bird’s INCREDIBLES 2 is no exception.
The exciting animated film has gone through many identities in its fourteen year trip to the screen – one eagerly awaited by many who’ve hailed the original a modern classic. The original follow-up idea was something the animation auteur had been sitting on from the start: Elastigirl/ Helen Parr (voiced by Holly Hunter) goes back to work, leaving Mr. Incredible/ Bob Parr (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) to deal with kids Violet (voiced by Sarah Vowell), Dash (voiced by Huck Milner) and Jack-Jack (voiced by Eli Fucile). However, no one could have predicted the societal shifts in our culture over these past few years that would make that storyline even more relevant.
At the recent press conference in Los Angeles, Bird stated,
The idea of the role switch, that the assignment would go to Helen rather than Bob I had when we were promoting the first film. And I also knew that I had the un-exploded bomb of Jack-Jack’s powers, that the audience knew that he had them, but the Parrs did not. I had other notions that I just wanted to see an INCREDIBLES movie and some things like the raccoon fight that were originally done for the first movie and there was no place for it and I loved the idea.
Hunter instantly took to the concept that her character would be the breadwinner of the family, remarking,
It was a while before I truly realized what I was really going to get to do in the movie. And I was really thrilled. Over a period of months before, I started gleefully singing during our recording sessions about how great my part was.
I don’t think that this is a message movie in any way. I think it’s purely like luck – luck of the draw that this happens to be dovetailing with #MeToo and #TimesUp. It happens to be serendipitously reflected in this particular movie. But at the same time, it’s character revelation period.
Nelson, who’s character is the least toxic version of the sexist MR. MOM narrative, playfully joked that he wasn’t thrilled Mr. Incredible wouldn’t be at the forefront of saving the world.
I was resentful when I was told where Mr. Incredible was going to be in this film: Not saving lives. Not exhibiting any kind of strength at all. And then I found out that I’m going to be helping save the family.
The villain role was something the proved to be the most challenging for Bird as it was always in some state of flux.
The villain part – it always seemed to change. The villain plot kept changing. And it kept changing. Everyone else had to adjust to it constantly. I came with a villain that was a different villain than we wound up with. And in exploring an alternate opening when I came to Pixar, I introduced a villain that we killed off in the opening sequence and that was a better villain than the one that we had. The villain kind of for some reason, I don’t know why, but it kind of comes last.
He mentioned it led to a lot of anxiety on his part.
When I came to Pixar and said, “I think I have the other part of the story figured out,” the version that got green lit, about four months that we got green lit, it got a release date. And then the release date got moved up a year. Suddenly the pressure is huge and that plot doesn’t work. Now I’m screwed because I have a release date and everybody is going, “INCREDIBLES 2! INCREDIBLES 2! You know what you’re doing, right?”
One significant supporting character that went through a refurbishing of sorts was Bob Odenkirk’s “Winston Deavor,” the billionaire businessman who, along with his sister Evelyn (voiced by Catherine Keener), enlist Elastigirl to be the face of their campaign to allow Superheroes back into society. Producer Nicole Grindle explained,
When we first started working with Bob, his character wasn’t so nice. It changed over the course of working on the film.
Odenkirk said of the alteration,
I loved that he became more genuine. We don’t know. I’m not going to give away where he ends up. But when he starts, he’s exuberant and excited. And as he goes, you start to see an innocence to him that is I think is a real twist and surprising. But where it ends up I won’t say.
And thanks to the rise in popularity of superhero films over the course of the last fourteen years, Bird changed another action.
I immediately banned three point landings. I just said no. We’re not doing it on this film. Helen did it once in the first film. It’s not cool anymore. We’re not doing it.
Not only did the narrative of the super fun, family-friendly adventure change, but so did the tactile aesthetics, bringing the look closer to what Bird had envisioned in the first place. Producer Grindle elucidated,
The technology has allowed us to make the film look more like what Brad intended it to look like the first time. The characters are much more finally nuanced and developed. We were able to build a lot more sets more quickly. We’ve populated the world with a lot more characters that have hair and clothing. That makes the world feel richer and more alive. Not to mention all the other visual effects.
The make-up of the INCREDIBLES 2 crew members was another aspect that became more enriched over a decade later. Grindle continued,
We’ve also got a lot of artists who have had 14 years to get better at their craft. And a lot of artists who were some of them kids when the first film came out.
INCREDIBLES 2 opens on June 15.