Film: What is takes to make an In­cred­i­bles se­quel

Pixar writer and di­rec­tor Brad Bird tells PAUL WHITINGTON how he spent 14 years plot­ting his se­quel to his 2004 su­per­hero spoof I al­ways get bent out of shape when I do press and some­one says, ‘what’s it like to work in a chil­dren’s medium?’ And you can

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - ON THE ROAD -

Pity the poor writ­ers and di­rec­tors charged with mak­ing a Pixar se­quel. Films like Toy Story, Find­ing Nemo and Mon­sters Inc are so beloved by chil­dren and par­ents that fol­low­ing them up with some­thing less than per­fect can be seen as an un­for­giv­able sin. Wit­ness the on­line venom di­rected at Find­ing Dory, a per­fectly de­cent and charm­ing an­i­ma­tion that hap­pened to be not quite as good as the orig­i­nal.

Writer/di­rec­tor Brad Bird spent 14 years plot­ting a se­quel to his 2004 su­per­hero spoof The In­cred­i­bles, a film so uni­ver­sally ac­claimed that he must have pon­dered the wisdom of at­tempt­ing to fol­low it.

“We felt the pres­sure,” he tells me. “We know, if it doesn’t work, we will pay for it, and all that. And then you get all the in­ter­net stuff, ‘you’re de­stroy­ing my child­hood’. The best thing to do is turn it off, throw it in the river.”

The gen­e­sis of In­cred­i­bles 2 was a nag­ging feel­ing Bird had that there were things he wanted to do with his su­per­hero fam­ily the Parrs that the first film hadn’t al­lowed him to.

“There were all th­ese char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ments that we be­gan to ex­plore,” he says, “that we had no­tions of flip­ping up­side down as a way of mak­ing the char­ac­ters un­com­fort­able. On this film, Bob Parr pre­sumes that he’s the best choice for any as­sign­ment and sud­denly they’re not go­ing to him, they’re go­ing to his wife, and so that was a re­ally in­ter­est­ing thing to do for char­ac­ter an­i­ma­tion, it’s a com­plex se­ries of emotions that are kind of war­ring with each other.”

For those of you who didn’t catch the orig­i­nal, the Parrs live in an al­ter­nate world where su­per­heroes have been os­tracised, and are forced to en­dure the ig­nominy of pre­tend­ing to be nor­mal sub­ur­ban­ites while se­cretly fight­ing vil­lains. In In­cred­i­bles 2, Bob (Craig T Nel­son), He­len (Holly Hunter) and their chil­dren Vi­o­let, Dash and baby Jack-Jack are liv­ing in the Su­per­hero Re­lo­ca­tion Pro­gram when they’re con­tacted by a tech bil­lion­aire called Win­ston Deaver, who loves ‘su­pers’ and wants to speed their rein­tro­duc­tion to so­ci­ety by or­ches­trat­ing a pub­lic­ity stunt.

He­len will as­sume her old iden­tity as Elasti­girl and be­gin pub­licly fight­ing crime in the city of New Urbem. Which is all very well, but that means Bob, aka Mr In­cred­i­ble, will have to step up and be­come a stay-at-home dad, and watch fu­ri­ously from the side­lines while his wife hogs all the glory. “Your heart goes out to him,” Brad says. “He’s try­ing, but it doesn’t come eas­ily.”

Bird once said he’d only do an In­cred­i­bles se­quel if it was bet­ter than the orig­i­nal, and you’d have to say he’s achieved that. In­cred­i­bles 2 isan ex­traor­di­nar­ily ac­com­plished piece of work, full of wit and in­ven­tion and jaw-drop­ping an­i­ma­tion. In one par­tic­u­larly mem­o­rable se­quence, Elasti­girl is stretched to snap­ping point as she at­tempts to halt a mono­rail that’s speed­ing un­manned through a city.

“You couldn’t have done it that way back in 2004,” Brad says. “It’s too big, and they change lo­ca­tions a lot in that se­quence: all of that has to be built.”

Bird and his team’s achieve­ments are all the more re­mark­able when you re­alise that they were forced to rush the film’s pro­duc­tion af­ter be­ing bumped ahead of Toy Story 4 in Pixar’s

de­mand­ing sched­ule. “It was tough,” he says, “but I’m not a stranger to that. It hap­pened on the first film, too. “We were sup­posed to be af­ter

Cars but In­cred­i­bles got moved up. And I mean Iron Gi­ant [Bird’s crit­i­cally ac­claimed but lit­tle-seen 1999 an­i­ma­tion] was done un­der a lot of pres­sure: they were clos­ing down the di­vi­sion while we were mak­ing the film, and we joked that it was like be­ing in steer­age on the Ti­tanic and then sud­denly be­ing told, you can go into the lux­ury suite, you’re gonna die in two hours but you can smoke cigars and have all the brandy you want!”

Some­times, though, he ad­mits, time pres­sures do fo­cus the mind. “There are ben­e­fits, and the fo­cus­ing of the mind and the fact that we can’t linger over de­ci­sions is in many ways help­ful, be­cause it forces you to go with things.”

Bird, who started out as an an­i­ma­tor with Dis­ney, still likes to sto- ry­board his films as much as pos­si­ble be­fore shoot­ing starts. But this may be a dy­ing art, be­cause he tells me that some of the younger Pixar an­i­ma­tors don’t draw any more. “I would say that the ma­jor­ity still can, but a huge per­cent­age learned on the com­puter and aren’t nec­es­sar­ily con­fi­dent.

“With In­cred­i­bles 2 we didn’t get to take the sto­ry­boards nearly as far as we did on the first film, be­cause we didn’t have the time. In a per­fect world, yes, you would do a more elab­o­rate sto­ry­board: they’re a way to ex­plore ideas cheaply be­fore you’ve re­ally spent a lot of money — and if you get it right, it be­comes very cost ef­fec­tive.”

Like all the great Pixar films, In

cred­i­bles 2 feels more like a per­sonal, au­teur­ish film than a cor­po­rate one, and it’s full of touches and ref­er­ences that must re­fer to Bird’s 1960s child­hood. In­deed, the theme mu­sic re­minds one play­fully of Bond.

“I loved Dis­ney films when I was a kid, but I also loved James Bond movies. I was the only kid that I knew at that time whose par­ents al­lowed them to see them, be­cause they were vi­o­lent and they were sexy and all this stuff, but my par­ents didn’t seem to mind. I re­mem­ber see­ing Goldfin­ger when I was a kid, and just be­ing tripped out and think­ing this is the great­est thing ever.

“I love that damn film and I’ve seen it 10 mil­lion times, and you know, on this film, we have this cage fight that’s very in­tense, and when we were plan­ning it, peo­ple were say­ing well what kind of thing are you think­ing of, and I said check out the train fight in From Rus­sia

with Love be­cause it’s in a con­fined space and it’s bru­tal you know. That’s a bad-ass fight, and it’s des­per­ate, and I wanted some of that feel­ing.”

The worst thing you can say to Bird is that an­i­ma­tion isn’t for grown-ups. “I al­ways get bent out of shape when Dis­ney sends me out to do press and some­one says, ‘what’s it like to work in a chil­dren’s medium?’ And you can see my neck cords bulging up.” Grow­ing up, TV shows like Rocky

& Bull­win­kle con­vinced Bird that you could tackle any sub­ject, no mat­ter how dark, through cartoons. And be­tween 1989 and 1998, he worked as a cre­ative con­sul­tant on The Simp­sons, help­ing to de­velop the show’s salty and trans­gres­sive vis­ual style.

Af­ter mak­ing The In­cred­i­bles for Pixar in 2004, he was asked to take over the writ­ing and di­rec­tion of Rata­touille, which was mired in pro­duc­tion prob­lems. He com­pletely rewrote and reimag­ined the charm­ing story of a French sewer rat who dreams of be­com­ing a great chef. But In­cred­i­bles 2 might just be Bird’s great­est achieve­ment yet.

Dur­ing its open­ing week­end in Amer­ica, the film took al­most $200m, the strong­est open­ing ever for an an­i­mated film. But that’s not the kind of thing that gives Brad a warm and fuzzy glow.

“Both me and John Walker [the film’s pro­ducer] are al­most patho­log­i­cal in shun­ning that in­for­ma­tion. Box of­fice is some­thing you can’t do any­thing about, and ul­ti­mately it doesn’t have any­thing to do with the qual­ity of the movie, good or bad. There are huge hits that are just aw­ful, and there are won­der­ful movies that are not suc­cess­ful.

“Ob­vi­ously, once the smoke clears, we’re okay with it, but I think the main feel­ing we have is re­lief. It’s not vic­tory, it’s not ‘we van­quished our foes’, it’s we are still stand­ing and we will get a chance to make an­other film.”

In­cred­i­bles 2 is in cin­e­mas from Fri­day

On the side­lines: The se­quel charts He­len mak­ing a re­turn as Elasti­girl while Mr In­cred­i­ble copes with be­ing a stay-at-home dad; andin­set,BradBird

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