By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Fourteen years after “The Incredibles” became moviegoers’ favorite animated superhero family, a sequel is finally arriving in theaters with more action and crime-fighting adventures. Reprising their voice roles as the Parrs (a.k.a. Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl) for Disney Pixar’s “Incredibles 2” are Craig T. Nelson and Oscar winner Holly Hunter. They are joined by Sarah Vowell, reprising her super-powered teen character Violet and Samuel L. Jackson, who returns as the voice of ice-making superhero Frozone. They are joined by new cast members Catherine Keener and Bob Odenkirk, who play Evelyn and Winston Deavor, siblings that own a high-tech company.
With Evelyn’s inventions and Winston’s marketing skills, the Deavors plan to bring the superheroes back to crime-fighting prominence after they run into trouble with city leaders for destroying much of downtown while trying to catch the bad guys. Huck Milner steps in to provide the youthful voice of superfast schoolboy Dash. Baby Jack-Jack (voiced by Eli Fucile and Nick Bird) turns out to be gifted with multiple superpowers. The story picks up exactly where the original left off more than a decade ago with the superheroes trying to stop a villain. When they subsequently are sidelined for destroying much of the city in their crime fighting efforts, the Parrs decide one of them has to find a job in the civilian world. They also have to find a new home as their house was destroyed in the mayhem. Helen gets a call to work for the Deavors, who have developed a specialized suit equipped with a body-cam that is intended to restore the crime fighters’ reputation, so she goes off to work while Mr. Incredible is stuck at their new luxury home provided by the Deavors, watching the kids, including the infant Jack-Jack who is beginning to discover his awesome powers.
Back at the helm is Brad Bird, a former “Simpsons” writer, who brought his idea of a superhero family to Pixar nearly two decades ago. Some of the ideas that weren’t used in the original Oscar-winning animated feature are woven into the sequel, including a hilarious sequence involving Jack-Jack and a raccoon. Bird and his cast were on hand at a press conference to talk about the long-awaited sequel.
Q: What was behind the decision to pick up the story right where “The Incredibles” left off 14 years ago?
Bird: I thought it was kind of bold and weird. People think time passes very literally. They think that, linearly, the characters should have aged. But if they age, their superpowers don’t reflect the part of life that they’re in and their role in the family. I worked on the first eight seasons of “The Simpsons,” and (the characters on that show) haven’t aged a day, and they’re still on the air. It worked for them, so why not us?
Q: There’s a role reversal in this movie between Elastigirl and Mr. Incredible, and Violet really steps up in this one. Holly, what was your first thought when you first read the screenplay? What did you think of that role reversal?
Hunter: I didn’t read a screenplay because there wasn’t really one. (Bird’s) the screenplay. He was my walking encyclopedia. He was my instruction manual. It was a while before I truly realized what I was really going to get to do in the movie and I was thrilled, but it was like a retroactive thrill. It was over a period of months before I started gleefully singing during our recording sessions about how great my part was. It was just really fun.
I don’t think that this is a message movie in any way. It’s purely luck of the draw that this happens to be dovetailing with #MeToo and the Times Up movements. Obviously, time is up. I feel that way, personally. It happens to be serendipitously reflected in this particular movie. But, at the same time, it’s character revelation. Period. Everybody is having revelations, including Jack-Jack. All the characters are revelations to the audience and to themselves. I’m no exception as Elastigirl. I feel like with Violet’s adolescent thing, her rage in this movie, there is (that same anger) that I feel from Mr. Incredible and also from Elastigirl, too.
Q: Huck, when did you first see “The Incredibles,” and how did it come about that you got to be part of “Incredibles 2?”
Milner: I saw the first movie when I was five, or something. My dad showed me it because he really loved the first one. I really loved it, too. My favorite character was Dash. I just was watching the movie over and over again. When my mom got sick of watching it, I used the audition as an excuse to watch it again.
Q: How about you, Craig?
Nelson: I’m on board with Huck. (quips) I auditioned and my mom got angry. 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. We argued about it, and then I found out that I’m going to help save the family. Bob is going to learn how to be a dad and he’s going to learn about these kids. The process started when we were recording. It was just so much fun. The stuff I did with Violet, Jack-Jack and Dash and that whole discovery. And then having to deal with Elastigirl out there doing what I want to do and being able to give her the encouragement and letting her know that everything is okay. It was just a lot of fun, and I’m so honored to be a part of it.
Q: Catherine, you provide the voice of Evelyn Deavor. What was that like for you to see the finished product for the first time?
Keener: It was very thrilling and fun. Sarah (Vowell, who voices Violet Parr) and I have been friends for a long time. I’ve known Holly (Hunter a long time). I’m realizing that Brad kind of mined a lot of the inside of these people in the characters. I was just talking to (Craig T. Nelson) about his kids. He’s a big mushy dad (and) granddad. You can see that. I would see any movie where Holly is a badass, regardless of gender. (Nelson has) done roles where he’s played maybe not so likeable guys, but he actually is very sweet and his character has that, too. I just appreciate how insightful (Bird is) are, even though (he’s) incredibly weird, in a way.
Q: What do you say, Bob? What did you think of the finished film and the script?
Odenkirk: It was super fun to see it. I loved it. I’ve been knocked out by the visuals in this film. I had only seen the little moments from it in the course of recording this, so to see it in the big beautiful color on the giant (theater) screen, I knew it was going to be amazing. It’s beyond all expectations. I feel like somehow there’s new technology that you’re not telling us about, because it’s got such richness and depth, and that was a great treat. Like everyone else, I didn’t read the whole script. There is never a whole script that you can read. So (seeing it complete on the big screen) is the first time I got to see the whole story. I’m once again amazed at Brad Bird’s talent as a writer, director and orchestrator of story. There’s like five movies in this movie, and they all work together and make each other better.
Q: When Brad began writing this, your character wasn’t so nice. It changed over the course of the film.
Odenkirk: I loved that he became more genuine. I’m 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 an innocence to him that is a real twist, and surprising. Where it ends up, I won’t say.
Q: Brad, did you know the story you wanted to tell from the outset or did it evolve over time?
Bird: 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. I also knew that I had the unexploded bomb with Jack-Jack’s superpowers, that the audience knew that he had them, but (his family) did not. I had other notions that I just wanted to see an “Incredibles” movie, and some things like the (Jack-Jack vs.) raccoon fight that were originally done for the first movie and there was no place for it (bur) I loved the idea. The villain part always seemed to change.
Everyone had to adjust to it constantly. But I think that we wound up with the right version of this movie. And it wasn’t until about a week ago that I realized—and it was also true of the first movie— “The Incredibles” was the only project that came outside of Pixar and was pitched to Pixar. I had drawings. I had designs. I had an outline of the whole thing. And how it looked and all kinds of artwork that I paid for myself. If they didn’t want to make it, I was going to take it somewhere else. But I came with a villain that was a different villain than we wound up with. 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. And suddenly, this guy is better than the one we had—and that was Syndrome. So, the villain, for some reason, kind of comes last.
Q: Holly, as Elastigirl, you go off on a superhero mission alone, while Mr. Incredible stays home with the kids. What did you like about that?
Hunter: We probably all felt that way about the first one as well—which was that it was a movie that stood on its own. It’s not a kids’ movie. In a way, this one is particularly more not a kids’ movie, although kids totally dig it. It’s like Bob said, the movie has complexity that is really astonishing in that it’s got, like, five different movies and they all work in concert with each other. They all need each other. It’s an incredible fabric that’s been woven together. It’s very sophisticated.
Q: When the first “Incredibles” was released, superheroes were not the dominant force in movies that they are now. How much did that affect the process of developing this movie? Did you feel the need to change anything or adjust anything because of the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and everything else that’s come along with the explosion of superhero movies? Was there anything that you decided not to do?
Bird: (quips) 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 but it’s not cool anymore. We’re not doing it. I realized, two years before the film came out, there are too many superhero movies now. Are people going to be just sick of this in two years? Then I realized that what excited me about the idea in the first place was not the superheroes but the family dynamic, and people’s roles in different parts of their lives and how the superhero genre is like a twisted lemon that you squeeze on top of this. So, I got excited again. Families are kind of a continent of fresh opportunities because it’s so universal.
Q: How did you decide to give Jack-Jack a raccoon antagonist?
Bird: One of our key artists on the first film, Teddy Newton, had this idea back on the original film. He had a gang of raccoons that Jack-Jack kind of confronts. It went a lot darker, believe it or not. They fought and went to the bottom of the pool and all this stuff. But the idea always just killed me because raccoons look vaguely like robbers. And Teddy did a drawing where he’s watching an old movie and he sees a classic robber with a mask, and then he looks out in the yard and sees something stealing from him. He thinks a robber is stealing from his family. It doesn’t matter that it’s garbage. Jack-Jack doesn’t know that. He just knows that he’s being robbed and he must do something about it. I loved that. It was so visual and clear, and 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.
Q: Sam, do you have kids coming up to you wanting you to do your Frozone voice?
Jackson: Kids don’t do that; their parents do. And (the parents) try to make the kid know who you are. “That’s Frozone, honey,” and the kid is looking at you like, “You don’t have a blue suit on. You’re not making ice stuff.” They don’t know who we are from Adam. Now as they got older, like the kids who were four (when they saw the original) and now are 18, they’re going to be knocking little kids over to get in line. My daughter is 35 and she’s knocking big kids over to get in.
Nelson: It’s embarrassing really, because the moms or dads are saying, “Look Billy, there’s Mr. Incredible,” and the kid is just staring at you, thinking you don’t look anything like him.