Incredibles 2 is coming out 14 years after the original, yet the sequel picks up the story exactly where the original left off, with a villain known as The Underminer bursting through the ground and forcing the family into action. That makes this movie unique in the contemporary world of long-awaited follow-ups, and Incredibles 2 director Brad Bird explained exactly why in a recent press conference held at Pixar Studios in Emeryville, California.
“I thought about aging everybody the way everybody does, and then I thought, ‘No, that sucks,'” Bird said. “So that’s about as deep as it went.”
When the X-Files returned to Fox after a decade and a half off the air, 14 years had passed in Mulder and Scully’s world. When we caught up with Han Solo and General Leia in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, decades had gone by. They’d had a kid, gotten old, and grown apart. Bird didn’t want to make any similar concessions for Incredibles 2–he wanted to spend more time with these characters as they were when we left them. And thanks to The Incredibles being animated, that was possible, although they had to replace a few voice actors.
That desire to revisit these characters just as they were stems from the way he originally conceived of the first Incredibles movie, Bird said.
“When I first had the idea, I went to a comic book shop and thought, ‘I’ve got to think up new powers.’ And after about a half an hour and the comic book shop, I realized every power has been done by somebody, somewhere,” Bird described. “Right after that little epiphany, I realized that I’m not very interested in the powers. That’s not the part that interests me. What interests me is the idea of having a family and having there be a reason to hide the powers.”
If they were to jump 14 years in the future–the original Incredibles came out in 2004–Dash would have graduated from college and Violet would be around 30 years old. Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl would be going grey. Even if they didn’t stretch the gap for the full 14 years–if, say, they put Violet in college and Dash in high school–Bird said he wouldn’t be interested.
Besides, it would ruin their whole concept for Jack-Jack, the youngest member of the Incredible family. Bird said he gave each family member powers based on their stereotypical role in the traditional, nuclear family; “Men are always expected to be strong, so I had Bob have super strength,” he said. “Women, or mothers, are always pulled in a million different directions, so I had her be elastic. Teenagers are insecure and defensive so I had Violet have force fields and invisibility. Ten year olds are energy balls that can’t be stopped. And babies are unknowns; maybe they have no powers, maybe they have all powers.”
The reveal at the end of the first movie that Jack-Jack is a “Swiss Army knife” of superpowers reminded Bird of the idea that babies can grasp multiple languages more easily than adults, and aging Jack-Jack would ruin that.
“That idea changes if you age the characters up,” the director said. “And the insight into those periods of your life and those particular perspectives disappear once you age them up.”
“I’m not interested in a college age Jack-Jack. I’m just not,” he continued. “It stays more iconic if everyone kind of situates themselves.”
Plenty of animated shows and features have chosen this route, as Bird pointed out. “I also was on the first eight seasons of the Simpsons, and that’s worked out rather well for them, so I’ll stick with that,” he said.
When Incredibles 2 hits theaters on June 15, audiences will get to see exactly what happens after The Underminer bursts through the ground to attack the city of Metroville. Given how directly the story will continue in this sequel, it’s safe to assume the Incredibles will rise to meet him.