Pixar has a special way of making movies. When an idea is initially presented, the animators don’t just go straight to work bringing it to life. Instead, there is a key collaborative build-up-then-break-down methodology employed, and it winds up seeing projects shape multiple plots over time. The upcoming Incredibles 2 is no exception, and I recently learned from writer/director Brad Bird that there some very different story ideas explored:
The idea that I got greenlit, like, ‘Okay, ready to go,’ we didn’t end up using. It involved A.I. and all kinds of stuff. And then there was another idea that had more of a show-business bent to it that really had a lot of great ideas in it, but it wasn’t enough stress on the family to make it so that it was… it made them shallow. And so we wound up with the story we wound up with, which had little bits of the other stories, but it just kind of went its own way.
In the Incredibles 2, Helen Parr a.k.a. Elastigirl winds up facing off against a new hypnotic supervillain who goes by the name Screenslaver — but that wasn’t always going to be the case. As I learned from sitting down with Brad Bird and producer John Walker last week during the film’s Los Angeles press day, there were a few plots that were presented and then passed over, including one involving the use of artificial intelligence, and another that saw the Parr family bit by the showbiz bug.
On paper those ideas certainly sound super cool, but as Brad Bird pointed out, the problem was a matter of stakes. The consensus was apparently that the protagonists simply weren’t being hit hard enough to develop proper drama. In fact, according to John Walker, it was Pixar director Andrew Stanton who wound up being very influential in this regard. Said the filmmaker,
There was a pivotal screening, maybe a year and a half in, a collection of scenes, but the big note from it was, and I think this was Andrew Stanton’s, in order to get Helen out on the mission, stakes have to be higher. There has to be a reason; there has to be a really strong reason for her to do that. And that was like, ‘Mmhmm, yup. That’s right.’ Responding to that was what pulled the movie into where it is now.
Reflecting on the first Incredibles, it’s really an important point to make — especially given the fact that Brad Bird had the mom-dad role reversal as a part of Incredibles 2 from the beginning. In that first film Helen Parr was adamant about not breaking the law and keeping her supersuit in her closet. To have her be super excited to dive back in action and fight crime would have betrayed her character on a certain level. In response to this, the sequel gives her a real reason to be out there, as a poster figure for the removal of the anti-superhero law, and it’s all the better for it.
In the discussion of the subject, Brad Bird also ruminated on a funny connection that exists between The Incredibles and Incredibles 2 (beyond all the obvious ones). Much like how Screenslaver was a late addition to the sequel, the first movie apparently had a totally different antagonist in mind, and it was, again, through the collaboration with Pixar that the film wound up improving. Said Bird,
I realized just recently, like last week, that it was kind of like the first movie, because The Incredibles was the only movie that was formed outside of Pixar, and then brought to Pixar. Like, ‘You guys wanna make this?’ And I came to them with a different villain on the first movie. When we did an alternate opening that we ended up not using, we got a new villain out of it that we all preferred to the one that I came to Pixar with. So Syndrome and Buddy Pine was actually a late arrival to the original movie, and that was what happened with this one with Screenslaver.
You can watch Brad Bird and John Walker discuss the alternate Incredibles 2 plots by clicking play on the video below!
Fans will never get to see the versions of Incredibles 2 featuring artificial intelligence and the Parrs going Hollywood — but the good news is that the end result is still fantastic. Audiences will be able to see it for themselves this weekend, and be sure to stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more from my interviews with the cast and filmmakers!