Den of Geek had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to visit the campus of Pixar Animation in Emeryville, California, where director Brad Bird and the company’s vast team of animators, visual effects craftspeople and other artists are in the homestretch of completing the long-awaited The Incredibles 2.
With five weeks to go before the film’s premiere, work was still being done and visuals still being completed, but the group of reporters we were part of had a chance to see some 35 minutes or so of footage, including the first 22 minutes of the movie, which picks up right where The Incredibles left off in 2004. “I thought about aging everybody the way that everybody does, and then I thought, ‘No, that sucks,’” joked Bird at a press conference on the second day of our visit. “So that’s about deep as it went.”
In actuality, Bird said that the reason to keep the characters at the same point in time had to do with their family dynamic at the ages they were at in 2004, as well as the revelation at the end of the first film that Jack-Jack was exhibiting superpowers of his own. “That idea changes if you age the characters up,” said Bird. “And the insight into that particular period of your life and the perspective disappears once you age them up. I’m not interested in a college-age Jack-Jack. I’m just not.”
The footage opened with the family battling the Underminer (John Ratzenberger), who showed up right at the end of The Incredibles, and in addition to being a fast-paced, thrilling action sequence, those first 20 minutes established two other things very quickly: as good as Pixar’s work was in 2004, the company has sailed an ocean of progress in terms of the level of detail, color, movement and sheer visual power that it can deliver.
The second thing is that the dynamic between Bob (Craig T. Nelson), Helen (Holly Hunter), Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (now voiced by Huck Milner) and Jack-Jack is right where it was when we last saw them, as the Parr family bickers its way through its massive battle in the streets of Municiberg (also realized in far more depth than before) against the Underminer.
The footage also re-introduced fellow superhero Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), Tony Rydinger (Michael Bird), Violet’s secret crush, and government agent Rick Dicker (now voiced by Jonathan Banks following the passing of Bud Luckey). Even though the Parrs successfully fought off Syndrome at the end of The Incredibles, superheroes are still illegal as the new movie begins and it’s a shock to everyone involved to see the Incredibles back in action.
We don’t want to reveal too much here, but the Incredibles can’t manage to catch the Underminer even as they foil his plan, so things don’t end up in a particularly good place for anyone — including the Parrs, Tony and Rick Dicker. The Parrs, in fact, are lodged covertly in a cheap motel, crammed into one room with no good prospect on the horizon and the superhero relocation program shut down, when Frozone comes calling with a possible answer to the Parrs’ problems.
There’s a brother and sister team named Winston and Evelyn Deavor (Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener) who have a plan to bring superheroes back into the good graces of the public. The siblings — who are extremely wealthy and own a company called Devtech — have their own history with superheroes that provides the motivation for this.
But they don’t want to bring them back all at once, they want to start with Elastigirl — which is why Helen heads out on missions while Bob stays home and minds the kids, including Jack-Jack, whose development is still unknown to the family. The Deavors want to put a camera on Elastigirl so that the public can see her in action at all times, even later when they’re not running scared from whatever havoc is breaking out in Municiberg.
That led into the second major action sequence we were shown (after the Parrs were given a spanking new high-tech mansion to live in), in which Elastigirl stops a runaway high-speed train while jetting after it on a souped-up motorcycle she used to ride in the old days. The focus of attention on Elastigirl rankles Bob obviously, and it seems as if the story will set up some tension between husband and wife that could prove dangerous for them later on.
Our group managed to see a bit more footage which we’ll discuss at a later date. During the course of the two days, we also got a look behind the curtain of the making of various components of The Incredibles 2, including production designer Ralph Eggleston and others leading us through the design and planning of Municiberg, a breakdown of Elastigirl’s motorcycle sequence, how the costumes were created (yes, animated characters now get costumes that are created separately from them, not just “drawn” as part of the character) and more.
There is still a lot we don’t know about the movie, including plot points hinted at in the footage we saw but left purposely ambiguous for the assembled press, but this early look has us thinking that this superhero sequel will be worth the 14-year wait.
Stay tuned for more. The Incredibles 2 is out in theaters June 15.