For director Brad Bird, the last 15 years have been ... incredibles.
The director won his first Oscar for Best Animated Feature for 2004′s “The Incredibles.” Now, a decade and a half later, the sequel, “Incredibles 2,” is nominated for the same award.
Following the announcement on Tuesday, Bird jumped on the phone with HuffPost to talk about the nomination, confirm and debunk various theories about the “Incredibles” that have popped up over the years, and even discuss the hordes of fans who have been thirsting over Mr. and Mrs. Incredible.
Brad, congratulations. How’d you hear the news? How did you celebrate?
I haven’t celebrated yet beyond kind of clinking lattes with my wife. But I got woken up. My wife gently but nicely woke me up. I was gratified, as one would be. It’s just a wonderful thing to have the film well-received in one more way.
Having already won this award, what advice would you give to your past self or anyone doing this for the first time?
My advice to my former self is don’t be thrown by the very large, distracting monitor that’s directly in your eye line [during acceptance speeches]. There’s already pressure to be short and thank as many people as you can before being yanked off stage, but also they ask you at the Academy to make it memorable. So you’re trying to think of all these things and then in the middle of it they have this giant, really super-bright monitor saying “wrap it up,” and a guy standing up in front of it waving back and forth. That never fails to distract me.
So I would say, anyone lucky enough to win, don’t let the giant monitor distract you.
There were 14 years between the “Incredibles” movies. How did that change the story?
The core of the story, the most important part to me, I had pretty early. I had it when we were publicizing the first film, which was the role switch between Bob Parr and Helen Parr. I also knew that the audience knew Jack-Jack had multiple powers, but the Incredibles did not, so I had those two things.
For a long time, the thing that threw me was the villain story. I was trying to find a villain story that was intriguing in itself, especially in these over superhero-ed times. But also a villain story that would play well with the role switch and Jack-Jack. I pitched an idea that got green-lit, but it wasn’t too many months before I discovered that idea didn’t work. It was a valid idea that involved artificial intelligence, but it didn’t play well with the core story, which was the role switch and Jack-Jack becoming a major character. So we ended up changing that aspect of the story several times during the film.
The villain we ended up with wasn’t the villain that we started with, which was also true of the original “Incredibles.” I had conceived the project outside of Pixar and brought it to Pixar, but the only element that really changed in the story was the villain; we discovered the villain along the way. I was doing an opening sequence where a villain had to be killed, and I created a villain everyone liked more than the villain we had, including me. Syndrome was not the original villain.
So can you talk about the original villains?
I don’t want to talk about it too much because I might figure out a way to make it work in another film. When you cut ideas ... ideas discarded from one film can be perfect for another film, so I try not to say too many ideas because they might be useful down the pike.
In all the years between sequels, there have been a number of fan theories and questions about the “Incredibles” story. Do you ever look at any of that?
No, I think that it’s a trap to look at any of that kind of stuff because you either find yourself moving toward an idea or away because someone else has done it. Really, you should just be in a space where you’re just thinking about what excites you, so I try not to look at any of that stuff.
OK, well, I do look at theories. I’d love to get your take on some if you’re up for it.
Theory 1: Did listening to Mozart unlock Jack-Jack’s powers?
Well, yeah, I mean when we were doing that thing, it connected to the first film, where Kari mentions Mozart and then it’s reiterated in a little short we did on the first film, “Jack-Jack Attack.” It’s a sort of true but useful cliche that classical music is stimulating to babies. They even say within the womb, it’s stimulating. It’s tonal, and music involves some of the same thinking that math does because it’s a time-based thing. So it was a useful thing for the babysitter to hook onto.
When it came time to have it begin in this film, it just seemed like it would be a useful thing. But we have him stimulated by the old movie on TV and other things, too. We wanted to be consistent with our own universe, but we wanted to have fun with it.
Theory 2: Did Edna make Syndrome’s super suit with a cape, knowing it would be his demise?
No. I would say a very firm no on that one. To me, it was consistent with Syndrome being flamboyant and wanting to play a role rather than actually be a hero. He’s basically all about the flourish and not actually the do-gooding and problem solving that a superhero is concerned with. He’s more interested in looking like a superhero than being a superhero.
And he makes a lot of his own stuff, too.
Yes, he does, and that was a little bit of hubris that would end up doing him in. It’s one in a series of things that kind of become fatal flaws.
Theory 3: The Incredibles are living in Syndrome’s old house in “Incredibles 2.”
No, that’s interesting. That’s the first time I heard of that. That’s an interesting thought, but we didn’t think of that.
Theory 4: Lastly, I know you’ve been asked about Pizza Planet possibly not appearing in the first movie before, even though it’s in basically every other Pixar film. Is it possible that happens because Pizza Planet isn’t around in the ’60s yet?
You know what, I will just respectfully say that when we create Easter eggs, everyone wants us to tell people where they are. But that defeats the whole purpose of an Easter egg. So I will respectfully stay mum. We put them in there. They’re sort of delightful and fun to find.
So in the years since the “Incredibles,” there has been a lot of fan fiction about Mr. and Mrs. Incredible. People have been thirsty for them. Were you aware of that?
I would say again, I’m not aware of the fan fiction. I don’t go there, not only for our films but anybody’s films. I think it’s a great thing that people are doing it because it’s a way to have fun and it’s flattering that people like the characters enough to continue to think about them ... Over the years, I’ve heard people say, “Is there going to be another ‘Incredibles’ film?” I certainly didn’t intend for 14 years to go by. I worked on other films and was thinking about another “Incredibles” film, but I was, moment by moment, engaged in other stuff. I was worried it might be too late, that too much time has gone by. To have everybody really be there and be excited about it when we finished this film was really wonderful.
I know producer Nicole Grindle has talked about this a bit, but Mrs. Incredible has become sort of sexualized by fans and has even been looked at as a body-positive figure. What are your thoughts on all that?
I’ve talked with [Nicole Grindle] and I’ve talked with a lot of other female crew members on the original film ― more on the original film because that’s when the design came into question. I’m glad it’s being talked about as body-positive. It’s to suggest what happens to your body when you get a little older, the weight gets distributed a little more differently, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a thing that is real.
When I first pitched the project, I had the gag of her sneaking into a secret base but then suddenly looking at her reflection and going, Ugh. This costume fits a little different than it used to. But it wasn’t meant to be a negative thing. It was meant to be ... I think women are critical of themselves. I think that it’s silly. I think there are beautiful women of all ages. There are many ways to be attractive, and if the film deviates from the standard-issue body, I think that that’s great. We had Mirage, too, who was pencil-thin, who was presented as another female ideal. Then we have E, who is very tiny. They’re all different from each other, and I think they’re all interesting in their own ways.