The bad guy almost thwarted the making of "Incredibles 2."
Writer and director Brad Bird had to battle through a major villainy plot crisis before emerging victorious with a formidable baddie for the long-awaited Pixar sequel (opening Friday).
Bird reached a story crisis point in Oct 2016, when the release date for "Incredibles 2" was moved up a year to June 2018.
Behind the scenes, "The superhero villain thing was not working," Bird tells USA TODAY. "When we got moved up a year, it was just like, 'Holy (expletive)! Now I’m in deep.' "
Bird thought he had a killer villain plot when he originally pitched the sequel his 2004 mega-hit "The Incredibles" to Pixar three years ago. The sequel was officially approved for launch with the emergence of Elastigirl as its break-out superhero.
"The villain plot involved A.I. (artificial intelligence). And Pixar liked it. And we went for it. And I got greenlit. We were in motion," says Bird. "But the A.I. thing didn’t work."
"I had to kill those darlings immediately," he adds.
Fortunately, Bird has faced such dastardly road blocks before. He had baddie problems in the original "Incredibles," before making spurned superhero fan Syndrome the film's indelible villain.
"When I came to Pixar with the first film, I had a different villain, too, before Syndrome," says Bird. "So this (sequel) situation kind of mimicked the first film. The villain that I started with is not the villain I wound up with."
Ultimately, Bird and his team rallied around The Screenslaver villain in "Incredibles 2," a shadowy, goggled figure who manipulates screens to hypnotize minds.
Thought its certainly a topical subject for a society obsessed with TVs, computers and mobile devices, Bird insists there is no strong social message intended with Screenslaver.
"We can make this movie sound heavy, but it’s meant to be had with a giant popcorn," he says.
As for the discarded A.I. idea, he's keeping that top secret. "It’s a plot that may get reformulated in some other film," says Bird.