He is a absentminded college professor and a small-time worker in his own basement, bent on creating a great invention and helping Medfield College. Unfortunately he always failed to invent something, but he is so obsessed about it that he even puts off his own wedding to his fiancé (Betsy Carlisle in the original film, Sara Reynolds in the remake). One day, he finally invents something that works; this substance can cause even the heaviest things to bounce in the air, 'flying rubber', but Brainard called it "Flubber". However, he finds his fiancé has begun seeing another professor and criminals seek to exploit his new discovery. So, Brainard has to find out a way to defeat the criminals and to get back his fiancé.
In the original films, Ned Brainard is a chemist first and foremost. Besides his strained relationship with his fiancé Betsy Carlisle, Ned has a dog named Charlie and a maid, Mrs. Chatsworth, who attempts to shift his focus back to his relationship with Betsy before he loses her. He has trouble explaining himself and his discoveries and easily loses track of time, which strains his attempts to reconcile with Betsy and prove his creation of Flubber will help Medfield.
In the 1997 film, Philip has a more varied skillset, creating robotic aids like Weebo and various Rube Goldberg-style devices throughout his home. His work trying to create something like Flubber is the culmination of two years of research. Philip is also shown to be somewhat clumsy as well as forgetful, as revealed when Dr. Sara talks about the two cases prior to the movie in which Philip failed to show up for his own wedding.
Ned Brainard's chemical research into creating a gravity defying substance results in him missing his wedding to Betsy Carlisle a third time. He also puts Medfield College under financial pressure from villainous banker Alonzo Hawk after giving his son a failing grade and thus denying him his position on the school's sports teams. He sees Flubber as a solution to help save the school and mend his relationship with Betsy. He experiments with turning his Model T into a flying car with a Flubberized engine and helps Medfield's basketball team turn the tide with bouncing shoes, though Betsy sees him as taking undeserved credit for the win.
When Alonzo Hawk sees the flying car one night, he schemes to take Flubber and profit off of it. Ned instead goes to try and sell the Flubber concept to the government, but Hawk manages to discredit him by switching his car with a lookalike when officials come to meet him. After this humiliation, he reconciles with Betsy and they devise a plan to find the car. They trick Hawk by trying to sell him the idea of Flubberized shoes and testing them out by jumping out a window, trapping him in a cycle of bouncing. They take the car back from his warehouse and after a brief car chase with Hawk and his men, they fly off to Washington, D.C. to present the flying car in person. Ned gets a government grant and he and Betsy finally marry.
Son of Flubber focuses on Ned's continued efforts to help Medfield's financial woes through finding new applications and buyers for Flubber, though he runs into dead-ends with the Pentagon declaring it remain top-secret when trying to sell to the Department of Defense. He ends up creating a weather-altering "Flubbergas", the titular Son of Flubber, but it has an unfortunate side-effect of shattering glass, which crooked insurance man Alonzo Hawk hopes to exploit to shut down the school.
The Absent Minded Professor (1988 TV Movie)
In this soft reboot, Professor Henry Crawford discovers Brainard's lost research and his Flubber-enhanced Model T and uses it to re-create Flubber.
As a tribute to the classic films, a minor supporting character in the film is named Dr. Brainard. A friend to Wayne Szalinski, he is supportive of his theories of shrinking after Professor Frederickson leaves Szalinski's presentation at the conference.
Phillip Brainard is first seen waking up one morning and going to work at Medfield College as he develops a new energy source in order to raise enough money to save the college from being closed. He gets distracted from his research by his love interest and fiancee, Dr. Sara Jean Reynolds, due to the fact that he has missed the last two weddings. On the day of the third wedding, Phillip gets approached by his former partner, Wilson Croft, who has profited from the ideas and threatens to steal Sara from Phillip and make her his wife. Phillip skips the third wedding and does his latest experiment along with his hovering mechanical partner, Weebo, as he discovers a green goo-like thing, but it escapes, causing havoc, but Phillip eventually catches it and decides to call it Flubber.
The next day, Phillip realizes that he has missed the third wedding and Sara becomes really upset at him and also tells him that their relationship is over after Phillip fails to explain what happened. That night, Phillip begins more tests with the Flubber experiment, as Chester Hoenicker's henchmen Brown and Wesson try to steal Flubber, but are knocked out by the golf ball and the bowling ball coated in Flubber gel and are bounced by the Flubber liquid. Phillip then tests his vintage Ford Thunderbird convertible with the Flubber plutonium in the engine, allowing it to fly. While testing his car with Flubber, he discovers that Wilson is beginning a relationship with Sara. After testing Flubber on one of the basketball players, Weebo goes to Sara's house and shows Sara the footage about Phillip.
Sara reconciles with Phillip and Phillip demonstrates Flubber to Sara in order to raise enough money to save the college. Phillip and Sara discover that Weebo has been destroyed by one of Hoenicker's goons and Flubber is kidnapped. Phillip and Sara had to get revenge on Hoenicker as they try to rescue Flubber when they realize that Wilson is allied with the millionaire. Phillip and Sara had to fight Hoenicker, Wilson and his goons and they are able to defeat them by using the Flubber liquid on the bottom of their shoes and get Flubber as they raise enough money to save the college. Phillip and Sara are now married and Flubber becomes their son and the daughter of Weebo and her replacement, Weebette becomes their daughter as the family go to Hawaii in Phillip's car at the end of the film.
The Philip Brainard incarnation of the character is referenced throughout the queue of Journey Into Imagination With Figment with a poster showing the Imagination Institute has given him an Inventor of the Year Award for Flubber as well as giving him an office, where shadows of Flubber can be seen dancing through the window.
As a reference to this, Disney Kingdoms: Figment 2: Legacy of Imagination references Brainard as visiting the Academy Scientifica-Lucida from Medfield College.