When Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs came out, it almost instantly became one of those feel-good animated features that you looked forward to watching – even as an adult. It had something to offer that audiences of all ages could appreciate, and the puns were admittedly one of the best parts.
Four years later, we get to see what happened to the Flint Lockwood, Sam Sparks, and the rest of our favorite characters in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, brought to you from the minds of Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn. And let me tell you, you won’t be disappointed.
Sony Pictures was nice enough to invite us to an early look at the film in Los Angeles last week at the Sony Animation Studio, and it was a day I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. We were treated to quite a few of the finished scenes, along with commentary from the directors.
After the footage screening, we were lucky enough to sit down for a roundtable interview with Pearn and Cameron and hear their thoughts on the entire creative process, from conception through to the almost finished product.
Check out the interview with Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn – directors of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 – below. Keep in mind that there are some answers that point to specific scenes in the film, but I wouldn’t exactly call anything here a spoiler.
What kind of research did you have to do for the foodimals?
Kris Pearn: Lots of eating to figure out which one tasted the best. We started with the same premise as we did in the first movie that no matter what the food was doing, it was delicious. So the idea in this film was that it had to look good, it had to be really tasty. When we were trying to figure out what kind of monsters and creatures we wanted in our world, we also wanted food that looked good. The iconic foods are more design friendly, so we had to have a hamburger and a pizza in there – all the kind of big food creatures like the shrimpanzees, they get this nice color. All of that kinda goes into our design language.
Cody Cameron: And also locations. We have a pancake box, we have misquitoast, stacks of pancakes and syrup swamp. Sometime the environment would dictate that we would need a certain type of animal so we might design an animal for that, like the lily pad of butter.
Kris Pearn: We had like 200 foodimals so we had a big choice library that we could pick from. Some of them just didn’t necessarily look good – like we had an octopudding which looked good in theory, but didn’t look like much in CG.
Have you guys had moments where you’re sitting in a board room and you’re talking very seriously, and you’ll say the word sprimpanzee totally seriously?
Kris Pearn: We once had a knock-out, drag-out argument about whether it should be a shrimpanzee or a gorilla-cheese sandwich, and it got heated.
Cody Cameron: Our designer, Justin Thompson, thought it was weird because shrimp is already a meat and a chimpanzee as a shrimp didn’t make much sense, so his head was exploding. I think he relaxed when he realized we had the su-sheep which is also shrimp and rice, and was like ‘I’m worrying too much about it.’
Was there one food that your team just looked at and couldn’t come up with anything?
Cody Cameron: We always bring up the Spam-whale. I think for trademark problems. It was a can that had a spam logo on the side, and it had a whale’s tail.
Kris Pearn: We had a lot of debate about whether those sandwiches should have been in water because bread gets soggy, but we ended up going with it. They don’t move anyway.
Cody Cameron: Yeah, we had a couple of subway sandwiches that kinda break the water.
Kris Pearn: Because they’re submarines.
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Did you test any of these out on little kids?
Kris Pearn: Some of them actually came from kids. Whenever we would bring kids in here they would do foodimal drawings.
Cody Cameron: Did the Jellybees come from kids?
Kris Pearn: My kid came up with Jellybees. And then, one of our art directors kid’s had centipeas and we had llamabeans. Not all of them made it in the movie. But certainly, there’s a level of pun that is really achievable to five year-olds that I think it becomes interactive.
Cody Cameron: I think Lewis Carroll, I don’t know if he coined the term, but a portmanteau – where you take two words and combine them to make one word. A lot of these food-animal puns kinda come easily if you think about it. You’ve got a watermelon and an elephant, and you’ve got a watermelephant. And you think about, well it’s got a big body and it’s got a big trunk, so it could be the line. Stuff starts to fall in place in kinda a weird way.
Kris Pearn: I think that’s sorta where we started. We started with basically this movie as an extension of the first film. The first film was really a disaster film, so the characters were worried about what was going to hit them on the head and what was going to fall from the sky. We knew in this film we wanted to make it about monsters, what’s hiding in the shadows. As we began our story process, we organically knew we wanted to have these food creatures, so very quickly we started to make ourselves laugh with the puns. That kinda became the natural evolution just in our story room as we started bouncing ideas around.
Changing the subject a little, the guru guy – who did you base him off of?
Kris Pearn: Quite a few people. There’s definitely Richard Branson, skydiving with girls and all that kinda adventure stuff that he does. Definitely a bit of Steve Jobs and sorta his silhouette.
Cody Cameron: And also the technology. Lots of people on devices, and texting. And caffeine.
Kris Pearn: There’s a little bit of Richard Attenborough from Jurassic Park. That’s where the white beard came from. It’s sorta that idea that there’s these eccentric blue jean billionaires that like Walt Disney. He had a show on TV in the 80s. Carl Sagan is another one that we referenced, for anyone that grew up in the 80s and remembers The Cosmos.
We were kinda flirting with that world, kind of universal, eccentric people. That was an extension, once again, another idea that was in the first film that dropped out. We had Flint with his wall of achievement, and for a long time in the story he had a character named Vance LeFlour who he was trying to meet, and the whole movie was about him trying to meet this guy. We realized that as we went through the course of the first film that we didn’t have room for that storyline, so when we came back to do this one we liked the idea of graduating Flint and taking him into high school. The idea that he’s going to move on to a new social situation where he’s not the weirdo necessarily and how does that effect him. It gave us a lot of energy and just a great evolution for his character. Chester became that mentor.
Cody Cameron: I think that’s where the ‘V’ comes in with Chester V, for Vance LeFlour. A little remnant.
Do you continue to explore the relationship between Flint and his father?
Kris Pearn: Yes. At the end of the first film, Tim started to communicate with his son. So the idea here is that we’re taking Flint into emotional adolescence, so his dad is able to talk to him and he hugs him all the time, and now Flint’s kinda getting annoyed by his dad. They’re living in a one-bedroom apartment in San Franjose and he’s like ‘dad, you’re old, you can’t do things.’ He’s got that sorta teenager need to push away from his dad. When they get to the island, one of the big concepts of the island is that it’s like Flint’s head is cracked open and his creativity has spilled out everywhere. When Tim starts to bond with these pickles, it’s almost like a grandfather, grandson relationship. Tim almost needs Flint more in this movie than Flint needed his dad in the first one, and he goes through that arc.
Cody Cameron: And where Flint doesn’t like to fish, these pickles love sardines, and they love fishing, and it’s like it skipped a generation.
Kris Pearn: The other funny thing we do, that made Tim really happy, is they’re kinda like non-verbal little gurglers. The less they talk, the more Tim would talk. So we actually got to the point where he was singing songs to these pickles. That was like the natural evolution for Tim. This guy who doesn’t say anything is around people that don’t talk, he’s talking all the time. It gave us some place to go for him. Tim’s got a really fun story for this movie.
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What I really like about this is that yes it’s fun, and it’s colorful, and it’s funny, but you guys are really making commentaries here. You mentioned Google headquarters and the constant over-caffeination to keep us going, will adults be crazy to sit and watch this movie with their kids and be like ‘that’s actually a great observation?’
Kris Pearn: We always try to walk the line. Certainly the first film had some social commentary in there, that bigger isn’t always better. We didn’t want to get preachy about it, because food politics is a touchy thing, but certainly they are asking the question ‘who owns food?’ in this film, in a very quiet way. It’s not like we’re trying to make it the headline, but there’s definitely the sense of once again, is bigger better? And, who owns creativity and how do you remain yourself and become part of a bigger system? Those are some of the questions that we’re asking, but we’re trying to keep it to a respectful place where is sorta sits under the film instead of becoming the message.
Was it easy to get all of the cast back on board, and how did you find the new people?
Cody Cameron: The new people were great. The only person who declined to return was Mr. T, and Terry Crews came in loving the first film. He and his kids went and saw the film at the premiere. His kids even said, ‘don’t mess it up,’ once they found out he was going to be Earl.
Kris Pearn: He got a phone call from Mr. T passing the torch. There was like a big ceremony, it was awesome [laughs].
Cody Cameron: And then, Will Forte was in the first film as Joe Towne.
Kris Pearn: He’s one of our favorite actors so we wanted to give him a bigger part. The idea of him being that kind of Jobsian, Bransonite.
Cody Cameron: And Kristen’s [Schaal] character fit right in to, she came to play.
When you’re casting initially these roles for voice actors, there’s kind of a little bit of a debate right now where big name actors are just put into films because it’s a big name and it’s a draw for the film. How do you go about finding big name actors who are also really talented voice actors?
Cody Cameron: Well, we go for comedians first. That was the big thing. We look for people who are funny and then hopefully they were great actors at the same time. With Will and Kristen, they are both funny and good actors. And they all come from that, they’re not all from SNL, but Kristen was on Flight of the Concords, and there’s that thing that comes from being on TV and sometimes improvised bits.
Kris Pearn: We like that energy. Certainly, we benefited from having the cast that was chosen for the first film.
There’s a bit of Jurassic Park in there, a little bit of King Kong. What else did you put in there?
Cody Cameron: A little bit of Lost World.
Kris Pearn: Some Goonies. We were always fairly careful in the first film to parody in a way that we weren’t directly pointing at the movie. So we kinda try to do the same thing here. There’s a couple of them that get a little close to being a direct parody, but if it makes people laugh.
The place seems very tropical, what did you base it off of?
Cody Cameron: It’s already an island, a fishing island, and what we wanted to do was when the machine lands back on the island it hits the water and starts to grow. We thought it’d be fun if what if all this plant life grew from basically the machine, like a seed, in something we called technoganic – where it’s like techno and organic – so even all the vines have little bits of electricity running through them.
And all these vines that are connected to the machine, birth out the food – so we thought, what if you went back to your town and it was completely overgrown and how Flint, almost like a Jack in the Beanstalk, when those houses gets crushed, what happens when the whole world is kinda flipped upside down? And then, to have this giant garden with these food creatures running around. It just seemed like it’d be a fun thing to do.
Kris Pearn: We brought back our same production designer that we had in the first one, Justin Thompson, and the idea that this is like Flint’s creativity – the meta idea that the island represents his creativity – sorta carries through a lot of our shape language. If you remember Flint’s lab, and all of those Tron lines, everything we designed was very colorful. And the lab is also a mood ring, so where Flint was, the lab would sorta respond color-wise.
So we wanted to take the Governor off of our island and see as Flint’s going through his emotional journey, it’s almost like the island is responding, so as we go into different parts of the emotional story, we have landscapes that sorts reflect that. Certainly we start off in a jungle that’s fairly jungle-y, and as we go off deeper into the film toward the center, it starts to become more abstract. And that was just a creative choice not to be limited by green jungle. We have a creative world, and it is Flint’s world, so we wanted it to reflect his personality.
Cody Cameron: In fact, most of time we stayed away from green and we tried to pick specific colors that were like reds, blues, purples, and really the only green comes in toward the middle. It’s the vines that come from the machine.
Kris Pearn: You’ll notice the Tron-line motif.
A big thank you to Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn for all their enthusiasm! Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 comes out in theaters on September 27! Be sure to check it out.Previous