Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 comes out this week on Blu-ray and DVD. The Sony Animation sequel, which features the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt, and Neil Patrick Harris, was released in September 2013 and went on to gross over $250 million worldwide. In honor of the DVD release, SSN checked in with directors Kris Pearn (pictured left) and Cody Cameron (pictured right) to learn how they created their wild and crazy world of food creatures like tacodiles, shrimpanzees and hippotatomuses.
SSN: With a topic as wide open as food, how did you decide which direction to go for a sequel?
Pearn: On the first film, we had many different endings that we couldn’t use. One of the ones both Cody and I loved was a monster movie ending where this giant food monster rises up out of the water. Very quickly we decided [to] change our genre. Instead of doing a disaster movie, which is what the first movie was, let’s do a monster movie.
SSN: What challenges did you face with a sequel?
Cameron: We grew our ensemble by a few hundred food animals. From the beginning, I wanted to do pickles; Kris was talking about little strawberry Ewoks. So both of us knew we wanted those characters in there. Then rest came from what we needed for the story, certain environments and situations.
Pearn: Also the red and green from the strawberries and pickles create a nice design language in terms of color; the two look good on the screen together.
SSN: So you factor in color when planning characters?
Pearn: Oh, definitely. When we did our watering hole scene, we wanted to have that sense of walking into a Whole Foods produce section where everything looks so colorful. Or when Flint was making [the] decision to break up with Sam, we had them stuck in syrup. What goes with syrup? Breakfast foods. That gave us a monochromatic brown palette. As our plot moved forward, we found the food creatures to support the story.
SSN: How do you convince executives that certain foods make great characters?
Cameron: When Kris and I were thinking about using strawberries and pickles, I went to the supermarket, bought a bunch, went home, and carved out some faces. Then I posed them in my backyard and took pictures so that during our pitch we could give the executives an understanding of what food might look like in a CG world.
SSN: Was there a message you wanted to convey in this film?
Pearn: The first film had issues of consumption. This one is more about who owns the food. We had this saying that we hung on to during the making of the film: ‘Food is people, too.’ It became a resonant theme and we tried to stay true to that.
SSN: How do you know something is going to work or not?
Pearn: We do a lot of testing; we bring kids in; we show it to an audience; we track whether or not people are laughing and engaged. If you’re telling jokes and you’re not getting laughs, either the viewers are not attracted to the characters or your timing is off. There’s a lot of science that goes into the calibration of moments. The only way you really know if something is working is if you put it up in front of an audience.
SSN: What’s the advantage of having a returning cast of voice actors?
Pearn: The great thing about having the cast return is that they have a sense of ownership on their characters, especially Bill Hader. He was great at riffing and helping us make the lines better and more like a Flint Lockwood delivery.
SSN: Terry Crews replaced Mr. T as the voice of Earl. Why?
Pearn: Mr. T was unavailable, but he called Terry and they had a little ceremony of passing the torch. It was all done in a friendly and honorable way.
SSN: What makes the Cloudy franchise distinct from other films?
Cameron: Cloudy is more cartoony in the sense that it’s more graphic and the animation is a little more wild
Pearn: That carries through to the writing, too. The first Cloudy had an audacity to it that people loved. With these films, there’s a sense of silliness that goes around full circle and comes back to smart.