There’s a considerable amount of risk that automatically comes with creating a sequel to a hit movie, an animated one to boot. “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2″ is one of those special animated films that captured the hearts of kids and adults alike with very little effort and easily is one of the best animated movies to come out within the past five years. So when it was announced that they would be making a sequel, most of the voice cast returned but not the directors. At this point they’ve moved onto another point in their career as their star continues to soar. So who could fill their shoes? None other than a pair of guys who worked on the first movie, Cody Cameron and Kris Pearns.
The two directors have had their hand in the animation scene for awhile. Cody Cameron had directed a couple of straight-to-DVD animated features but both have worked as story artists for years. They know what makes animated films function, and this time they were lucky enough to direct a widely popular movie that would be giving them all sorts of wonderful exposure. We were happy enough to speak with the two directors as the press conference about tackling this sequel, creating some adorable foodimals and what we should be expecting out of this movie’s new villain.
How did you avoid “sequel-itis” and the compelling need to go bigger to give the movie its own identity since some audiences may not have seen the first movie?
Cody Cameron: The first one, working with Chris [Miller] and Phil [Lord], we wanted to continue it with this one, so it really was about hopefully continuing the story.
Kris Pearn: You spend so much time in the story process that you just live in the world and you eat it up; it’s spaghetti on the wall – to use a metaphor – that’s what the first movie was. We just kept throwing ideas on the wall and what seemed to play the best stuck. We kind of had the same approach here. There was very little calculation in terms of, “this has to be better!” We just went in and started playing with the characters and the what if, and then just organically create the movie. We screen a lot and we’re always looking for the audience response to see how we’re doing in terms of the pacing and whether the story is clear, so it was the same sort of process. At the end of the day, you don’t know what you have until you put it out there, and we’ll know in three weeks.
Kris Pearn: Artistically, certainly our production designer and the art crew, there was a sense we could take the governor off the world because the idea was Flint’s head had split open and spilled all over the island…
Kris Pearn: Metaphorically.
Why isn’t Tomato an animal, it’s just a tomato?
Cody Cameron: On the food animal thing, we do have three different classes of animals. There’s little tribesmen, which are various pickles, tomatoes, they are what they are walking around. And then there’s the food animal hybrids like hippotatomus, then we have kind of fast-food monsters like the cheesespider and the tacodile.
Kris Pearn: When they went off to design the food creatures, he did a hundred and sixty of them in a weekend. Some of them got painted up and we had a board of all these food creatures. My kids were in the office and they were like “What’s that one dad?” Then I said “That’s just a tomato” and they got really disappointed. I thought that’s kind of funny.
How did you decide what the antagonist and villain would be in the piece? How did that work out in getting Will Forte?
Kris Pearns: There was an idea that they had in the first film where Flint ended up going to meet one of his heroes. We didn’t have room for it in terms of that story arc, so when we started breaking this idea, we looked at that as being a place to start in terms of graduating Flint into the idea that Flint would leave the island. That he was the only guy in a lab coat that would end up in a place where everybody had lab coats. One of the heroes that he had up on his wall would be something that he would be aiming for in terms of a character goal. So when we looked at the archetype of the blue-jean billionaire, sort of the self-made Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Carl Sagan. The whole development of Chester as a character came very organically. Then we hired Will Forte. He came in the work shop for about four sessions.
How much of the movie was intended to address these social issues of the world changing, things of that nature?
Kris Pearns: We live in the world and we’re always responding to what we’re kind of experiencing. It certainly was never our agenda to make a political movie with that at the forefront so … but when you’re dealing with an issue like food you have to respond to what’s going on in the world as lightly as we could touch it we had some of those… I mean, it was mostly about poop jokes.
What animals didn’t make it into the movie?
Kris Pearn: There was a Spam Whale, which was a can of Spam with a tail.
Cody Cameron: Yeah, Tyranno-smore-us made it into the coda, but it’s not actually in the body of the film. It was a giant Smore T-Rex.
Kris Pearn: Lived on a Crème Brulee-cier, which of course made sense because fire from the s’mores caramelized the surface. But most kids don’t know what crème brulee is.
Why did the sequel not follow the book sequel and why the original title change? And if the franchise continues, does it have to be food related?
Cody Cameron: Flint definitely invents different kinds of inventions. I think food is central to our world and I hope that food would always be a part of “Cloudy.” Well, “Pickles to Pittsburgh” was the second book; we continued our story that we were working on from the first film, but there are pickles in this one.
Kris Pearn: We tried to get a version where a pickle fell through the transporter and ended up in Pittsburgh, but we just couldn’t find a home for it in the movie.
Cody Cameron: One of the things I think Chris and Phil gave us with the first film was the sense of genre, so they took the idea of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” which was great children’s book without really any characters – there wasn’t really any narrative there, it was just sort of an event – so they took the idea of that event and they built it into a disaster movie. So when we came into this one, we knew we had already done the disaster movie genre, so we wanted to flip our genre. So that drove us into what the story was going to be instead of more the…
Kris Pearn: Yeah, the monster film or noble savage.
Cody Cameron: Right, because I believe “Pickles to Pittsburgh” opens up with a clean-up operation of the food event, so we definitely had a little nod to it, but it was never anything that we were able to work into the story. But as far as “Cloudy 3” goes, who knows?
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2″ will be out in theaters this Friday, presented in 2D and 3D.