Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn co-direct the new animated feature “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2,” a follow up to the 2009 hit about a young inventor who builds a machine meant to turn water into food. The thoughtful creation goes haywire, though, and rains down cheeseburgers and causes spaghetti tornadoes.
Pearn served as the story supervisor on the original so he was well acquainted with the “Cloudy” world. Cameron is an animation veteran, having served as a story artist on the first "Cloudy" and helmed “Open Season 3” and the animated short film “The Chubbchubbs.” Together, they immersed themselves in a world where food comes to life, concocting strange food-animal hybrids like hippotatomuses and hungry tacodiles that inventor Flint, and his friends must battle to save Swallow Falls.
The filmmakers recently spoke about their family friendly animated comedy that features an all-star voice cast including Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt, Terry Crews, Neil Patrick Harris, James Caan and Will Forte.
Q: How did you avoid the pitfalls of making a sequel?
Pearn: It was about continuing the story.
Cameron: You spend so much in the story process. You just live in the world and beat it up. It’s spaghetti on the wall—that’s the metaphor we’d use. That’s the idea we had on the first movie. What seemed to play the best stuck. And we used the same approach on the sequel. We just went in and started playing with the characters, and organically created the movie. It’s like Flint’s head split open and this is what came out—metaphorically.
Q: You have a montage sequence where Paul McCartney’s “New” plays over the action. Is that song eligible for an Oscar nomination? Also, how did you get him to do a song for you?
Pearn: The Oscar question I don’t know (the answer) so we’d have to ask our people. (McCartney) actually came about in a relatively simply way.
Cameron: Lia Vollack (president of worldwide music for Sony Pictures Entertainment) was with someone who had the demo.
Pearn: That part of the movie we’d been hunting for a song for quite a while. We had a different song in there—“Mr. Blue Sky” from ELO—for a long time. So, we’d been looking around and we got a call one day from Lia that she had heard this song from Paul and had flipped over it. We heard it and we loved it and we put it right in. And then the process went very smooth from that point. We showed him the clips in context and he was happy with how it was being used.
Q: Is this an anti-GMO (genetically modified organism) movie or a pro-GMO movie?
Cameron: I suppose way deep down when we were working on the story, one of the ideas we wanted to play with is who owns food. In the first movie, there were a lot of consumption issues we were talking about. This time it’s sort of about this corporation, where the question is who owns creativity. The idea is that food has sort of become it’s own thing, we kind of look at it as a natural thing, even though it doesn’t make any sense. It’s about life creating life.
Q: Why is tomato just a tomato in this and not a foodimal?
Pearn: We have three different classes of animals: the tribesmen, made up of strawberries, pickles and tomatoes. They are just what they are, just walking around. Then, there’s the food-animal hybrid: the watermelophant and hippotatomus. And then we have the fast-food monsters like the cheespider and tacodiles.
Cameron: When our lead character designer went off to design the food creatures, he came back with 160 of them. Some of them got painted up and so we had this board with all the food creatures, and we had our kids in the office. And one of them said, “What’s that, dad?” And we said, “Oh, that’s just a tomato.” So we thought, that’s kind of funny, so it got into the movie.
Q: How did you decide on the villain?
Pearn: There was an idea we had on the first film where Flint ends up meeting one of his food heroes. We didn’t have room for it in that story arc but when we started this one, we thought about using that idea of Flint leaving the island for a place where everybody had lab coats, and one of the heroes he had on his wall would be someone he’d be aiming for in terms of a character goal. So when we looked at the archetype of the blue-jean billionaire, it was a mix of Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and (astronomer) Carl Sagan. The development of Chester as a character (voiced by Will Forte) came organically. Will came in for about four sessions and gave us different voices.
Cameron: He tried a few different voices for us.
Pearn: The idea that it was a kooky wizard of science was something that we were excited about.
Q: How much of the movie was designed to address social issues?
Pearn: We live in this world so we’re always responding to what we’re experiencing. Certainly, it was never our agenda to make a political movie or a movie with that at the forefront. But when you’re dealing with an issue like food, you have to respond to what’s going on in the world. We tried to give it a light touch.
Cameron: A very light touch.
Pearn: It was mostly about poop jokes. That was our political agenda.
Q: How much did you consult with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the directors of the original?
Cameron: We worked with Phil and Chris for five years, so we learned a lot from them. We asked them for advice.
Q: You and Kris were very hands on with the voice talent, right?
Cameron: Both Kris and I were in the booth with these guys and we’d give direction to them. I felt it was better to be in the room with them.
Q: What food animals didn’t make it into the film?
Cameron: There was a Spam whale, which is like a can of Spam with a tail. There was a giant s’more T-Rex that didn’t make it into the final film that lived on a crème brulee glacier. But most kids don’t know what crème brulee is, so we left it out.
Q: If this franchise continues, can you take Flint in non food-related worlds? And why did you change the title from (the book by Judi and Ron Barrett)?
Pearn: Flint definitely has inventions that are not food-related (but) food is central to our world. I would hope that food is always part of “Cloudy.” “Pickles in Pittsburgh” was the title of the second book. There are pickles in this movie.
Cameron: We tried to do a version where a pickle fell through the transporter into Pittsburgh, but we just could find a home (for that idea). As far as “Cloud 3” goes, who knows?