This week I was invited to take an early look at the hilarious new animated adventure, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, directed by Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn. The press day was held at Sony Pictures Animation Studios where I had an opportunity to talk to Anna Faris, Benjamin Bratt and Bill Hader who return in the sequel. The plot picks up right where the first film ends and reveals what happens after the island of Swallow Falls is evacuated to clean up the food disaster and Flint (Hader) discovers his infamous invention is still active and churning out deadly food monsters.
During our roundtable interview, Faris, Bratt and Hader talked about returning to their characters, working with new directors, why mining the funny in an animated feature is a unique challenge, how they often don’t know how their work looks until they experience it in a theater, why El Gallo Negro would be a cool addition to the Cloudy universe, and how they’d return if there was a Cloudy 3. They also discussed their upcoming projects including Faris’ new CBS TV show, Mom; Bratt’s PBS documentary, American Latinos; and Hader’s roles in The To Do List, The Skeleton Twins, and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, and writing on South Park.
BILL HADER: Well, they have a video camera in there. They’re viewing you. They do video of you when you’re recording and you talk and move (demonstrating how he voices his character and moves his hands). And then, I see the scene animated and I can tell. Any time Flint’s doing crazy hand motions, I do that in real life. I do that with my hands.
ANNA FARIS: Yeah, definitely.
Do any of you have a favorite animal, fruit or veggie from this? Did they show you pictures of the foodimals before you recorded?
FARIS: Yes, they would show us the storyboards, or whatever they call them, as they were building them. I’m partial to that Tacodile and Barry because my character loves that little strawberry.
HADER: I like Barry, too. Barry’s pretty great.
HADER: Tomato, that’s my favorite.
BENJAMIN BRATT: Who would have thought that a taco could be menacing? I’m a fan of tacos, so I’m going to go with Tacodile.
Benjamin, you’re having a great animated summer here. Can you believe how it’s going?
BRATT: (laughs) No, I can’t.
Are you excited about all this voiceover work you’ve been doing?
BRATT: It’s fun. We were talking about it, and the coolest part about it obviously is that it’s an opportunity to have my kids who are 10 and 7 finally participate in what I do on some level. I have a 10-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old boy. They’re getting a big kick out of their old man being in some of their favorite movies in that this is the sequel to one of their favorites and the other one, Despicable Me 2, is a sequel. So yeah, it’s a pretty fun summer so far.
BRATT: Oh no. This is the first time they’ve actually made a connection and my stock has gone up in the house. Dad is finally cool in their eyes.
How does doing something like this compare to your live action acting?
BRATT: You just roll out of bed in your pajamas, unshaven and unshowered.
HADER: Yeah, you’re just screaming all day. That’s what I keep saying. You’re screaming for four hours. It really is. You stand in one place and you scream for four hours.
They showed us part of the story. Are your characters, Flint and Sam, married now?
HADER: I think they’re living with each other. No. I’m joking.
BRATT: Trial run.
HADER: Trial run. He’s leaving stuff at her house. He’s trying. No. They’re boyfriend-girlfriend maybe. I think they’re going with each other.
BRATT: In the 60 seconds that have lapsed between the first one and the second, he actually said to her, “Will you go with me?”
HADER: It’s like, “We’ve got 60 seconds. Will you go with me?”
BRATT: To which she said, “Where?”
How has your relationship changed in this?
HADER: Well, like Flint wants to get the girl in the first movie, and in the second movie he doesn’t know how to hold onto her.
FARIS: He sort of takes Sam Sparks for granted.
HADER: He takes her a little bit for granted. They start dating and he immediately takes her for granted.
BRATT: As boys are wont to do.
HADER: As boys, dummies, are wont to do. Oh yeah.
FARIS: They both have similar sensibilities in terms of enjoying bizarre humor and living in an animated world. It’s so impressive how truly they immerse themselves in these stories and how they live it for however long they do it, 2-1/2 years or whatever.
HADER: Yeah, I know. It takes so long to do these movies and people work so hard to do them that it’s pretty insane when you think back on your first recording session and you’re like, “What the …?” And you’re still doing it. The movie is coming out and I just recorded stuff not too long ago.
We heard it took three years for the production to get going, but how long have you been doing your voices?
FARIS: I guess we started maybe two years ago.
HADER: A year and a half.
FARIS: Yeah. Maybe a year and a half ago? You tend to do a bunch of them right away. Your first sessions are pretty intense. You go through the whole script. And then, as you go on, they want you to tweak certain things or they’ve made a line change.
HADER: They rewrite a lot. Both movies, the opening narration that Flint does, I’ve done maybe a thousand times. They write this and they write that and that’s always that last thing. For the first movie, for the opening narration, I remember I was shooting a movie in Santa Fe, and they called me and they said, “This is an eleventh hour thing. We have to have you redo the whole thing because we rewrote the whole thing.” And so, I was in this little studio in Santa Fe. I don’t know what they recorded there, but this guy was like, “Whoa! This is a big movie.” And so, they played the movie and I had to do ADR (automatic dialogue replacement) for that whole opening. When I watch the movie, I always think about being in this little cubbyhole recording the opening.
HADER: No, that was just for me. That was just for the ADR, the looping at the end of the process. Most of the time, we don’t see.
FARIS: Yeah. Most of the time, we don’t see, so the directors have to walk you through moment by moment. I mean, you have this script, but even then you don’t really have a sense of what’s going on.
BRATT: It’s like, “Look at this” essentially.
HADER: Yeah. They’ll give you that, and that’s the best example, and sometime you’ll get these little storyboards, these little story reels sometimes. Maybe you’ll be lucky and they’ll show it to you in a video with some other person doing your voice, like a scratch track of someone else doing Flint or doing something, and you’ll watch that and go, “Oh okay. I see what this scene is. Alright.” And then, we do it. But Cody and Kris were good at saying, “Here’s what just happened. Here’s what’s about to happen. And this scene happens in the middle of that.”
FARIS: That must have made them crazy having to do that for us all the time.
HADER: Everybody. Have to explain. Like how do I explain the syrup, the pancake bog, to these people, to these film actors. For the first movie though, too, they explained it to me, and I was like, “Okay. Cool.” And then, I went to the premiere and saw it in 3D and I was still like, “Whoa! Oh my God! Whoa! Those gummi bears are the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!” (laughs) It was like, “No way!” I just kept looking with those glasses on, and the director was laughing. He just thought it was so cool.
BRATT: That’s what’s so neat about the directors, Cody and Kris, and the first two directors in the first film. For all their technical savvy and genius in animation filmmaking, and there’s no way to say this without it sounding like a bunch of crap, but they’re really in touch with their inner child. They’re all about silliness. In every session, they were just game. They came in with this goofy, puppy dog [enthusiasm] kind of like, “Hey guys, let’s make a movie!”
HADER: I couldn’t believe that it was like kids brought in and you get to run Disneyland. They’re like kids, “We get to run Disneyland!!!” That was the attitude they had everywhere. But that’s what I mean, like they’re constantly doing stuff like that, and you’re almost like, “Alright, you’re geniuses. I get it.”
HADER: I was surprised, at least for me, how much the comedy was…because I never think what I’m doing is funny. I’m always like, “Oh that was sweaty. That stunk.” And then, I’m always surprised, and I’ve said this in other interviews, Chris and Phil on the first movie, their sensibility was so unique and they were allowed to do it in such a big movie, and that’s carried over into the second movie. That’s what made it a unique film. But there are certain things like in the first movie. I’m thinking of when Sam and Flint are talking in the first movie at the Jell-O mold and she says, “Can you keep a secret?” and he says, “No.” The way and the fact that they chose that thing and it was so casual, I was like, “Oh that’s probably take 50.” “Do a bored.” I go, (sounding bored) “No” where I had done it so many other ways. You know what I mean? You do it all these other ways and the fact that they chose that one. And it gets a giant laugh when you saw it in the theater where you just immediately went, “No.” I was always surprised that that stuff was in the movie because I always assume they can’t do that. It’s a little too different.
For each of you, from the script arriving at your doorstep to the red carpet or the press junket, what’s your favorite and least favorite aspect of making an animated movie?
FARIS: That’s a really interesting question.
BRATT: I’ll start. The challenge of this kind of performance is different than any other that you’ll face in any other form whether you’re on stage in New York or on a film set or a television set. It’s a totally different process because typically in those other situations you’re reliant upon the chemistry or the electricity you build with another performer. And, in this case, you don’t have any of that. It’s all manufactured out of thin air. It’s off the page and with whatever enthusiasm you’re getting, in this case it was from Cody, who is giving you readings of your cues. So, in that sense, there’s so much uncertainty in it. All you’re going with is your gut instinct as you try to mine the funny. We’re always looking for the funny, and you’re never really sure until they assemble it together. It’s this really complex, interesting puzzle that at the end of the day if it gets laughs, then you know it rings true. It’s cool.
HADER: Yeah. Ben said it really well.
HADER: Not having other interaction is just part of the process, so saying you don’t like it seems a little… it’s just part of the process.
BRATT: I didn’t say I don’t like it. I said that’s the unique challenge and I see it as one of the most interesting parts of the process. And this is no offense to any of you, doing press is my most disliked part of any of it.
Mr. T didn’t come back for Cloudy 2, would you guys come back if there was a Cloudy 3?
FARIS: Oh yeah, I would in a heartbeat. I love playing Sam. Just to hit a little bit on what you were saying, my favorite part is seeing the end product, because unlike a regular film, whatever you call it, a live action, you feel a little more in touch with everything. And you realize that you’re such a small part of the process. The voice is huge, of course, but technically we are really a small part of the process.
HADER: There’s so much else that goes into making and creating these movies. It’s weird.
FARIS: Like Bill, seeing the first one, I was like, “Ahhh! Holy shit! That’s what we’ve been doing? Oh my God!”
HADER: You don’t know what you’ve been doing until you sit in a theater and experience it.
FARIS: It’s really exciting in that way.
I’m sure the joy outweighs the disappointment. Is there any disappointment at all? I don’t mean for the final product, but were there other takes that you liked better than the ones they used?
HADER: No. For me, probably my least favorite thing is the drive to the recording studio because I’m so anxious. It’s like what the fuck am I going to do? Do I have the energy for this? And then I get there and I calm down a little bit. I get anxious before performing, so I’ll be in the car and I’ll be looking at my iPad, but in the back of my head I’ll be going, “You don’t have it. You can’t bring it. You’re washed up. You can’t bring it. Oh look, Amazon (Jeff Bezos) just picked up The Washington Post. This is going to suck. They’re going to fire you.” And then, I love…my favorite part is the drive back where I’m like, “Oh I’m good. Alright. I’m doing okay.”
What are each of you working on now, either live action or voiceover? What’s going on in your life right now?
FARIS: I’m doing a TV show for CBS called Mom. We just filmed our second episode, I guess, or our first episode outside of the pilot on Friday, and we’re working again this week. It’s really terrifying.
FARIS: September 23rd.
And this film opens September 27th. You’re going to have a big week. That’s cool.
FARIS: Yes. I love that you’re looking at it like that. That’s how I should look at it as well. I’m excited about it. It’s a fun gig and terrifying.
HADER: My wife just did a movie called The To Do List that I’m in and so I did that. I did a movie with Kristen Wiig called The Skeleton Twins. It’s a drama. It’s a indie, a small movie. And then, I did another movie with James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain called The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. That’s two movies.
Is it a two-parter?
HADER: Yeah. It’s one movie about a couple played by James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain and something horrible happens in their relationship. One movie is all from his point of view so it’s all shot Steadicam, very cold. And the other movie is from her point of view, shot hand held, very warm. And so, we would shoot scenes where you’d do, “Okay. This is his version” and you’d do the scene. “And now it’s her version” and you’d change your wardrobe and approximate the dialogue. He was sitting over there and she’d remember it slightly differently and you’d do the same scene again. What’s that about? I have no clue. I never see them. And then, I’m writing on South Park.
BRATT: I am what I refer to as gainfully unemployed right now. I’m enjoying coaching my kid’s baseball team. And then, I’m excited about the six-hour, three-night PBS documentary coming out in September called American Latinos which is essentially a history of Latinos from 500 years ago until now.
FARIS: I’ve got to do Jane from Smiley Face. I mean, she would freak out.
HADER: I’d do Stefon. He would want it.
BRATT: Is there room for a gangbanger in this place?
HADER: (laughs) Man, that would be the best thing.
FARIS: (laughs) That would be awesome.
BRATT: El Gallo Negro from Blood In Blood Out.
FARIS: That would be a separate kind of movie.
BRATT: (mimicking El Gallo Negro) “What the fuck is going on here? There’s a bunch of Tacodiles trying to eat me! That Barry is talking, man!”
FARIS: Part 3! Part 3! That would be so cool!
Do you have a favorite animated movie?
BRATT: Finding Nemo is hard to beat. That’s a brilliant film. It’s just amazing.
HADER: The last one that got me and my wife, both of us, was Up, especially the opening.
FARIS: Oh God! I loved that.
HADER: We were in the theater completely just crying our eyes out. (laughs, then crying) “I love you so much. I fucking love you so much.” The kids are looking around and we’re having a total existential crisis like, “That’s going to happen to me and you! That’s going to happen! I love you.” Oh my God, that was one of the greatest movies.
FARIS: As a kid, I loved The Fox and the Hound and Bambi, but I think Eddie Murphy’s performance in Shrek was so game-changing. It changed how people animate voices now.
BRATT: It was very well done. Yeah.
HADER: I liked it. There’s one called The Secret of NIMH. Do you remember that one? The Secret of NIMH was sweet. That was like really messed up.
FARIS: What about The Last Unicorn?
HADER: You and unicorns.
FARIS: I know. I know.
HADER: Get away, girl! Whatever, girl!
FARIS: Girl! I like rainbows, too.
HADER: Go play with your rainbows and your Barbies. You’re gross!
FARIS: Rainbows and unicorns, that’s me!
HADER: No. My daughter doesn’t know. She’s really young. She’s three. She watches Cloudy and loves it and has no idea that that’s me. I’m like, “That’s daddy” and she’s like “That’s a cartoon character. You’re weird.” But I probably wouldn’t. I make out with Ty Burrell in a movie. So, let her see that and confuse the hell out of her.
She’s only three?
HADER: Yes, three. But please don’t print that. She doesn’t want that in print. Can you say she’s two? If she reads that, she’ll flip out.
We’re going to miss you as Stephon. That’s for sure. Was that a tough decision for you to make?
HADER: (joking) It was a super easy decision. No. It was a very tough decision. It was hard. That was a tough one. As soon as I realized, I told Lorne back in February. So it’s been nice to wear it for a while and even while I was there to think, alright, I’m leaving and were moving out here, which we’ve wanted to do for a while. It was nice to relocate and everything, but it was tough leaving. I just talked to one of the producers last week and just hearing him tell me what was going on there, it was like “Oh yeah?” It was a little bit like, “So we turned your room into the computer room” and I’m like, “The computer room?!” “Your dad plays poker in it now.” “What?!” There was a little bit of that feeling.
Well L.A. is definitely better than New York. I’ll just say that.
HADER: Oh wow! That was weird. They’re both great. I like them both but I’m glad we’re here.
HADER: That’s like a magic trick. Like kids that can draw, I don’t understand it. If you can cook, that’s also a magic trick. I saw somebody cooking and I said, “I don’t know how you do that.”
BRATT: Well now that you live in California…
HADER: Maybe I’ll learn.
BRATT: It’s too easy to walk out your door in New York and you can pick any restaurant you want.
HADER: Or actually, no, you go online and just be like, “Lasagna at my house. Now!” Food delivery!
When you’re talking to the press, and you’re saying the same thing over and over and over at a junket, what’s your secret to not going insane?
FARIS: That’s a great question. No. That literally is a great question, but sometimes I find myself being like, “What a great question. I’ll tell you why Cloudy is fun for adults as well as kids.”
HADER: The one we got last year at every junket was, “If you could be any food…,” or, “If any food could fall from the sky, which food would it be?”
FARIS: Yup! We did get those.
HADER: That was one a lot of people asked us. What food would we eat? And that one, I was like I didn’t know what to say, so I just kept saying, “The steam buns at Mama Fucco’s.” And then I went – and this is funny – I said, “The steam buns at Mama Fucco’s,” kind of like (makes FU gesture with his hands) just to see what they’d say. And then, I went on The Today Show and Kathie Lee Gifford is like, “If any food…” and I said, “The steam buns from Mama Fucco” and she said, “I knew you were going to say that” and they brought them out, and I was like, “Okay! Cool!” It comes with this crazy hot sauce, and Hoda (Kotb) and Kathie Lee were like, “We’re going to have them with you” and in my head, I was like, “Uh huh. Okay. You go first!” And they ate it. And if you guys want to YouTube it, this is exactly what they did. They go, “Okay. Ohhh! Mmmm! Muhhh!” We go to commercial and Kathie Lee was like, “I burned myself!” I was like, “Cloudy! Coming to theaters everywhere!” I just closed the segment for them. “Cloudy! Coming to theaters. Next up, learn to make your own barfaits!” It made me happy. Sometimes those dumb questions can lead to great moments, like Kathie Lee Gifford burning her mouth. It’s not a great moment, but it was funny.