While at Comic-Con this weekend for a presentation in Hall H, co-stars Anna Faris, Bill Hader and Terry Crews and co-directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn spoke to the press about their new animated comedy, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. The sequel to Sony Pictures Animation’s 2009 hit comedy picks up sixty seconds after the first film ends and revisits the characters in a new and crazy adventure. After evacuating the island of Swallow Falls to clean up the food disaster from the first film, Flint (Hader) discovers his infamous invention is still active and churning out mutant food animals, or foodimals. Once again, he and his friends have to save the world.
During the interview, they talked about the creative ways they expanded the story and characters, how they came up with the new designs for the food creatures, and what it’s like for the actors to convey their comedic work in an animated form. Hader also discussed getting back into character the second time around, his reaction to hearing he was nominated for an Emmy, and why he decided to leave SNL. Crews revealed what it’s like to live in both the Cloudy and Expendables film worlds and why we need a Camacho movie. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
Question: A lot of animated films have sequels and obviously you’re taking a different direction as new directors. What were some of the pitfalls you wanted to avoid when it came to telling this story in an animated form?
Kris Pearn: We definitely wanted to find an organic way to grow the characters through not repeating the same ideas that we had in the first film. At the very beginning of our process, we decided to try a different genre of film. The first movie was a disaster movie where stuff was going to fall on their heads. This was really about what’s in the shadows and playing the monster movie angle. That gave us a new tone that we could build off of, and it also allowed us to find new creative opportunities for the characters to respond to things. That was one of our footholds at the beginning, but it allowed us to push forward.
Is there anything about your particular characters that may have changed from the first movie?
Cody Cameron: (joking) No. (laughs)
The relationship is different now between your two characters, isn’t it?
Bill Hader: (joking) No. Yeah. It’s different. Our animated characters have a relationship. It’s very intense.
Anna Faris: It is maybe important to have that association so the characters remain consistent. I think I have a bit more of a crush on Flint than last time.
Hader: Yeah. Flint’s now realizing that he might be taking her for granted. Dummy!
Faris: Yeah, it happens.
Pearn: One of the things we did is we took Flint being the only guy in his home town to have a lab coat, and we put him into a world where he was one of thousands of people. We graduated him into a high school situation. For us, it was like going to art college.
Hader: It’s just like my life.
When I saw the trailer for the sequel, the first thing that came to mind was this was like entering Jurassic Park. How did you come up with the new designs for the food creatures?
Cameron: Early on, at the very beginning, Kris and I wanted to do strawberries and pickles, and so we started with some food sculpture and photography just to see what those would look like. And then, we started talking about food creature combinations, food and animals. It ended up starting to be pretty easy because if you have a watermelon and you have an elephant, the portmanteau would be watermelephant. And then you think about the body, and the stem is already like a trunk, and you have leaves that feel like ears. Actually, it came kind of easy after a while.
Pearn: We hired a character designer, a guy named Craig Kellman. He joined us on this film. He went away for a weekend and sat in front of his fridge and came up with 200 food combinations, so the big challenge was what not to use.
Cameron: They’re all in the movie.
Pearn: (laughs) They’re all in the movie.
Bill, congratulations on your Emmy nomination.
Hader: Oh thank you.
Can you tell us where you were and what your reaction was when you heard about it?
Hader: I was asleep, and they called me at 4:45 in the morning, and they said, “Hey, you just got nominated for an Emmy.” I was like, (half asleep) “Oh, okay.” And then I got up, and they go, “We’re going to call you back in 30 minutes with some press.” I went and made coffee and my whole family was asleep, so I was just alone in the kitchen going, “What do I do with this information? That’s pretty awesome.”
Do you have any regrets leaving SNL?
Hader: I wanted to live in California. I have a family. My wife is a director, so she was constantly coming out to L.A. It was more about moving to California, and then it just seemed like maybe now was the right time to go. But it hasn’t hit me. It’ll hit me when they come back in September. That’s what everyone told me. Amy Poehler said it’s like watching your own funeral. (laughs)
For Kris and Cody, how much has the animation technology changed in the years since the first Cloudy?
Pearn: I think the biggest thing is our movie looks more like a painting.
Cameron: With the system that they were using on the first one, it’s slightly different on the next one, and so our animation rigs when we transferred it over, there were a few adjustments they had to make to the old rigs. And with some of the characters, their eyes would be poking through their eyelids and so we had to make certain adjustments.
Pearn: Pull it all in. Our mission is always to make a movie that doesn’t look like it’s coming out of a computer. They did an amazing job on the first film and they’ve pushed it even farther. We have a depth styling technique that as the images getting further away from camera, they look more like water color. We’re really owning that feeling that you’re in a painting as opposed to it being like a real space. Our Muppety characters look fantastic against it. We’re real excited.
How did it come about for you to get to direct this movie? How were you offered the job?
Cameron: I think it was Chris (Miller) and Phil (Lord), wasn’t it?
Pearn: Yeah. We were on the first film. We were both story artists for four years, give or change a few months. Chris and Phil were directing 21 Jump Street so they were kind of busy. They were like, “You guys want to do it.” And we were like, “Yeah.” It was a bad idea. Three and a half years later, drink from a fire hose, here we are. Yay!
Cameron: It was really awesome because we’d spent a lot of time with them and so it gave us some continuity going into this film. And where we started this film was where we left the last one off, just the four of us sitting in a room doing the what if and putting spaghetti on the wall.
Does it already make you think about a Cloudy 3?
Cameron: We’ll find out after September 27th.
Pearn: (laughs) Yeah. I think it’s definitely something that might be on the table.
For Terry, you have the Expendables movies for grown-ups and the Cloudy movies for kids. How do you live in both these worlds?
Terry Crews: My whole career is basically a Harlem shake video. Hey man, I do it all, brother. I have no issues. You’re talking about Mr. T, man. He did the first one. And my family and I, I have five kids and a grandbaby, we loved the first one. I still got the lunchbox so I went from there to here. One thing I have to say, the relationship between Earl and Cal is something super special to me because I have an 8-year-old son, and when you see an African American character animated, and he’s such an integral part of what’s going on, it was so fun and he has some great lines. I mean, my son and I went home from that movie like “Wow!” And then to get a call and you’re Earl! My son was all over the couch like, “Dude, don’t mess this up! Don’t mess this up!” “Okay! Okay!” Pressure!
What goodies do you have for the parents of little children in this movie?
Cameron: Whoa! What goodies?
Pearn: Eat your vegetables? Or don’t eat your vegetables because they’re alive.
Cameron: I think the film is just as entertaining for adults as it is for kids. Goodies? We have Jellybees.
Terry, what was your reaction when you saw yourself animated?
Crews: Believe me, man, it was one of those things where you can’t believe you’re alive. I’m a football player, dude, and so I was supposed to be in jail by now. (laughs)
Pearn: Oh, like five guys’ ears are burning right now. “Hey, did Terry just say something bad about us?”
Crews: It’s just one of those things, man. I’ve lived several lives. It’s kind of weird. This is a second career, and then to see yourself in that kind of format, it’s just nuts, man. It’s nuts. It takes a lot of getting used to. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.
All of you guys have done comedic work before. How have you been able to convey that into animation form?
Faris: Bill and I talked a lot about this with the first movie. (to Bill) I hope I’m not throwing you under the bus here. When we got off of the first movie, we both felt like…
Faris: That was a good gig.
Hader: Yeah. You show up in your pajamas (yawns loudly).
Faris: But there are very specific challenges in creating a full character just using your voice. The first time we recorded the second movie, I had to come back in and record because I wasn’t quite hitting it right. I don’t know if it was my energy or if I’d forgotten what Sam is like. You have to really trust. You’re such a small part of the process, and so, these guys walk you through every single beat. For me, personally, I found the efforts, when you do all the grunting and the pulling and the falling and all that stuff, is maybe how I express Sam Spark’s comedic side. I don’t know. I’m just making this up.
Crews: I basically needed to be calmed down. They were like, “That was a great take, Terry, but you made so much noise that we’re going to have to do it again.” I was in the booth like… (making all sorts of noise with his voice and body movements). “Okay, I’ll calm down.” I’m used to very physical actions and that was a real thing. We had to be real quiet. “Your feet can’t shuffle but you’ve got to scream.” It was really different for me. The good thing is Cody and Kris, like Anna said, just walked us through everything. We were always in context and we always knew where we were, and I think that was the most valuable part of it.
Hader: That’s so funny doing that when they’re like, “You’re in a pancake bog and you want to get across the pancake bog, but there are mosqitoasts feeding. Bill, we’re going to come in there and explain this to you. Hold on.” Because I’m just looking at them on the other side going, “What?!”
Bill, what does it take for you to get back into that character’s head after being away from it a few years?
Hader: I just yell really loud. No. I’m like the opposite of Terry. I feel like I have to have a whole pot of coffee because I’m so low energy. That seems to be my main note. “Bill, can we just pick it up a little bit? You’re being…” (laughs) That was it. Like Anna was saying, I always thought this is a really easy job and now it’s so hard. Any time I had one of the Cloudy sessions, I’d be at SNL and I would come in after those, and my head was just ringing because you do so many takes and things like that.
Faris: It’s oddly very stressful. Stressful is the wrong word, but it does take a different kind of concentration.
Hader: Yeah. Totally. You’d think it would be easy. Tom Hanks hosted SNL once and I told him, “I’m going to star in this movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. You did the Toy Story movies. How was it?” And he says, “It was the hardest thing in the world.” And I was like, “You were in fucking Castaway, dude.” And he was like, “Harder than Castaway. Yup. Harder than all those movies. Yup.”
Pearn: Flint’s hard though because he’s a Muppet, right?
Hader: Yeah. Flint’s like a Muppet. He’s not like a real…
Hader: Yeah. Every line is screamed.
What are some of the perks of being involved in a franchise? Obviously your kids will get to see the movie, but do you get any neat souvenirs?
Faris: There’s a character named Berry (Barry, the Berry). When you guys gave me that little strawberry pillow, I got teary-eyed.
Cameron: She did. It was really uncomfortable. The swag hasn’t even started to flow yet.
Hader: It was cool. When my first daughter was born, right when the first movie came out, the weekend of the first movie, she had a Steve doll, and then my second daughter has a Berry doll. It was pretty cool. My first daughter watches the movie. She’s three. She has no idea that’s me. One of these days she’s gonna just suddenly go, “Whoa! What?!” (laughs)
Faris: I find that, too, because I don’t know about you guys, but I happen to get really uncomfortable watching my face move on the normal movies that I do. I get really stressed out. But with the Cloudy movies…
Hader: It’s great.
Faris: Yeah. It’s awesome.
Did Terry’s role is Everybody Loves Chris have any influence in shaping the casting of the character that he plays?
Pearn: As far as the casting of Terry, it was the body aura coming. I love the Old Spice commercials.
Hader: Oh my God! Idiocracy!
Crews: I still got it!
Pearn: He can literally make his chest hair bounce. Can’t you? You’ve done it for us.
Hader: It’s like he’s Earl come to life. And then, Idiocracy 2. That’s so fucking funny!
Pearn:: Goddamn it, that is funny!
Cameron: It was natural.
Crews: We need a Camacho movie. We know we need a Camacho movie. Sorry! Shameless plug!