Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 is a strange movie. The first Cloudy had an offbeat sense of humor, but the sequel takes that oddball sensibility to a whole new level. When you get right down to it, this is a movie about Flint () coping with his creations. Basically, he is God. It's never spoken of, but it's there.
That touch, along with some bizarro turns and jokes, makes this sequel stand apart from its predecessor as its own thing while also keeping in touch with what worked about the first movie. That's a tough balance, but the directors of the sequel, Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn, struck it commendably.
Here's what the two had to say about the film:
The animation on the first film had this great handmade quality. Was it always the plan to stick to that aesthetic?
Kris: No. we always wanted to kind of keep that muppet-y world, especially through how our characters move. We updated it, like when we added [the villain] Chester V as a character. He has a more fluid and more presentational language. And we gave him bigger silhouettes where you kind of move around, but much like how Earl moves different than Flint. It fits into the world of Cloudy and that each character has their own signature.
Cody: Justin, our production designer, basically has a style where there are no direct parallel lines. Everything is skewed slightly. So even going into Chester’s more perfect world, we still adhere to that where we have hexagons but they are slightly skewed.
How exactly did Chester come about?
Kris: We actually had a character named Vance Leflore for a while in the first film who worked at the Science League in Iceland. He represented this ideal that Flint was trying to become. If you remember, Flint had the wall of achievement in the first film with like Tesla. So if you pause and look really close, the character is actually in production in some scenes. And he was voiced by George Takei. We ended up losing that idea for the father-son story. It became too many ideas in that movie. So when we came back in this one we got an opportunity to kind of do the monster movie we didn’t get to do, and we also could grab onto this idea of Flint graduating and going to a place that was bigger than his island and sort of meeting this aspirational guy and having that mentorship journey.
And as he kind of evolved as a character, we wanted him to sort of represent a version of Flint. So imagine that Flint didn’t go through the lessons of the first film. He didn’t go through the lessons of…
Kris: …he would turn into this guy. And when Chester is saying to Flint, “You can never trust a bully,” he means it because that was his upbringing. We have a whole backstory. He grew up in a farm in North Dakota. So all of that was sort of designed to sort of feel like he's this guy who Flint might become if he makes the bad choices.
I know it’s the obvious question, but Chester V, was he based on Steve Jobs?
Kris: There is some Steve Jobs in there. I mean it’s sort of like a cross between Steve Jobs….
Kris: Richard Branson, who is like jumping of planes…
Cody: [Laughs] With strippers on his back…
Kris: And you always bring up Walt Disney because, like, as an artist he was sort of like the guy who lured you in. The goatee was a nod to Richard Attenborough from Jurassic Park.
Kris: We wanted him to be taller than all our other characters, too, so he could tower over them. So all of that kind of fed into it. So there was like a big conglomeration of ideas that definitely fed into the creation of Chester.
You also have Sam dressed just like Laura Dern from Jurassic Park. Was there any other Jurassic Park nods?
Cody: Well, the belly ripple. And their watering hole they reveal as a nod to Jurassic Park as well.
Kris: Yeah, and there’s other nods throughout the movie.
Kris: King Kong and Goonies. We watched Teen Wolf quite a bit.
Cody: But also the colander invention of Flint’s head. There’s a little bit of Back to the Future. But also in Ghostbusters they had a colander on Rick Moranis’s head. I guess the colander is the go-to helmet in comedy science.
For people who don’t know, since you worked in this field, how exactly do you get into the story department?
Cody: Well, for me it was going to animation school and drawing storyboards and loving the boarding process and getting hired out of school to do storyboards. But I’ve also written and drawn comics.
Kris: I think the cool thing about animation is because it’s a big process that hires a lot of people, it’s one of the old kind of Hollywood institutions where it’s a bit like a mentorship job. It’s a bit like the old system where you’d come in and you would learn the craft from the people doing the craft, just sort of like trade that way. I think once you get into the studio, like Cody said, you kind of have to use all those skills that you trained for while you were at school, like writing, and drawing, and visual language…
Cody: …and how to use boards…you still have to use animation. Even though 2D is kind of disappearing from theaters. We still use all the principles of traditional animation in our boards. Squash and stretch and…
Kris: And definitely selling ideas. You feel like you are always pitching, which is hard. That was one of the hardest things for me, is like being an artist was a choice because I had a face like this [Laughs].
Kris: [Laughs] But, you know, you kind of learn very quickly how to stand in front of your drawings and present them and be entertaining.
It's often said how animation is limitless. Do you think there are limitations or can you do anything?
Kris: Within the budget of a movie, especially CG, you can’t just throw out things that are already in production where you have a limited pool of money. I mean certainly I think the imagination potential for a film is limitless, because if you can conceive it and draw it you can do it. I mean the challenge is…
Cody: Is it right for the story?
Kris: Yeah. I mean coming up with characters. That’s always going to be a hard thing. I mean these movies are expensive, so we want to be able to make something that appeals to an audience. So if you are making an R-rated comic style gory action fest, it’s a harder sell because you are never going to find a budget that you are going to be able to fit in. But, who knows? As these things change in terms of how easy it is to make them, technology…I wouldn’t say anything is impossible.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is now in theaters.