It’s a good start to the interview with Messrs. Cameron and Pearn. I suggested that the success of the first Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs film, and their long history with the series, should have meant more control over the sequel. This causes a big laugh, but it’s evidence of the camaraderie of the vast team behind the film.
If the pull-quotes slapped on the side of buses are to be believed the rule with sequels is ‘bigger and better’, and in creating Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn had a whole world to explore.
Stepping into the shoes of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, currently riding high on their latest (Lego) Movie’s success, is no easy trick, however the creative quartet were able to craft a new story which expands on the world glanced in the first film and retain some of the charm and invention of the first.
Talking with the two it is clear they have a genuine rapport, and possibly some sort of psychic connection. Sentences are started by one, finished by the other. A word, a silly voice, even a sound spark of peals of laughter which are infectious.
I began by asking them how they graduated from the first film to being directors on the second, Kris explained, ‘We were both in the story department, for me it was four years, Cody was three. On Cloudy 1 we ran the room like it was a writers’ room so there were a lot of ideas being tossed around and versions of the film that we loved but that didn’t ultimately make it.
‘When we came back on board for Cloudy 2 there were a lot of ideas on the table. We were able to pick up the idea of doing a monster movie – if you remember in Cloudy 1 we had the Gummi bears, the Pizza slices and the Roast chickens and we had a whole Monster movie ending…’
Cody jumped up immediately to expound, ‘There was food storming the island, and Flint was fighting it off…’ I’m pretty sure he acting this bit out, then Kris picked up the thread again, ‘And Chris had this sequence with pickles that was keeping him up all night but when we got together with Chris Miller and Phil Lord to do Cloudy 2 it was Post-its on the wall – just like the old days.’
But was the success of Cloudy 1 a constraint of the places they could go? With any sequel the characters are established and relationships set up but I wondered if they felt bound to any particular path. Kris Pearn began,’ I’m surprised we got as much as we did on the screen – we had a lower budget and less time – and early on we lost a sequence with the Mayor which made me really sad…
Again, Chris explains like a wonderfully enthusiastic footnote, ‘…it was basically he was eating hot dogs, and we had a version of the story that if you ate the sentient food you would change into that food… and it was all part of Chester’s evil plan.’
Kris: ‘It was sort of “You are what you eat'” that sort of thing…’
Cody: (in a very silly voice) – ‘Food is people! And people is food!’
Kris ‘..and everyone became the perfect consumers…you know? The comedy of Cloudy comes from being grounded. A lot of crazy suff happens in both films but the relationships need to be real and you have to believe that if a character falls off a building they’re going to get hurt.
They kid around for much of the time we speak, and their silliness is contagious. A choice quote when I pick them up on this: Kris -‘We’re big kids ourselves…’ Cody – ‘I’m like a big kid who was dropped on his head recently…’
There is a moment of seriousness as the interview draws to a close. The world of animation is a small one and each new success is shared by all, each new film scrutinised and appreciated, however secretly, by its direct competitors. We talk of the relationship between the pair and Chris Miller and Phil Lord and suddenly we catch a glimpse of the brilliance behind the silliness.
Kris talked warmly of The Lego Movie directors, ‘Of course there’s a relationship [between the films], on an emotional level you want it to succeed but on a creative level it’s great that they’ve pushed what you can do in terms of animation. With a computer you can almost do anything, here at Imageworks they do ‘real’ very well, and with Cloudy we asked them to go the other way – make it more ‘Muppety’. What Chris and Phil have done with Lego is using CG and making it seem like stop-motion. I think it’s great that we’re starting to see the diversity in animation in terms of style and how the style of movement can be dictated through your story. I’m optimistic. As one of these films does well we all do well – a rising tide raises all boats.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is out on Blu-ray and DVD today. Click here to buy a copy.