Opening September 27th, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2,” the new animated comedy 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 Lockwood (Bill Hader) discovers his infamous invention is still active and churning out mutant food animals known as foodimals. He and his friends must return to the island in order to save the world.
At the film’s recent press day, Hader, Anna Faris, Terry Crews, Andy Samberg and co-directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn talked about the characters, how the roles gave the actors an opportunity to flex their acting muscles in new ways, how they tapped into their reserve of childish humor, what it was like working with a new pair of directors, designing the food creatures, casting Will Forte as the film’s villainous Chester V, avoiding sequelitis while continuing the story set up in the first film, using Paul McCartney’s “New” single in the film’s soundtrack, the possibility of a “Cloudy 3,” and their upcoming projects.
Q: I was really surprised to hear Paul McCartney’s single, “New” on the film’s soundtrack. Can you talk about getting him and the song in the film, and is that Oscar eligible since it’s not out yet on an album?
Kris Pearn: Well, the Oscar question I don’t know so we’d have to ask our people. He actually came about in a relatively simple way.
Cody Cameron: Lia Vollack (President of Worldwide Music for Sony Pictures) was actually with somebody who had the demo.
Pearn: That part of the movie we’d been hunting for a song for quite a while. We’d 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 that Lia had heard this song from Paul and she 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: For the actors, how does a role like this give you an opportunity to flex your acting muscles in ways you don’t usually get to in live action or theater?
Andy Samberg: I got to scream a lot.
Bill Hader: That’s funny. You do. You just yell a lot, all your lines. All of my lines in this movie I’m screaming, even when it’s a very nice, intimate moment with me and Sam Sparks.
Anna Faris: We’re really enthusiastic. For me, there were a few challenges. The first one was my first animated experience. You have to learn how to work by yourself. You don’t have the feedback. But also, one of the things that I loved of the challenges was the effort noises. Like on the first one, coming up with how do you fall down a cave made of peanut brittle.
Hader: Yeah. Or, they’ll say, “You’re in a pancake bog” and I go, “Okay” and they’ll say, “So yeah, you’re walking through a pancake bog.” And then, I’ll do it and they’ll say, “Bill, we said pancake bog. We meant peanut butter, but that’s clearly jello. You’re doing mud because you’re a human. Obviously, you’ve never walked through a pancake bog before.”
Pearn: Bill has pancake blog blindness, so…
Hader: Yeah. I have a hard time seeing so I don’t know if it’s a pancake bog or mud.
Terry Crews: For me, it was hard because I was taking over for the iconic Mr. T, so I was looking at Cody and Kris like, “Oh man! How do you do that?” (laughs) They just settled me down and they were like, “No, no, no. We want the best you. We want Terry Crews.” And I thought that was really cool. It allowed me to get loose and just have fun and scream like the rest of these guys. It was really cool. It was a very unique experience for me. I was honored that they felt I had enough juice to take that part over.
Samberg: It’s weird because they asked me to just do Mr. T.
Hader: And they told me to do Mr. T, too.
Crews: (laughs) Well, I didn’t know that.
Samberg: You got off easy, Terry.
Crews: I feel much better now.
Q: While you were doing the voice, did you crave any food? After you finished the recording session, did it make you hungry for something?
Faris: I’m always craving food and also the sessions were really exhausting. The whole craving of food world is so much fun. Everyone here knows I’m a crazy fan for Nachos. I’m always eating Nachos, right guys?
Hader: Yeah. It’s Nacho Faris! Not your ordinary Faris.
Samberg: We’re going to take these pictures. Where’s Nacho?
Hader: Yeah. Get Nacho in here.
Faris: The theme of food is so much fun to work with. Obviously, the kids love it and we love it. It’s really fun and it’s a huge part of this film.
Samberg: So aside from Nachos, what like your guilty pleasure?
Hader: Can you turn my mic up louder because it was fun when I had more [volume]?
Samberg: Sometimes I get bummed out and I just gorge. I would crave various breads. This is not a gluten-free movie.
Q: The foodimals were hilarious. Did you have a favorite?
Hader: I like dog. It’s food and an animal.
Samberg: Wildly inappropriate for this film.
Hader: What are you talking about? You don’t eat dog?
Samberg: I’d be eating with my dog.
Hader: Well, I have eaten many dogs and they are very delicious.
Faris: I’m disappointed that we didn’t use a cornicorn, which of course is a unicorn made out of corn, but apparently they only wanted “real” animals.
Hader: Unicorns would probably taste good.
Samberg: They would taste magical.
Hader: Yeah. Magically delicious. And they would go, “Owwww!”
Samberg: You’d eat it alive?
Hader: Oh, that’s how I eat the dog.
Q: Terry, how much of you is in your character?
Crews: It was the genius of these guys (referring to Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn), the creators. It’s a really cool, stylized art to this thing. Animation is where I’ve gotten all my entertainment for the last ten years. I take my family out. I have five kids, so I go to a lot of animated movies. To know the difference between what’s boring and what’s exciting on the screen while I was being animated, these guys are masters. When I watched Earl move for the first time, I was like, “Holy cow!” It was really exciting to see the movements and do the things. I wish I could do that in real life. I pulled three muscles when I tried it in the mirror. The two-hand gun thing is just too awesome. That was hot. I tried to do the two-hand gun thing in “The Expendables 3” and I got shot. (laughs)
Q: Can this be viewed as an anti-GMO movie or a pro-GMO movie?
Pearn: That’s way down deep underneath the fun side of the story. One of the ideas that we wanted to play with was who owns food. In the first movie, there were a lot of consumption issues that we were talking about and how bigger is always better. This time it’s about this corporation and we manifest it through Flint’s creativity. The idea that Flint’s food has become its own thing, we look at that as being a natural thing, even though it doesn’t make any sense. The idea is it’s life creating life.
Samberg: It’s like nature finds a way. I guess I just thought of that.
Hader: They’re going to be quoting that for years now. There’ll be a big statue of you at this press conference when you first said it.
Q: Why is the tomato just a tomato?
Cameron: With the food animals, we do have three different classes of animals. There are little tribesmen like the strawberries, pickles and tomatoes. They’re just what they are, but walking around. And then, there are the food animal hybrids like the Watermelophants and Hippotatomus. And then, we have the fast food monsters like the Cheespider and the Tacodile.
Pearn: When our lead character designer went off to design the food creatures, he did 160 of them in a weekend and then some of them got painted up. We had a board with all of these food creatures, and my kids were in the office and they were looking at them and they were like, “What’s that one, dad?” and I said, “Oh, that’s just a tomato.” And they got really disappointed, but that’s kind of funny.
Hader: I didn’t know that’s where that [line] came from. That’s funny.
Pearn: So that got into the movie.
Q: There were two lines in Chinese? Was that something that you came up with?
Hader: That was really difficult.
Pearn: We had a Chinese animator named Cho Fu who helped us. We wrote the English lines.
Faris: How did we do?
Hader: We just did call response.
Pearn: We checked with a handful of people who were supposed to know Chinese, so we hopefully got it right.
Hader: I can barely speak English and I was like, “You want me to do what?” It was a full day session of them going, “Bill, just try it again.”
Samberg: I can’t believe they believed me when I told them I spoke Chinese. They were like, “Is this right?” and I was like, “Yeah!”
Hader: They asked you? Oh no!
Samberg: I should not have been the consultant on that.
Hader: I know! You don’t speak any… No, that’s bad.
Q: How did you decide who would play the villain, Chester V?
Pearn: There was an idea that we had in the first film where Flint ended up going to meet one of his heroes. We didn’t have room for it in terms of that story arc, so when we started breaking this idea, we looked at that as being a place to start in terms of graduating Flint. So we had the idea that Flint would leave the island where he was the only guy with the lab coat and end up in a place where everybody had lab coats. And one of the heroes that he had up on his wall would be something that he would be aiming for in terms of a character goal. So, when we looked at the archetype of the blue jean billionaire, it was sort of a mix of Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, a little bit of Carl Sagan.
Cameron: A little bit of Richard Attenborough from some movie that was quoted earlier.
Pearn: The whole development of Chester as a character came very organically and then we hired Will Forte. He came in and workshopped for about four sessions.
Cameron: He tried a few different voices before he latched onto that one.
Pearn: The idea is like if Flint doesn’t get corrected, he’s going to end up being just like Chester. Chester and Flint have very similar upbringings and we wanted that to be an honest thing. So the idea of the kooky wizard of science was something that we were really excited about.
Q: Andy, this has been a pretty big year of transition for you. Your show, “Brookly Nine-Nine,” is starting, and you’re in this movie, and you just finished a series in England. Can you talk a little bit about where you are right now and how that experience has been?
Samberg: I feel great. Anna has a show coming, too. (CBS television comedy “Mom”) Terry is on the show with me. I had a great time doing this show in England (“Cuckoo” on BBC3) and I think we may do more of them depending. I’m nervous about the show obviously but excited. It’s cool. It’s cool to still be seeing Bill after SNL and me being after SNL. I’m happy. I’m getting married soon. Thanks for asking.
Q: How much of the movie was intended to address social issues because I noticed there were some underlying concepts such as ideas for changing the world?
Pearn: We live in the world and we’re always responding to what we’re experiencing. Certainly it was never an agenda to make a political movie or a movie that had that at the forefront. But when you dealing with an issue like food, you kind of have to respond to what’s going on in the world. As lightly as we could touch it, we definitely had some of those themes.
Cameron: It was a real light touch.
Pearn: Very light touch. It was mostly about food jokes. That was our political agenda.
Q: For the actors, you got a different pair of directors this time around. I was wondering if it was any different, and if so, how was it different?
Hader: How long do you have? No, I’m joking. (to Cameron and Pearn) Can you guys leave for a second? (laughs) I’m totally joking. No, they were great. They were awesome. It was interesting because Phil and Chris who directed the first movie were comedy writers and animators, and these guys were in the story department for the first movie and were really amazing animators. So, the difference I had – I don’t know about you guys – you had the funniness, but they also had it so clear in their mind what it was going to look like. You would do a line or whatever and they would go, “No, no, no. The camera is coming around you like this, so as it goes away you’ve got to get a little louder.” It was incredibly detailed. And so, I thought that was cool. We didn’t really have that in the first one. They’re really good. I mean, honestly.
Pearn: We worked with Chris and Phil for five years. We learned a lot from those guys, too. So we asked them for advice.
Samberg: You guys laugh more.
Hader: Yeah. You guys do laugh more. We all read with Cody so we’re all reacting to him and he is great. He can do all the voices. He does the voice of Berry in the movie. So we would all read with him and he could do all the voices really well. He would do everybody and you would react to him, but he would laugh a lot. And they would go, “Uh, we caught Cody laughing on that. We’ve got to do it again.”
Samberg: They would have temp for us when we would come in sometimes because you had to fill in a space they had added or something. I don’t know about you guys, but the temp for mine was so good. I was like…
Hader: Yeah. That’s how I felt, too. That’s how I always feel anytime I hear the temp. I’ll go, “I don’t want to hear that because it’s way better.” And they’re like, “Okay. So now we’ve got yours in” and they play that and everyone’s like (starts chucking).
Pearn: Well we put your name on the poster.
Hader: You were him in the first movie so I guess you don’t have a choice.
Cameron: Both Kris and I were in the booth with these guys. We give direction while we’re there in the room with them. And I think it’s better to be in the room.
Hader: Yeah, it’s really nice. And also, it feels like kind of a call response. You’re workshopping some of it. “Yeah. Try that. Try that.” And you’d do it. Or they’d go, “Let’s try this” and you’d go back and forth that way.
Pearn: It was great having James Caan singing to the pickles. That was a really fun day. That was really bizarre.
Q: How do you avoid sequelitis because there are certain expectations? How did you temper all that to give this film its own identity?
Pearn: Lots of booze, so we’re kind of experiencing it for the first time. I mean, you try to erase the past.
Hader: He’s from Canada so I’ll interpret. He said, “A lot of alcohol.”
Cameron: We had a lot of ideas on the first one and we wanted to continue with that. It really was about hopefully continuing the story.
Pearn: You spend so much time with the story process that you just live in the world and you just beat it up, and it’s spaghetti on the wall to use a metaphor. That’s what the first movie was. You just kept throwing ideas on the wall and what seemed to play the best stuff. We had the same approach here. So there was very little calculation in terms of “This has to be better.” We just went in and started playing with the characters and the what ifs and then just organically create the movie. We screen a lot and we’re always looking for the audience response to see how we’re doing in terms of the pacing and whether or not the story is clear enough. So it’s the same sort of process, and at the end of the day, you don’t know what you have until you put it out there. We’ll know in three weeks.
Hader: It’s bigger. It feels like when I saw it the scope of it was so big. You know what I mean? Bigger than the first movie.
Pearn: Artistically, certainly with our production designer and the art crew there was a sense we could take the governor off the world because the idea was like Flint’s head had split open and spilled all over this island.
Hader: Not literally.
Crews: It’s like a horror movie now.
Samberg: It seemed like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Food.”
Q: What foodimals didn’t make it into the film?
Pearn: There was a spamwhale which is like a can of spam with a whale. A Tyrannosaurus Rex made it into the code but it’s not in the body of the film. There was a giant Smore T-Rex that lived on a Crème Brulee glacier, which of course makes sense because the fire from the Smores nest could caramelize the surface. But most kids don’t know what the heck Crème Brulee is so we dropped it.
Hader: My kids do!
Q: If the franchise continues, does it have to be food related? Can you take Flint’s invention somewhere non-food related?
Cameron: Flint definitely invents different kinds of inventions. I think food is central to our world, and so I would hope that food would always be a part of “Cloudy.”
Pearn: There’s Meatballs in the title.
Cameron: But “Pickles in Pittsburgh” was the second book. We continued our story that we were working on in the first film, but there are pickles in this one.
Pearn: We tried to get a version where a pickle fell through the transporter and ended up in Pittsburgh, but we just couldn’t find a home for it in the movie. One of the things that Phil gave us with the first film was the sense of genre. They took the idea of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” which was a great children’s book without really any characters. There wasn’t really a narrative there. It was sort of an event. So they took the idea of that event and they built it into a disaster movie. When we came into this one, we knew we’d already done the disaster movie genre so we wanted to flip our genre. And so, that drove us into what the story was going to be as opposed to looking at the sequel.
Cameron: Or a monster film or a noble savage.
Pearn: Right. The “Pickles in Pittsburgh” story is kind of a clean-up operation of the food event. We definitely have a little nod to it, but it was never anything that we were able to work into the story. But as far as “Cloudy 3” goes, who knows?
Cameron: Who knows? Yeah.
Crews: “Cloudy in the Hood.” (loud laughter)
Hader: Sam, we really need to get out of here!
Samberg: That’s when the handgun won’t work. The handgun’s not working, Earl!
Crews: Oh my God! A 3-minute movie.
Hader: I can’t invent one of those. We need to go buy one.
Crews: Soul food!
Q: For those of you that have kids, are you more nervous about your kid’s reviews or the critics’ reviews?
Hader: I have two kids and my four-year-old loves the first movie but won’t accept that that’s me. So I’ll be like, “That’s daddy!” and she’ll look at me like, “No, it’s not. That’s Flint Lockwood. You’re crazy.” So I just hope when she sees this one that she realizes that actually her dad is Flint because she loves Flint Lockwood. My wife is like, “That’s your father” and she’s like, “Hmmm?”
Crews: I’ve got to say I’m very, very nervous. I have five kids and a grandbaby. I took everyone to the premiere of the first movie. The kids loved it. We still have our lunch boxes. We’ve got the bacon flavored chocolate and everything. It was an event. It was one of the greatest days of our family life. So, I get this part. Now the kids are looking at me like, “You? Really? You’re in this?” Now you know we watch this on DVD all the time. My son looked at me and he was like, “Don’t mess it up.” He’s 8 years old. “Don’t mess it up, Dad.” Now I’m extremely nervous, but I think they’re going to be happy. The premiere is next Saturday so we’re really geeked. It’s a big event in our house.
Q: Bill, you’ve been going off and doing other animated adventures? What’s that been like for you?
Hader: What? This is the only movie I’ve ever done. I don’t know what you’re talking about. All these red dots. This is it for me. (robot voice) This is the only animated movie I will ever do. No. (to Cameron and Pearn) Guys, I’m seeing other people. It’s pretty cool. I’m working on these two Pixar movies. One is called “Inside Out” and the other one is called “The Good Dinosaur.” “Inside Out” is Pete Docter and the same team that did “Up.” It’s pretty fantastic. I just saw it done up in story reels.
Q: What are your impressions of doing voice work and being in animation?
Hader: I’ve been doing it for a while and I love it. The thing is everyone always assumes it’s really easy and it’s like the hardest job. It’s the hardest work. When I leave a session with these guys or any of the other animated things I’ve done, like I was the bad guy in “Turbo,” my brain doesn’t work because it is incredibly hard work. But it’s great and it’s very gratifying. And now that I have kids, too, it’s awesome when they will recognize that it’s me eventually.
Q: When you do a film like this, is there a reserve in your brain of childish humor that you have to tap into?
Hader: (joking) Have you not been paying attention to this press conference? Do you not see what we’ve been doing? It’s tough for me to get there. We have to take some time. I have to hang out with my friends and kind of Daniel Day Lewis it a little bit. Kind of get in that world of dummies.
Samberg: Yeah. It’s a dream. You believe at first that this is the only thing you can’t do.
Hader: You can’t believe this is how you make a living. It’s like fantasy. No joke. It’s like growing up loving animated stuff like I did. I would sit there in 7th grade and think, “Wouldn’t it be cool to be a part of those things?” And now I get to make a living that way. Are you kidding? It’s insane.
Faris: My parents are really happy that I’m doing a movie they can see.
Samberg: I’ll second that.
Hader: Third that.
Crews: Fourth that.
Q: What would you like audiences to take away from this movie?
Pearn: Well I hope people are entertained.
Cameron: Yes, first and foremost. We want to make people laugh and we want it to be a good, fun experience for the families. I guess the message is really about friendship and about being true to yourself.
Pearn: And how important friends and family are.