I caught up with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 directors Cody Cameron & Kris Pearn at Comic-Con. The storyboard artists from the first film wanted to take it from a horror riff to a monster mash. Their frame of reference were such ’80s movies as The Goonies, Teen Wolf, and Return of the Jedi. In fact, there was early fantasizing about having strawberry Ewoks.
“We did a lot of storyboarding at the end of the last movie with monster characters in mind but had to drop that because it was a different kind of movie,” Pearn explained. “But we had that itch. The first movie was about what hits you in the head and this one’s about what’s hiding in the shadows.”
Picking up four years later after Phil Lord & Chris Miller (The LEGO Movie) laid the foundation, Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) has gained more confidence socially. But his food invention has now morphed into dangerous mutations (Tacodiles, Shrimpanzees, Cheespiders, and Berry the Strawberry).
Most of the action takes place in a Mary Blair-inspired jungle. “And for the food we kept that style where it still looks delicious,” Pearn continued. “And then transitioned that into our animal characters so that when you see a cheese spider in the dark, it still looks like it’s friendly-lit so that it’s something you’d want to eat.”
But Cameron said It drove the lighters nuts with less shadow and more color. “We used Arnold [the ray tracing renderer] even more so on this one,” he explained. “Our characters were not completely plug-and-play when we came into this and there had to be some adjustments to the rigs as well.”
The biggest advancement on Cloudy 2 was “Depth of Style,” where objects at a distance are placed live and the closer you get it becomes three-dimensional again and the farther away you get it flattens back out again. “But it’s less information for the computer to have to process when it becomes flat like that,” Pearn added.
Cameron underscored that while they obviously do realistic fantastically well in CG at Sony Pictures Animation, they wanted to continue with the same design look because Cloudy’s a very Muppety world.
“Even though there’s a lot of detail and visual interest in the jungle, we definitely want it to still feel painterly,” Cameron suggested. “There were a lot of very crisp textures in cartoon shapes in the original film. But we’re still maintaining that idea as we go into a more organic world. We did splatter tests and brush strokes and applying those textures with plants.”
It looks like a splatter version of Jurassic Park. We’ll find out more when Cloudy 2 opens Sept. 27.