This weekend, prepare yourselves for the storm of a lifetime! From the creators of the TV show, How I met your Mother and Clone High, Chris Miller and Phil Lord comes Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Thanks to this amazing directing duo, this is a must see comedy for both children and adults. Although many of you have never heard of Miller and Lord before, they’re on the way to becoming household names with the help of their amazing new film, with a title that is far too long to type out more than once, so we’ll just call it Cloudy.
In case you haven’t already heard, Cloudy is the story of the aspiring inventor, Flint Lockwood’s (Bill Hader) and his unlikely friendship with Sam Sparks (Anna Faris). At first, Flint’s inventions are a nuisance, that is until he creates a machine that causes cheeseburgers, steaks, and ice cream to fall from the sky!
We had a chance to join a round table of journalists to talk to Miller and Lord about their careers and how they talked Sony into letting them make this movie (which wasn’t easy). Check out the interview below where they talk about their road to success, what drew them to the story, playing with food, and how they landed a deal with Disney straight out of college…
What drew you two to this particular book?
Chris Miller: We had both grown up with the book, and it was an influence on our comedic sensibilities. We looked at it and saw pickles smashing into buildings and pancakes on the school and thought, “This is a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, but silly on purpose!”
Did Sony approach you to make this film?
CM: Sony had approached us because they knew of our very short-lived T.V. show, “Clone High.” They were fans of it and wanted to do something with us. When we found out they owned the rights, then we commandeered the meeting to Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.
How helpful was it that you have a background in live-action writing when you were doing this movie?
CM: In television, you can get by with jokes and having a loose structure for a story. We realized, pretty early, that to keep peoples attention for almost 90 minutes, there needs to be an emotional through-line. You need to care about the characters and try to have some heart to the movie. That was hard for us, because we have never done that before! We have never been really sincere! You can get by being really glib and silly.
The book doesn’t have a lot of the themes that are present in the film. What themes did you like from the story and which ones did you create for the movie?
Phil Lord: I would say that in the illustrations, there is an undertone of excess, consumption, and how silly it all is. We were inspired by that to say something about consumption, wanting too much, and things being kind of excessive. Once we started getting into the Flint Lockwood story, a lot of it became about what it is like being a creative outsider in a small town, embracing your inner geek, and believing in yourself. A lot of those classic movie themes.
What was the most difficult part of making this movie?
PL: The biggest challenge of all was to create a story that one would want to watch for 86 minutes. It is not easy to make it funny. We were less adept, in the beginning, at making the emotional beats work, but it became clear that we needed to do that to make you sit through the movie.
CM: You have to care about the characters. We had to dig deep behind our veneer of irony and sarcasim and get to the sincere, chewy core.
PL: Then you have to find a way for the audience to stomach that stuff. Then we went to all of these “movie places” of father and son relationships and saying “I love you.” Then how do you do that in a way that is novel and unique, and maybe a little bit twisted.
How did you go about creating the emotional depth for these animated characters?
CM: That is the trick when you are recording these voices in a padded room. You are not on a set, or in a giant spaghetti tornado. We were always trying to paint as clear a picture as possible. We were on the same wavelength as Bill, so it was really easy to communicate with him.
PL: It helps to hire really talented actors too.
CM: One of our inspirations was “The Muppets”. They are really expressive. Their eyes don’t ever move, and some of them don’t have eyes.
PL: They have really limited dimensions of movement.
CM: For a character like Tim, who is unable to express his emotions, it was very good to hide the window to the soul. We were able to get a really subtle performance by subtle movements of his unibrow.
Did you have any actors in mind when you were writing the characters?
CM: For a number of them, we wrote or rewrote the parts. Obviously for Mr. T, we went back and completely rewrote the part. Mr. T is a personal hero of ours.
PL: Bill and Anna came along about half way through the story process. So, we were kind of finalizing what the characters were going to be and casting at the same time. We were able rewrite a little bit for them.
You guys did a lot of research seeing how food bounces and reacts. What was the most fun for you?
PL: During the recording sessions, Anna, Bill, and some of the other actors had to do lines with their mouths full, so every time that would happen we would order cheeseburgers for everyone. That was fun. We were all eating them. Obviously, we had to know how to direct them. We were like, “No, put more burgers in your mouth!”
CM: The slow-motion footage of dropping action figures into a bathtub full of Jell-O is pretty awesome. On a scale of 1 to Awesome, that’s up there.
The snowball fight scene is really not the typical jolly snowball fight. Can you tell us about that scene?
CM: We described it as sort of Children of Men style. We wanted it to be like Children of Men, but the comedy version! It’s a real knee slapper, that movie!
PL: The fact that that joke is in that movie is the small miracle. It is super funny. It is right on that line where some parents are like, “I don’t know,” but the kids are freaking out laughing.
Are you guys fans of Bruce Campbell?
PL: Oh man, of course!
CM: I mean, it wasn’t like we were super popular and didn’t watch movies like Evil Dead or anything. [laughs]
You guys had a development deal with Disney. How did you end up with that deal?
PL: Yes, a comical misunderstanding with every step in our career.
CM: We both went to Dartmouth. They wrote an article in the Alumni magazine about me, and some of the things I had done; editing the humor magazine, doing these comic strips and student films. It was full of exaggerations and wildly inaccurate. It made its way to Michael Eisner, somehow.
PL: His son, Eric, is a Dartmouth Alum ’95. We never knew him, but Dartmouth was always sending stuff to get the Eisner’s to donate money.
CM: He had apparently seen it and passed it down. By the time it went down the telephone, it went from “Oh, check out this guy” to “Get this guy!” So I got a call in my dorm room saying, “Hey, we want to fly you out for a meeting.” I was like, “Gaah! I got midterms,” because I am a total idiot. I sent them our student films, and then we went out for a meeting the summer after we graduated. We went together, and they were like, “Oh you guys are a team? Okay great! We liked your films. Well, we would like to offer you a development deal.” We were like, “Cool! What’s that?” It was the craziest story ever.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs will be released into theaters on September 18! Don’t miss it!
Check out the trailer…