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Creating The Film
Taking the helm of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is the writing-and-directing team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who make their directorial debut. The pair got their start in animation in college, where they made animated student films. From there, they created the animated series "Clone High” for MTV before landing at the live-action situation comedy "How I Met Your Mother.”

"The major difference between television and film is that television is primarily about character, jokes, and pacing, while film is about story,” says Miller. "We knew from the beginning that we would have to nail down the story in a way that an episode of a television show just doesn't require.”

They would have help: not only an entire story team, headed by Kris Pearn, but a culture in which every opinion was heard and valued. "On a television show, your voice as the writer-producer is the last word,” says Lord. "On an animated movie, people are encouraged to give their opinions and to be vocal when they disagree. It takes some time to get used to it, but it makes the movie so much better when your closest collaborators push you to do your best work. Nobody will let anyone else settle for second-best.”

"Chris and Phil are very collaborative and also very specific about their vision for the film,” says Pearn. "As storyboard artists, it required us to be just as specific – always looking for the best gag, the best emotional performance, the most efficient turn of story. Our little drawings aren't final artwork, but they are the way we judge how the story is coming together. When you have a breakthrough moment that makes a scene work, it's wonderful.”

In addition to creating an entire cast of characters, the filmmakers also created a new setting for the story: the island of Swallow Falls, a one-horse town where the only industry – sardine fishing and canning – has been decimated by the public's changing taste.

"We looked at towns like our own Culver City that have seen hard times and tried to remake themselves,” says production designer Justin Thompson. "We let the visuals tell the story. We give Swallow Falls neutral colors, dirty textures, lots of wires everywhere. When the town is remade, everything's shiny and new, bright and colorful, but there's a disingenuous quality to it, too – it's kind of fake and pre-fabricated.

Even in the details, Flint's setting informs how he goes about creating his machine. "Flint is a dynamic, brilliant guy, but he just doesn't have much available to him,” says Thompson. "So he creates a computer as powerful as a modern desktop, but it's the size of a room, because he's using obsolete computers and 80s videogame consoles that he's jury-rigged together.”

Even after they figured out the story and the look of the film, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs represented an enormous challenge for the directors and their team at Sony Pictures Animation. Not only would they have to replicate falling (and bouncing) food as it would behave in real life, but also real-life weather conditions like rain, sleet, and tornados. Sure, the fact that it's a spaghetti tornado makes it completely absurd – but it still has to behave like a real tornado.

"Whether we're dropping ten thousand pieces of food on the town or building a giant meatball that the characters fly into, it all falls to us,” says Rob Bredow, the film's visual effects supervisor.

The first step in creating these effects is to find out what the food does in real life. In addition to filling a bathtub full of Jell-O to see how it reacted to things being bounced on it, the filmmakers dropped food in front of time-lapse cameras so the animators could study how cheeseburgers react when dropped from great heights. Hint: there's a lot of splatting involved.

To animate a falling burger, each part – lettuce, tomato, pickl


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