Cloudy with a Chance of UPA and Muppets
Check out the trailers and clips from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs from at AWNtv!
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs opens today from Sony Pictures Animation and Columbia Pictures, and its wacky premise of food falling from the skies, is not only tailor-made for 3-D but also for a stylistic pairing of UPA and The Muppets.
Animation Director Pete Nash, who is currently working in Bristol with Aardman on Arthur Christmas, tells us how they pulled it off. I also had a follow-up chat with the amiable directors, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller.
"The biggest challenges in Cloudy were the stylistic choice," Nash suggests, "because the directors were very inspired by two things: UPA, the group of Disney animators that broke away in the '50s because they wanted to do a more flat, graphic design oriented way that was much more abstract and much less about accurately moving volumes around in space. And then The Muppets.
"And so the challenge was how do you do that in 3D, which is a lot less abstract. You have realistic lighting and textures and you can't really stretch anything because the textures will turn into lines and it will look awful and it won't look like the material it's made out of anymore.
"And where applicable, they wanted to apply the held-cel UPA [approach] but only on certain characters. So the challenge was figuring out what the boundaries were before it broke in 3D."
In fact, Manny, the cameraman, was probably the most UPA-esque character, according to Nash. He's very short, has tiny, skinny legs, an enormous head and giant nose. And he has a hat that covers his eyes. "He has an economy of motion and often would not move at all because his character is quietly confident and has nothing to prove, and only speaks a few times in the movie," Nash continues. "So, that confidence and precision lent themselves to the UPA approach.
The cool thing about Flint [the protagonist] is that he grew up as a loner in a town where he had to invent his own way of dealing with social situations, and they were always wrong and awkward. So he never knew how to interact with people, so his hands were always making adjustments and his eyes would dart around nervously, while the rest of him would be hunched over. And whenever he was alone in his lab, he would ham it up and act like he was in his own adventure movie.
"So when he has to solve a problem in his lab, we would have him walk around and intentionally abandon mechanics that you would normally have in a walk cycle. So there would be no up/down to his body and his feet would be articulately animated. The idea is that other than traveling through space, he was intensely focused, so the unnecessary motion was stripped away to help support that idea."
Meanwhile, Sam, the beautiful TV journalist newbie, was a nerd in adolescence, which she now hides from the world to gain acceptance. "So she would act like a ditzy blond character -- no offense to blonds -- and whenever she heard something that intrigued her, she would forget herself and go back to her true nature. And then she'd start acting a bit more like Flint, where she'd start to dissect all of the information and process it. But then she'd catch herself and over compensate by acting extra ditzy in hopes of erasing that she almost exposed her true nature."