Kris Pearn and Cody Cameron Talk ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2’
DS: Working on a sequel, it’s both a blessing and a curse. You’re building on existing characters with a fan base. But with that fan base come expectations. How did those expectations impact your story and the choices you made on this film?
CC: Well we wanted to stay true to the characters and true to the tone of the first film. But we also wanted to take the audience to a new place. So it was about growing these characters without completely changing them.
KP: I hadn’t worked on too many sequels, so I was nervous about the expectations. But the reality is once you start making the movie, it’s the same as any other film. You’re always worried about what the audience is going to think and you’re always trying to make it as funny and entertaining as possible.
CC: We made a movie that we would want to see. We were making a story that we would want to be a part of…
KP: …and I think having made quite a few of these movies, both of us had a lot of faith that the iterative process was going to work.
DS: You trusted you’d end up with something good.
CC: Yeah, hopefully.
KP: When I’m looking at the picture as a whole, if I boil it down, it’s a little bit like when you launch a sequence and the first thing you have to do is take away the fear of that blank page, right? You know what I mean? You finally put something down on paper and then you can get going. If you stare at the paper too long, you will psyche yourself out and get freaked out. And I think it’s the same thing with any movie. When you start cracking it creatively, you literally just have to start walking into punches until you get used to it…
CC: You want to get that flow going.
DS: Speaking of expectations, your audience is a 7-year old, a 12-year old and their parents or grandparents. Or all of them. Do you think audiences judge animated films differently than live action films?
KP: Well the hard reality, and this isn’t a cynical thing to say, is that we’re trying to hit the widest possible audience. We’re sitting on a fairly large budget movie. It’s not like live action, where you can get away with making a $10 million film or a $10,000 film, where you can get away with a genre pic that sort of has a niche angle. Now admittedly, I want to communicate to as many kids as possible. That’s why we’re doing this.
So our dance is trying to find original comedy, trying to push the envelope as much as we can. But we’re also trying not to offend people because that’s not our job. Our job is to tell a story that people like. Hopefully the themes resonate and there is enough stuff in the movie beyond the jokes that is chewy, that the characters mean something people care about.
DS: So what’s the deal with all these co-directors on animated films? How do you guys divide the duties?
KP: We divide things less departmental and more sequential.
CC: We definitely had sequences that we would each…
CC: …or focus on. But with every scene, we each would look at everything. All the animation, all the designs. We were in every meeting. It wasn’t really until the end of the process where time was getting crunched, where we would have to split up and one would go to anim, one would go to vis dev. But the next day we might flip flop so that we could each see all of the pieces and keep abreast of what was going on.
KP: Our collaboration really extended from the story room. Both Cody and I had been working on projects at Sony for what, nine years?
CC: Yeah, nine and half…
KP: So we have spent a long time working together on different projects. For me, what I like about having somebody to talk to is that the conversation gets the ideas out of your head. It’s that action – reaction, that lubrication, that discussion…
CC: And even though in some sequences, one of us might focus on one scene over the other, we would still pass ideas back and forth…
KP: It’s the debate that was really good. Then we brought that debate to all of our departments and sort of set a tone that if anyone on the team had ideas, they could collaborate with us. It’s like…
CC: No bad ideas. There are no bad opinions. Bring everything on.
KP: We wouldn’t say yes to everything, but we definitely wanted the team to have an opportunity to help us make the movie better.
CC: Either it solidifies what’s working or shows you the flaws.
DS: This is your first time helming a mainstream big budget animated studio film. That’s not an easy gig to get. What in your backgrounds do you think made you the choice to direct this film?
CC: Well, being in the story department, you’re doing camera, you’re doing acting, you’re figuring out writing, you’re kind of handling a lot of aspects, so…
KP: You’re also pitching a lot. When you’re in the room with the executives…the politics, it becomes about you getting notes and how you respond to notes, to see how you work in that arena.
KP: For executives, they’re, of course, trying to manage their expectations and fear on a project because there is a lot of money on the table. That collaboration needs to be fairly transparent.
CC: Chris and Phil, they picked us to direct the second film, but also I think the executives were already leaning towards that anyway. So it just happened to workout.