Writers and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have thought an awful lot about food. But not in any sort of usual way. While working on their animated film, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs based on the 1978 classic kid's book, Lord and Miller had to take the initial premise involving freaky food meteorology many steps further. They tell Squid Ink what got their creative juices flowing, and what their ideal L.A. grub storm might serve. The film opens this Friday, September 18.
Squid Ink: How is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs for kid and parent foodies alike?
Phil Lord: Well, the film uses both the terms “amuse-bouche” and “Nacho Cheese Hot Springs,” so it's really the kind of movie that tries to balance high and low in the same film. There are things for the kid in all of us, and things for the New Yorker-reading power nerd in all of us. Kind of like how all the fancy restaurants nowadays have mac & cheese and sliders on the menu. In fact, I'd say our film is a lot like a lamb slider. It's got enough high-minded, ironic smartypantsness to make you feel okay about enjoying some good old-fashioned heartwarming comfort food.
Chris Miller: We designed and rendered hundreds of foods for the film. Everything from a sushi cut roll to a fancy-looking (yet quite destructive) glazed ham. All the food is designed to look as idealized and delicious as possible, and we did focus on a lot of kid-friendly foods — but don't worry, those hot dogs you see falling are organic, nitrate-free hot dogs.
SI: Did you think back to what you loved to eat as kids for inspiration? Or instead take the relatively grown-up Ratatouille-ish relatively adult-centric approach?
PL: We drew a lot of inspiration from the book, and that meant hamburgers and spaghetti and Jell-O — a lot of kid friendly foods. That and things that had interesting colors or shapes. Turkey legs beat out a whole turkey. Also we made licorice because we needed something to double as rope.
CM: There are some healthy foods in there, like celery and asparagus, which serve an important purpose in the story, but they wouldn't work very well during the wish fulfillment part of the movie: “Hooray! It's raining celery!”
SI: What was the most fun storm scene to create?
PL: When the food hurricane at the end of the film starts to spread around the globe, we got a chance to drop a BLT on the Eiffel Tower, bagels in Times Square, and hot tea in London.
CM: There's also an avalanche of giant food, or “foodalanche,” that wipes out much of the town of Chewandswallow. In 3D it's especially fun.
SI: Which are your personal favorite food visual effects in the movie?
PL: The spaghetti tornado was pretty incredible to work on, because it's awesome and powerful and at the same time incredibly silly. It's squirting out meatballs, which looks hilarious, but then the meatballs come at you in 3D and blow up a car. Which is also really silly, but kind of impressive at the same time.
CM: That's basically the tone we were going for with the movie. Silly but kind of impressive.
SI: If it were to rain edible foodstuff in L.A., what would you want it to be?
CM: If it's going to rain free food, you might as well go bourgie.