By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—A second helping of “Meatballs” is in the forecast. “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2,” the long-awaited sequel to the 2009 Sony Pictures Animation comedy hit, is predicted to make landfall September 27.
Returning to the table is Bill Hader, recently departed cast member from “Saturday Night Live,” as Flint Lockwood, an inventor who became a hero after one of his machines gave rise to food animal creatures that nearly destroyed his town. Picking up just moments after the conclusion of the first one, “Meatballs 2” finds Flint going to work for his idol and discovering that his own infamous machine is still wrecking havoc, creating food-animal hybrids called foodimals. With the fate of humanity in his hands, Flint and his friends return to Swallow Falls to battle hungry tacodiles, shrimpanzees, hippotatomuses, cheespiders and other food-creatures to save the world again.
Hader, along with co-stars Anna Faris, who reprises the role of weathergirl Sam Sparks, and Benjamin Bratt, who again voices versatile cameraman Manny, recently sat down together for a sneak preview of the action-packed animated comedy.
As parents with their own broods, all three performers say they are happy to be back working on a comedy that families can watch together. Though they recorded the dialogue for their characters separately, they demonstrate a certain familiar camaraderie at an office at the Sony Pictures Animation studios that comes from working on a project together.
Q: Bill, your character, Flint, looks a lot like you. Is that deliberate?
Hader: Oh good. They video record you when you’re in the booth. Any time (my character is) doing crazy hand motions, I do too. I do that in life.
Q: Did they show you all drawings before you recorded the voices?
Faris: Yes. They would show us the storyboards as they were building them.
Q: Do you have a favorite foodimal?
Faris: I’m partial to the Tacodile and Berry (a talking strawberry) because my character loves it. He’s her type.
Hader: I really like Berry too. I think Berry’s pretty great. I like Tomato. That’s my favorite.
Bratt: I’m a fan of tacos so I’m gonna go with Tacodile. Who ever thought a taco could be menacing?
Q: Benjamin, you are having a great summer with your voiceover part in “Despicable Me 2” and now this. Are you excited about doing these animated movies?
Bratt: It’s fun. The coolest part about it with my kids, who are 10 (Sophia) and 7 (Mateo), is it’s an opportunity to have them participate in what I do at some level and they’re getting a bit kick out of their old man being in some of their favorite movies. This is a sequel to one of their favorites.
Q: Do your kids make a connection between the character on screen and your voice?
Bratt: This is the first time they’ve made a connection—and my stock has gone up in the house. Dad is finally cool in their eyes.
Q: How does voiceover work compare to your other acting.
Bratt: You just roll out of bed with your pajamas, unshowered and unshaven and go in.
Hader: You’re just screaming all day, screaming for hours. You stand in one place and scream for four hours.
Q: Anna and Bill, are your characters Flint and Sam married in this new film?
Hader: No, I think they’re living together. I’m joking.
Bratt: It’s a trial run.
Hader: Yeah. He’s leaving stuff at her house. No. They are boyfriend and girlfriend maybe. They’re going with each other.
Bratt: In the 60 seconds that lapsed between the last one, and this one he said to her “Will you go with me?”
Q: How has their relationship changed in this one then?
Hader: Flint wants to get the girl in the first movie and in the second movie, he doesn’t know how to hold on to her.
Faris: He sort of takes her for granted.
Hader: Yeah, they start dating and he immediately takes her for granted as us dummies are wont to do.
Q: How is it working with co-directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn?
Faris: They both have similar sensibilities in terms of enjoying bizarre humor and really living in an animated world. I think it’s so impressive how truly they immerse themselves in these stories and how they sort of live it for years.
Hader: It takes them so long to do these movies and people work so hard to do them that it’s pretty insane when you think back on your first recording session. The movie is coming out next month and I’m still doing stuff.
Q: When did you start recording?
Faris: Maybe a year and a half ago. You tend to do a bunch of (recording sessions) right away. Your first sessions are pretty intense. You sort of go through the whole script and then, as you go on, they want to tweak certain things or they’ve made a line change.
Hader: Yeah, and they rewrite a lot. On both movies the opening narration that Flint does, I’ve done maybe a thousand times. (He laughs.) That’s always the last thing. For the first movie, the opening narration, I was shooting a movie in Santa Fe and they called me and said, “This is the eleventh hour but we have to have you redo the whole thing because we rewrote the whole thing.” So I was in this little studio in Santa Fe. When I see the movie, I always think of being in this little cubbyhole recording the opening.
Faris: Most of the time you don’t see the movie (while you are recording) and the directors have to walk you through it moment by moment. You have the script but even then you don’t really have a sense of what’s going on.
Bratt: That is what’s so neat about the directors, for all their technical savvy and genius in animated filmmaking, they are really in touch with their inner child. They are all about silliness. Every session they were game. They came in with this goofy kind of puppy dog thing “Okay guys! Let’s make a movie.”
Q: Would you all come back for “Meatballs 3”?
Faris: I would in a heartbeat. I love playing Sam. I think my favorite part (of the moviemaking process) is seeing the end product because unlike a regular, live-action film, you feel a little more in touch with everything and you realize you are such a small part of the process. Doing a voice is huge of course but technically, we are such a small part of the process.
Q: Is it disappointing to see the final product at all? Like would you have preferred another take (of your voice) better?
Hader: No. For me, probably my least favorite thing is the drive to the recording studio. I’m so anxious. “What the **** am I gonna do? Do I have the energy for this?” Then I get there and I calm down a little bit. I get anxious before performing so I’ll be in the car and be looking at my iPad in my head I’m like “You don’t have it. You’re washed up. You can’t bring it. This is gonna suck. They’re gonna fire you”. Then my favorite part is the drive back. Where I’m like “Good, I was all right. I was okay.”
Q: What are you working on next?
Faris: I’m doing a TV show for CBS called “Mom” and we just started, we just filmed out second episode outside of the pilot on Friday and we’re working again this week. It’s really terrifying. It premieres Sept. 23rd. I’m really excited about it.
Hader: My wife (director Maggie Carey) just did a movie called “The To-Do List” and I’m in that. I did a movie with Kristen Wiig called “The Skeleton Twins.” It’s a drama, a small movie. Then a have a movie with James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain called “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby.” And I’m writing for “South Park.”
Bratt: I am gainfully unemployed enjoying coaching my kid’s baseball team but I’m really excited about a six-hour, three-night PBS documentary coming out in September called “Latino Americans,” which is essentially a history of Latinos from 500 years ago until now.
Q: If you could bring any of the characters you’ve played in other movies or TV shows into the “Cloudy” universe, which would they be?
Faris: I’ve gotta do Jane from “Smiley Face.” She would freak out.
Hader: I’d do Stefon (from “SNL”).
Bratt: Is there room for a gang-banger in this movie series? (He laughs.)
Q: What’s your favorite animated movie ever?
Bratt: “Finding Nemo” is hard to beat. That’s a brilliant film.
Hader: The last one that really got me and my wife was “Up,” especially the opening of “Up.” We were in the theater completely just crying our eyes out.
Faris: As a kid I loved “The Fox and the Hound” and “Bambi,” but I think Eddie Murphy’s performance in “Shrek” was a total game changer. It really changed how people animate voices now.
Q: Are any of you carefully considering taking certain roles now that you’re parents?
Hader: No. My daughter doesn’t know. She’s three. She watches “Cloudy” and loves it and has no idea that’s me. I’m like “That’s daddy!” and she’s like, “That’s a cartoon character. You’re weird!”