Food for Thought
September 17, 2009

Food for Thought

In the totally uninhibited film Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, the characters stand open-mouthed while hamburgers fall from the sky, tomatoes roll down sidewalks, children ride sleds on mashed potato mountains. It’s difficult to imagine subject matter more fun for computer graphics professionals: The colors look saturated in the way that only digital colors can look. The characters stretch the bounds of 3D animation. Cartoon physics have never been so appetizing, bananas so aggressive.
Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the animated feature from Sony Pictures Animation based on the popular children’s book of the same name, tells the story of a young mad scientist who converts water into food to help an impoverished town. Meatballs rain from the sky and he becomes a hero. That is, until the welcome food showers become violent storms.

“I like to say this is the first cartoon I’ve ever worked on,” says Rob Bredow, visual effects supervisor, who moved onto this film after completing Sony’s Surf’s Up, which received an Oscar nomination. For Cloudy, Bredow led a crew of 250 people at Sony Pictures Imageworks who worked on the film. “It’s our most ambitious animated movie to date,” Bredow says.

The film features approximately 30 main characters who live in a world created with 4000 hard-surface models. The characters move using a style of animation inspired by United Productions of America, which was especially popular in the late 1940s and 1950s: The UPA animators weren’t constrained by accurately moving volumes in space.

In the September issue of CGW, Barbara Robertson takes readers behind the scenes, detailing the novel techniques used to create this appetizing 3D film.