Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs: A Sony Pictures Animation Christopher Miller/Phil Lord Film

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the animated version of the classic children’s book previewed recently for select media and followed with a press junket at the world famous Dylan’s Candy Store on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

A Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation film, the popular children’s masterpiece of the same name written by Judi Barret and illustrated by Ron Barret, became the backdrop for the animated adaptation brought to life by directing team Christopher Miller and Phil Lord.

The two day press junket began at AMC Theaters in Times Square New York City with Sony Films creating a perfect lead in for the film by providing the press a cornucopia of goodies from the theaters concession, an all you could eat opportunity to indulge. And all did.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is directly based, with creative license, on the 1978  kids novel that details the mundane life of a small middle of nowhere, in this case middle of the Atlantic Ocean, town named ChewsandSwallow; an island, isolated and separate from the rest of the world. The townspeople of ChewsandSwallow enjoyed an existence that, like most small towns, thrived around a single industry.

The film opens with a voice over of all the necessary information to bring the audience up to date; a snapshot of ChewsandSwollow, their dependence on the Sardine Industry, the local celebrities of ChewsandSwollow and of course how ChewsandSwollow was feeling the sting of hard times.

The boundaries of this ChewsandSwollow, like most small towns, didn’t hold the dreams or imaginations of the main character Flint, a fledging scientist, who’s known primarily for his scientific failures. His most noted failed experiments include spray on shoes, un-balder spray and a monkey thought translator gadget.

The voice talent of Bill Hader of Saturday Night Live fame brings Flint, the fledging teenage scientist, to life. Flint embodies the character of a loner, a talent diligent at his craft; he develops his work, tests it, fails, faces the scorn and ridicule from the towns’ people, where he is known for his "crazy experiments."

James Caan brings character to Flint’s dad, Tim, and personifies the hardnosed blue collar, steady man, who built a steady fishing and tackle business, offers advice and direction in fishing metaphors, endures the loss of his wife, goes to work every day and lives, modernizing gently, in a high speed virtual world.

After the snapshot voice over the film opens into Flint’s modernized tree house laboratory with “Get Smart” voice activated door locks that don’t work and includes all the computerized gadgets and tech software a fledging scientific genius would need. 

And into the mind of his latest and yes greatest experiment; a food clone machine. By placing a cheeseburger under the clone mechanism and finding the necessary kilowatts to power he could actually clone cheeseburgers! With one small problem the only voltage that could power his experiment was the electricity tower in town and protected by the tough, “cross the line do the time” cop, Earl Duvereaux, brought to life by the incomparable voice talent of Mr. T.

Not to be deterred by circumstance Flint takes his machine into town where a Sardine pep rally is taking place and the townspeople believe they are on the verge of economic revival with the mayor’s plan for tourism and trade.  Passing the news van with new-to-the-scene weather intern, Sam Sparks on assignment in ChewsandSwallow, brought to life by Anna Farris of Scary Movie fame, Flint proceeds to connect his machine with jumper cables to the electricity tower.

Police Officer Duveraux interrupts the experiment, the voltage is too high; the machine breaks loose from the tower and like a rocket launches into the atmosphere! The Pep rally is destroyed, chaos ensues, Flint’s dad hears the noise, sees the jet trails, hears Dueveraux scream his son’s name and silently walks away.

Suddenly, Flint experiencing the feelings of failure again, finds himself sitting alone on the pier when Sam Sparks appears voicing her own feelings of disappointment over her failed first time on-air botched opportunity.

The two begin to argue then commiserate when Flint notices a splat of mustard rain hitting the ground, then a slice of cheese lands, and quickly the sky opens and Cheeseburger’s from heaven! The perennial scientific failure Flint stands with his hand held high and a fully dressed Cheeseburger lands on his out stretched palm in triumph!

Sam Sparks realizes she had the weather story of her life; she stumbled onto a true weather phenomenon!

Raining Cheeseburger’s?! It’s raining cheeseburgers!  An all beef patty, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun Cheeseburgers! It was the Arc de triumph! It was raining Cheeseburgers!!!!!

Soon, Flint is the town hero; Sam Sparks the new weather “it” girl; the town is enjoying made to order weather: Sunny days of cheeseburger’s, golden jell-o sunsets, Ice cream Sunday’s! Economic revival is on the way for ChewsandSwallow! Finally Flint is king!

For the next thirty days Sam Sparks & Flint Lockwood are the hottest duo since Batman & Robin; Sonny & Cher; Bill & Hillary! 

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs speaks to children and adults alike with the multi-layered messages including all the food issues that are so frequently talked about including body images, gluttony, food addictions, and it is visually created so that children can see the results and leave the theater with the knowledge without, what they believe is, the lesson. 

The feelings of isolation, failure, rejection, anger over death of spouse and parents, loneliness, betrayal, and finally when the unusually reserved and very protective Tim Lockwood speaks  his feelings, with the help of the monkey thought translator, it is understood how important it is to speak and hear words of affirmation, support, kindness,  love.

The technical aspects of the 3-D film are flawless. The animation, colors, concepts and ideas, are extraordinary and one can envision an array of action figures associated with the film’s release for home sales. The animation team brought the already visual masterpiece of illustrator Ron Barret to 3-D with high definition coloring; inventive creative license and stunning effects.

The two day junket was filled with all the surprise of a land where Cheeseburger’s rain from the clouds and Jell-O mold sunset’s fill an evening sky and children wake up to ice cream snow drifts.

The second day of the Sony’s Press Junket for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs began at Dylan’s Candy Store on Manhattan Upper East Side. A three tier Chocolate Waterfall, rainbows of lollipops, mountains of fireballs were all available for as a Dylan’s Candy Store buckets were provided for filling.

The press interviews were divided into three sections with Author Judi Barret and Illustrator Ron Barret first followed with Director’s Christopher Miller and Phil Lord and then voice talent, Bill Hader, Anna Farris and Bobb’e J. Thompson.

All involved were generous with their time. With the amount of Journalists present the questions garnered a potpourri of answers including the reaction of the Ms. Barret when she learned that her children’s classic would be made into an animated film, thirty years after its original publication, and was the favorite of the directing team, Christopher Miller and Phil Lord.   They also added how Sony was very responsive and always informative allowing them creative input and kept them “in the loop” on the progress. When asked, “If Pickles to Pittsburgh,” the follow-up to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, “would be the sequel?” She laughed, and added, “Well, we don’t anything yet.”

With any luck we’ll be seeing their work again making it to the big screen with “Pickles to Pittsburgh” in animation.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meat Balls, is fun for kids and adults. It’s a feel good film that leaves you singing, “Sunshine, Lollipops and rainbows all the time!”  It opens today in theaters everywhere.

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