In 2009, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs broke out of the typical digitally-animated comedy mold with its clever blend of absurdist humor, colorful surroundings, and quirky, layered characters. With its sequel, aptly titled Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, the characters venture to an island full of “foodimals,” or animals made out of food. A world like that, with characters like that, needs voice talent as funny and imaginative as the movie. One of those actors is Anna Faris, who is reprising her role from the first film as the plucky and excitable meteorologist Sam Sparks. We spoke to Anna about making the film, about being one of comedy’s heavy hitters, and about how women are portrayed in the genre.
NERDIST: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was such a huge hit and did so well. How much of it did you see while you were recording the first one?
ANNA FARIS: It’s so interesting, because you don’t. The first time around, I didn’t see a lot at all, and so when I finally got to see the finished product, it was really thrilling. You see little sketches and maybe, you know, some boards, and then you’ll see little clips towards the end when you actually have to match… but it’s really exciting to actually see the whole thing. I was telling somebody else when I watched it — I have a lot of anxiety watching my own face, so it’s kind of nice to be in a movie where I don’t have to have that.
N: Some animated films take video of you while you’re recording and they record facial tics and things like that–
AF: Yeah, they did that for the first movie, but not so much with the second one — I think that Sam does a lot of THIS (makes face) and I do a lot of THAT (makes different face). So yes, they did try to incorporate some of our mannerisms or physicality with it a little bit. That was interesting because I do feel, especially in the first one, that I could see a lot of my gestures and things like that.
N: Did they show you the sketches beforehand? Because the creatures in just the trailer are insane!
AF: They’re amazing!
N: How much of that did you see? Or were you mostly reacting to the thought of it?
AF: Mostly reacting to the thought. I did see the stuff that was in the trailer. It’s so amazing to see the process: the directors are walking you through the process, like, you are going to enter through the food world now and you’re going to whatever. So yes, it’s really exciting to see the world that they created, one that you’ve just sort of heard about. It feels to me like Cloudy 2 feels so big in scope, just that whole Jurassic Park-y element to it. Just the whole world they enter is really fun and exciting.
N: Where have they taken your character in the second film? Where does she start?
AF: She’s crushing pretty hard on Flint. Love is her weakness for sure. She’s still the weather forecaster and weather… reporter? Meteorologist…? I should know these things. So, she’s still there, but when they start to realize that the FLDSMDFR (Flint’s food machine) has still been active, she leaves her job to save the world.
N: That’s a noble goal. What’s the recording process like for an animated film? Did you record a bunch all at once or do you kind of come in over time?
AF: You come in over time. Your voice tends to blow out after about four hours, so they don’t usually schedule it for more than four hours. And it’s intense for many reasons — you tend not to have a sense of scope; like, I wouldn’t know if Flint was right beside me or over there, so there’s a lot of guiding you through that element. I think it’s fun, but you really do lose — after you say the line 15-20 times you really don’t know what you’re saying anymore. So, that’s kind of interesting, but I really love that it is so different from doing regular movies. I learn so much every time I’m in there, and it also feels — humbling is the wrong word — but it’s realizing that you’re such a small part of this four hundred person team who are in some other room drawing madly, and it’s amazing.
N: How long ago did you record the voice track?
AF: You sort of do the process over a year and a half. I would come in a bunch initially, but then, sporadically. I’d say, on average, maybe twice a month, but, yes, that part is really amazing, to see how things progress. You start to get to see little parts more each time you go in, and you do have to — for me at least — constantly be reminded of what is going on, and sometimes you re-record things because, for example, I’ve been accused of not sounding like Sam Sparks, like, “That wasn’t very Sam Sparks” or “You didn’t sound like Sam.”
N: That must be hard to remember the character after a month (in which) you haven’t done it.
AF: Yeah, and Sam, in particular, and Flint too… She’s really enthusiastic, so everything is big, and so they would have to remind me about that stuff.
N: Branching out to your career in general, you’ve done so many great comedies; do you feel that comedy is your niche?
AF: That’s so funny, because I’ve been acting— I grew up in Seattle — since I was a kid up there and (did) only dramatic stuff. I was never a funny girl at all. I had no interest in it and, in fact, I was not a clown in any way, so when I got Scary Movie, I was like, “I’m going to get fired. They are going to quickly realize that I am not funny at all…,” and then, of course, that movie came out and I felt like I couldn’t audition for anything dramatic, because, all of a sudden, I was trapped as spoof movie girl, which, you know, was a great trap to be in; it could be worse — like a bear trap. That’s probably the worst trap. So, for a long time, I wanted to do drama, because I wanted to prove something, and then I realized that’s not a very good reason to actually do drama — if I don’t really want to do it. I came to terms with the fact that, you know what, I really love comedy and I love what I do and I’m so glad that I’m in the comedy world because it brings me so much joy and it’s so challenging and interesting. So that’s my long winded answer, sorry.
N: And you’ve done some dramatic work. Is it kind of refreshing to go like… let me go and do that darker movie?
AF: I love doing darker stuff because I really love playing fucked up people — I shouldn’t be saying that around here… It’s less about whether it’s dramatic or comedic, it’s more about I really like playing interesting, dimensional people. But I really can’t get a dramatic job to save my life, but that’s okay.
N: Are you going to try branch into superhero movies, given that your husband’s now in a huge Marvel movie?
AF: Well, you know, I don’t know if anybody would hire me for a superhero movie. Well, maybe a spoof, but even then, I don’t even know — because they did do a superhero spoof…
N: That wasn’t good, so you should be glad you weren’t in it. Is there anything that you’d like to try or anyone you’d like to work with?
AF: I did this movie called Smiley Face and it was the first time I played a character, or first character in a long time, that didn’t have a love interest and I thought that was so liberating—and so oddly uncommon, sadly. I love the idea of playing someone who’s asexual. That, to me, sounds really fun, because, especially in a lot of movies, you have to try so hard to be sexy or have sex appeal and you’re chasing some dude and maybe he likes you but maybe he doesn’t or whatever, and it feels like you can really explore a character more if you could just pluck out the love interest portion of it.
N: Do you think that’s a problem with women in comedies? Women have proven they can be funny in comedies, clearly, but, you’re right, they’re always linked to someone — do you think that that is the way of comedy in general?
AF: I remember when I was making The House Bunny, I was arguing hard for no love interest — like the love is for the girls, but there’s got to have a love interest in there. But I think it worked out great because I really liked those scenes and Colin was amazing. I don’t know if it’s still like that — it probably still is, like, we got to stick a guy in there somewhere. What do you think?
N: Yeah, I mean Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo wrote an amazing script, Bridesmaids, but there’s still a love interest in it. I would love to see more of an equal opportunity for women comedians.
AF: I read some statistic where it’s — I wish I could remember the numbers — but it’s very rare in a movie, to have two women talking to each other.
N: I heard about that too… about something other than men.
AF: So true. But you know, I guess love is what makes the world go round.
Get hungry, because Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is out in theaters today.