How Meatballs got beefed up to a full meal

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Readers often complain that the movies based on their favorite books leave out the best parts to fit into a two-hour running time. But when the source material is only 32 pages long—as is the case with Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs—young readers will get a bonus in the movie adaptation.

The upcoming animated film is based on the children's book by Ron Barrett and Judi Barrett, and writer/directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller embellished the story to fill it out to feature length.

All of the additions are consistent with the story of a town in which it rains food, they said. "The basic arc of the book is the basic arc of the movie," Lord said in a press conference last month at Comic-Con in San Diego. "Food rains in this town. It starts out really great. There's a Jell-O mold you can walk inside of. It rains cheeseburgers. There's a day where it rains ice cream. Then slowly the food starts to get larger and a little more dangerous. There's a pickle that smashes through a building, a pancake that lands on a school, and people realize they have to evacuate on these boats made out of huge slices of bread and pizza for sails. They evacuate the island. That's what we took from the book. It's basically the arc of the movie."

The film's story details how a food machine invented by Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) causes the edible weather. Miller added that die-hard fans of the book will find easter eggs in the animation of the film, images they will recognize from the book's illustrations.

"There's a big spaghetti tornado, and there's a scene in the book where you can see a guy in a bathtub and a guy knocking on a door swept up in a tornado," Miller said during the press conference. "Those are in there. There's a little kid wearing Groucho Marx glasses."

The expanded story also gives the characters stronger arcs over the course of the movie. Anna Faris described her role: "I play Sam Sparks, a weather gal who gets sort of the break of a lifetime when she is assigned the job of covering the crazy weather in the small island of Chewandswallow. My character is more intelligent than she appears, but she sort of learned to suppress her intelligence a little bit, until her love for an intelligent man allows her to be herself."

Andy Samberg voices Brent. "He's kind of the town dufus," Samberg said. "He was a child star. He was the child actor mascot for the sardine company that sort of ran the town as their main export. Then he grows up to be kind of an obnoxious doof and has to re-evaluate his life when the food machine is invented, because no one cares about him anymore."

To capture the various eating sounds in the film, the directors actually gave the performers food in recording sessions. Most animated films keep the actors separate to preserve clean sound. Letting them eat together is unheard of.

Faris recalled, "There's a scene where it's raining cheeseburgers, and Bill Hader and myself worked together for a couple sessions. They actually got us In-N-Out burgers. We actually ate the burgers."

For a hamburger scene, Lord chose In-N-Out burgers, because, as he said, "In-N-Out is the best-sounding burger."

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs opens Sept. 18.