LOS ANGELES - Fruits, vegetables and cheeseburgers get their film shelf-life extended in the animated comedy "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2," as the franchise explores a new world of living, breathing "foodimals."
"Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," released in 2009 and inspired by a 1978 children's book of the same name, saw the fictional island of Swallow Falls devoured by giant but inanimate food that falls out of the sky, generated from a machine created by the island's eccentric inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader).
In "Cloudy 2," out in theaters on Friday, Flint and his friends, including love interest Sam Sparks, played by Anna Faris, return to Swallow Falls only to find that the monster-sized food has become a living, breathing new world.
With sweeping shots of lush landscape inhabited by living "foodimals," Flint must battle with the decision whether to destroy the world that has evolved from his own creativity, as his new boss Chester V demands, or let it flourish.
"The idea that Flint's on this journey to destroy himself was cool and to manifest his creativity in the island was a great assignment," co-director Kris Pearn told Reuters.
Pearn and fellow director Cody Cameron said that while the first movie, which they did not direct, spun a twist on disaster films, "Cloudy 2" was drawn from the action genre, with influences from films such as "Jurassic Park."
The first "Cloudy" film became a surprise hit for Sony Pictures Animation, making $245.8 million at the global box office. "Cloudy 2" is projected by Sony Pictures to open between $30 million and $35 million, the likely winner at the box office this weekend.
Unlike many animated films that feature super-villains defined by evil traits, "Cloudy 2" baddie Chester V, played by comedian Will Forte, is a more complex villain masked under a forward-thinking innovator whose user-friendly products have become embedded in society.
That's because Pearn and co-director Cody Cameron said they based Chester V on some of the world's most celebrated entrepreneurs - Apple's Steve Jobs, Virgin's Richard Branson, astronomer Carl Sagan and Disney creator Walt Disney.
"If Flint didn't learn how to love, he would turn into Chester, who was the same kind of backyard inventor as Flint was, but he just went down the dark path. We definitely wanted to feel some honesty in Chester," Cameron said.
Eek! It's a cheespider
Cameron and Pearn's idea to create a world in "Cloudy 2" where food has evolved into living creatures came from the first film where many of the oversized food items, like gummy bears, chased the townspeople of Swallow Falls.
The directors said they didn't want to be "too preachy" when it came to depicting which foods were healthy and unhealthy, but said they were drawn to the creative possibilities of fruit and vegetables.
"We weighted our designs towards the healthy food, and produce became something we wanted to push forward especially because of the colors," Cameron said.
The "foodimals" in "Cloudy 2" include Barry, a wide-eyed strawberry that takes a liking to Sam, hippopotatomus, eggplanatee, flamangos and the terrifying cheespider, a cheeseburger with sesame-seed eyes and french fry legs.
With many animated films finding an extended life and revenue source for studios beyond the big screen - such as DreamWorks Animation's caveman comedy "The Croods" earlier this year which spawned games and soft toys modeled on the film's characters - "foodimals" are a new world for Sony Pictures.
"The foodimals are the real big seller of this movie," said actor Andy Samberg, who plays Flint's friend Brent.
"The world we've created for the second film, there's many different avenues you could go with the story," Cameron added.