“We’ve got a nice, three-story-tall building here, and lots of places where you can get hamburgers. So right off the bat “we were dropping hamburgers off the roof to see how it looked. Basically, they’d just splat when they landed. It was pretty messy,” says Rob Bredow of visual effects supervisor on Cloudy.
The Flint Lockwood Dyatonic SuperMutating Dynamic Food Replicator (FLDSMDFR) could save the aspiring scientist’s hometown, Chewandswallow, from a bleak future of sardine-only food supply. At first, the plan works; cheeseburgers, hot dogs, steak and ice cream fall from the sky like rain. But when the machine gets overloaded with requests, it begins to create bigger, more dangerous food weather that puts the town at risk.
Animators were assigned with creating about 80 different kinds of food but ended up making about 150 models. They chose to make the food look like the real thing. “Food is one of those things, kind of like a human face, where we’re pretty good at recognizing what is good food, and what is bad food. There are lots of things that make food not look appetizing,” Bredow says.
The filmmakers began shaping and coloring the food in the computer using reference photography, but sometimes that wasn’t enough. To make the food believable, it also had to behave the way it would in the real world—so animators put on their aprons and hit the kitchen. One designer cooked bacon every way imaginable: microwaved, completely burnt, with a little grease and with a lot of grease, and everything in between; filmmakers then picked their favorite bacon. To see how Jell-O moved, animators filled a 5-gallon tub with Jell-O, trained high-speed cameras on it and tossed action figures and marbles at the stuff. And for the sequence where cheeseburgers fall out of the sky, the filmmakers dropped burgers from the top of Sony Imageworks’ three-story Culver City offices to see how the food would behave in the air and when it hit the ground. The burgers, coming in at high velocity, all broke apart on impact. “It was fun to do,” Bredow says, “but it wasn’t what we wanted them to look like in the movie.” VFX artists opted to create a stylized version of the cheeseburgers using a physics simulation with invisible springs that held some of the burgers together when they hit the ground. For the ones that broke apart, animators had to create digital versions of lettuce, pickles, cheese, buns and burgers that had all the characteristics of their real-life counterparts.