Bill Hader, recording his role as inventor Flint Lockwood in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.
CULVER CITY, CA—Put a group of award-winning motion picture sound professionals in a room with a bunch of fruit and vegetables and what do you get? The answer is the soundtrack to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, the newly released sequel to Sony Pictures Animation’s 2009 feature.

In the original Cloudy, inventor Flint Lockwood’s food replicator goes out of control, raining giant food down on the inhabitants of Swallow Falls. Cloudy 2 picks up the action soon after, with Flint and the gang setting out to save the world from the food animals—“ foodimals”—that the machine is now creating, including fruit cockatiels, shrimpanzees, hippotatomuses and the giant tacodile supreme.

“There was a lot of organic material sacrificed for the sake of the soundtrack,” says Geoffrey Rubay, the Emmy-winning supervising sound editor/sound designer on Cloudy 2. “Everybody’s got vegetable abuse sounds [in their sound effects libraries], but a lot of it’s kind of tired, so we thought we’d take another whack at it.”

“There was a lot of organic material sacrificed for the sake of the soundtrack,” says Geoffrey Rubay, the Emmy-winning supervising sound editor/sound designer on Cloudy 2. “Everybody’s got vegetable abuse sounds [in their sound effects libraries], but a lot of it’s kind of tired, so we thought we’d take another whack at it.”

Rubay and crew recorded using microphone preamps from Pueblo Audio. “I gotta tell you, it’s like getting new microphones,” says Rubay. “We had four channels of those to use, and the recordings we got were very different from what we had gotten before with typical vegetable stuff. We were doing a lot of extreme close-up, and microphones in contact with things, trying to get as much as we could to base these foodimals on.”

Once recorded, Rubay, along with sound designer John Pospisil, set about manipulating the sounds in Avid’s Pro Tools 10 to fit the characters. “It was really a lot of the usual suspects—pitch, speed manipulation, filtering and a certain amount of vocoding,” says Rubay. “We get a lot of use out of Pitch ‘n Time Pro and Ultraverb, as well as [reFuse] Lowender; I’m a big fan of Lowender.”

The film’s directors, Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn, gave voice to the pickles. “Their voices are very gargly, almost like gargling water and making little voices at the same time. Some of that is vocoded onto other things to maybe give it a little more resonant quality, or a little more depth to it. It starts out as a human performance in front of a microphone.”

The pickle sounds are complex, he notes: “All of the movements of their mouths opening and closing are halves of watermelons getting slammed together, with all kinds of cucumber, pickle, romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce—you name it—all being flapped around to make [the sound of] a foot or an arm, or a mouth opening and closing, or eyes blinking.”

The sound work was largely performed at the Sony Pictures audio post production facilities. “We pre-dubbed on the Novak and Lancaster stages, and then finaled on the Novak. Tom Johnson did the dialog and Foley pre-mixing and finaling, and then Michael Semanick pre-dubbed the backgrounds and sound effects, and also carried the music on the final. Chris Carpenter worked on the temp dubs with us, and also did pre-dubbing for us,” Rubay reports.

For Semanick, a two-time Oscarwinner, the principal challenge was to keep the sound reined in: “The colors are punchy—visually, they fill the screen—so we didn’t want to sonically fill the screen as well. You can have a tendency to go too much with sound and it can become assaultive. It can get very distracting very quickly.”

For example, says Semanick, who mixed alongside Tom Johnson, another two-time Academy Award-winner, on the Harrison console on the Novak stage, “There’s a moment toward the end where there’s a grinder. Chester V, the so-called bad guy, is going to grind Flynn’s friends up and make them into food bars. We didn’t want to hear a grinder for 10 minutes, so we picked our moments. It goes in and out—you’re not supposed to notice it, and I don’t think audience members do.”

The ambience of the film was fun to make, continues Semanick. “There are food animals running around the island, so they wanted to hear them every now and then. It creates a texture, a presence; it puts you in those scenes.”

Music—the score by Mark Mothersbaugh, and a new original song by Paul McCartney—also features heavily throughout the film; almost too heavily, according to Semanick: “Mark came in and was happy to drop music cues. We’d rather have it and drop it than to be short a cue or try and paste something in.”

The re-recording team was able to control the overall level by creating a break before a big, orchestral music cue: “When we knew there was a big cue coming up, we made the ambiences and the backgrounds cross-fade, to give more room for the orchestra to breathe. Then we didn’t have to push the music so hard.”

Sony Pictures Post Production
sonypicturespost.com