Phil Lord is new to this animated-movie directing thing. So he's "obsessively refreshing" his Internet browser on the movie review websites (mrqe.com, rottentomatoes.com) for what critics are saying about his co-directing debut, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.
"Delectable, crackles with cleverness," raves Film Journal International. "Kids will want multiple" viewings and helpings of it, notes MSNBC.
"You've got this baby you're putting out there, and you hope people love it," Lord says.
Meatballs is a comedy about an inventor who builds a device that flies into the upper atmosphere and turns water vapor into food -- corn on the cob, pancakes with syrup, cheeseburgers and most memorably, spaghetti with meatballs. All this ready-to-eat deliciousness rains from the clouds, with unforeseen (and funny) consequences.
"My favorite gag to animate was a gigantic corn cob falling on The Great Wall of China. I laugh at that every time I see it. Corn on the cob, with a fortune cookie."
Making foods that Americans love and know on sight, and animating them falling from the sky, isn't as easy as you might think.
"It's pretty tough to get a convincing cheeseburger that falls, hits the ground and falls apart realistically, and in a way that the computer can replicate," Lord says.
To say nothing of the movie's "money shot" -- a spaghetti-and-meatballs tornado."That took everybody -- in visual development, design and lighting to effects -- working at the top of their game to pull off. And then having Flint [the inventor] running down the street, in a tracking shot, with meatballs raining down on him as this tornado is chasing him? Not a trivial undertaking at all."
At 34, the Coconut Grove native finally has a big-screen credit after years of writing for non-animated TV (How I Met Your Mother) and films, and a short-run animated series (Clone High) years before that. His love of the art of animation began in childhood.
"I remember going to see that touring animation festival, a collection of animated short films, at the Bill Cosford Cinema at the University of Miami when I was about 12," Lord says. "I think there was a Bill Plympton short and some of the little Simpsons shorts that were then in The Tracey Ullman Show. The breadth of possibilities of animation really struck me."
He studied animation at Dartmouth, "a mistake. Because it's so tedious, making animated films by yourself, that you miss out on a lot of things. I lived in a dark cave for three years."But his years in that cave paid off, because with Meatballs, Phil Lord got the chance to work with his childhood hero.
"Mr. T. [who voices a shorts-wearing cop who is also a doting dad] showed up for one recording session in an American flag bandanna, the next one in a kimono, then combat fatigues," Lord says, laughing. "He is hilarious in the movie, partly because he really believes all these messages his character has, about 'being good to your mama,' 'stay in school.' And seeing him -- in the recording studio, at the premiere -- is like seeing Santa Claus."
Roger Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5369.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun