Bill Hader's voice is just one essential part of the comedic talent that took him from Second City to “Saturday Night Live” and big-screen comedies, but the Tulsa native's range of voices is getting a lot of play these days in animated films.
To create his performances as Flint Lockwood, the young inventor in the “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” movies, Hader stayed flexible and recorded many, many shots at the same lines. It turns out that voice actors almost never know how the performance turned out until they see — and hear — the end results.
The voice came first, and Hader, a performer with a deep reserve of characters with different inflections, accents and timbres, had to experiment to find just the right sound for Flint in the original 2009 film loosely based on Judi and Ron Barrett's 1978 children's book.
“You know, it was weird,” said Hader, whose voice is heard in “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2” this weekend. “On the first movie, we tried to do a couple of different voices, and we ended up scrapping, I think, the first and second day of recording, because we were trying to find the right voice. When we listened to it back, the directors said, ‘You do a voice, and then you talk to us in between the takes in just your voice. That's the voice we want.' It took awhile to get to a very simple solution.
“Initially they said, ‘Yeah, we want him to be really kind of nervous and twitchy,' and so I tried a few things that were a little too on the nose and a little too broad — too nervous twitchy!” he said. “But then we settled on the best one: my voice, but just a little amped up.”
In the second film, Flint, his fisherman father Tim (James Caan), meteorologist/love interest Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), “Baby Brent” McHale (Andy Samberg) and cameraman Manny (Benjamin Bratt) return to Swallow Falls, the island village that was inundated with giant food from one of Flint's inventions. They are there to help Flint's idol, visionary scientist Chester V (Will Forte), clean up the mess, but they soon discover the food has transmogrified into creatures — sentient pickles, “tacodile supremes,” “shrimpanzees” and other fantastical hybrids.
In the beginning there is a script, but those words are subject to endless interpretation in computer-animated films such as “Cloudy 2.” After zeroing in on the character, what follows is a process that is almost entirely unique to the animation industry.