Autodesk Gallery at One Market in San Francisco Exhibit: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs


The Autodesk Gallery at One Market in San Francisco celebrates design — the process of taking a great idea and turning it into a reality. With about 60 different exhibits regularly on display that showcase the innovative work of Autodesk customers, the gallery illustrates the role technology plays in great design and engineering. Autodesk Gallery Ambassadors conduct gallery tours as a sideline to their day jobs. The tours provide employees with opportunities to practice public speaking in front of small groups.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is one of the exhibits related to Media & Entertainment.


  • Sony Pictures Animation // more
  • Judi Barrett (book co-writer)
  • Ron Barrett (book co-writer)
  • Phil Lord (co-director/ co-screenplay writer)
  • Chris Miller (co-director / co-screenplay writer)
  • Rob Greenberg (additional screenplay material)
  • Yair Landau (executive producer)
  • Pam Marsden (producer)
  • Lydia Bottegoni (co-producer)
  • Chris Juen (co-producer)
  • Daniel Kramer (digital effects supervisor)


  • Autodesk Maya // more
  • Rigid Body Dynamics (RBD) system
  • Soft Body Collision extension of RBD
  • BodyPaint 3D
  • Cinema 4D Studio
  • RealD

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a 2009 computer animated film produced by Sony Pictures Animation. It's an imaginative disaster movie based upon a children's book written over 30 years ago by Judi and Ron Barrett. The story revolves around a young inventor, Flint Lockwood, who creates a machine that makes food fall from the sky. When it comes to disaster movies, here's one that truly takes the cake. Creating spaghetti tornados and cheeseburger downpours required some serious technology, enabling Sony Pictures' animators to artfully design, render, model and animate a world where the weather isn't just unpredictable — it's dinner.

According to the team, the creative inspiration included:

  • Disaster Movies

    Popular disaster movies often include absurd events and evocative environments, so hamburger storms and spaghetti hurricanes didn't seem like so much of a stretch. To create a cartoon version of a disaster movie, Phil Lord and Chris Miller (co-directors) spent hours reviewing movies like Independence Day and Armageddon for inspiration. "Those movies are meant to be dramatic action films, but these stories play as inherently funny because they have such a serious tone but really ridiculous things are happening."

  • The Cast

    If you're going to follow the disaster-movie paradigm, they always have a scientist, a reporter, and a cop — so he team tried to do silly versions of all of those archetypes. The writers and producers had an affinity for super-stylized yet simplified shape language. A such, cartoons should look cartoony, and the whole point of animation is to exaggerate reality to convey truth. The Muppets' look inspired the translation of flat, graphic character design into 3D. For example, the Flint character has more than 1,000 facial controls, which gave the animators the ability to get pretty much any performance they wanted.

The creative process included thousands of storyboards, character designs, and location concepts that were hand-drawn in pencil, colored by brush, and digitally painted and rendered. Autodesk Maya played an integral role in bringing the movie to life, helping the team navigate the complex relationships among designing, modeling, rigging, and animating characters. Rather than model the entire hamburger as a single piece, the team decided to model each ingredient separately and bind them together using a Rigid Body Dynamics (RBD) system. A Soft Body Collision extension of RBD enabled them to visualize the burgers bouncing and breaking apart. A lot of work went into the Soft Body Collision extension of RBD, figuring out how to make burgers bounce, break apart, and still look appealing. Without RBD, the team would have had to spend infinite hours animating each piece of falling food individually, and they would never have gotten the movie done. Sony’s proprietary destruction system was used to break up the buildings and add debris.

  • Concocting clouds bursting with burgers

  • Imagining movement through yellow Jell-O

  • Creating a building-busting banana

  • Cooking up an al dente tornado

  • Creating Carlsbad Caverns lights

  • Riding a grilled cheese sandwich

  • Destruction shot build

  • Applying color enhancement

Thanks to the Autodesk Gallery team for the descriptive text for this blog post.

The Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco is open to the public on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. There is a guided tour on Wednesdays at 12:30 pm and a self-guided audio tour available anytime. Admission is free. Visit us.

Animation is alive in the lab.