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The sky's the limit for 'Cloudy' producer

Tigard alum and Hollywood producer shares insight about filmmaking, animation


by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tigard High graduate and Hollywood movie producer Kirk Bodyfelt talks about the animation industry and his current movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, with a film studies class.In 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2' inventor Flint Lockwood and the rest of the gang return to of Swallow Falls, where the island has been overrun by living food.Kirk Bodyfelt did something last week he didn’t think he’d do.

He returned to high school.

It has been a long time since he has been back. The 45-year-old father of two graduated from Tigard High School in 1986, and the last time he stepped foot on the campus was nearly a decade ago.

But Bodyfelt wasn’t in town for a class reunion. He was here to talk about his life as a Hollywood producer, with a multi-million-dollar blockbuster currently in theaters.

Bodyfelt has spent more than 20 years in Hollywood, working behind the scenes on some of the most recognizable titles in animation.

Name an animated movie in the past 20 years, and chances are, Bodyfelt has had a hand in making it. He started his film career working on “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin,” to name a few.

Bodyfelt has spent nearly his entire career working in animation, rising through the ranks from lowly production assistant to producer.

Animated movies might generally be seen as “kid stuff,” but Bodyfelt said he couldn’t think of a better job.

“As a parent, it’s nice to be able to be producing something that (my kids) are not only interested in and can be involved in, but that they ultimately like and respect, and I can take them to,” he said.

This is the fourth time Bodyfelt has returned to his alma mater to speak with students. The last lecture was in 2006, after the release of “Open Season,” where Bodyfelt worked as digital producer.

“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2,” Bodyfelt’s newest film, was released last month.

Bodyfelt sat in with Tigard High’s film classes on Oct. 17 and talked about the process of bringing the film from script to screen. But really, Bodyfelt said, he wanted them to take away something else.

“My real goal is to use my career as an example that you can achieve just about anything if you set your mind to it and work hard to pursue your dreams,” Bodyfelt said. “While luck is always a factor, I feel I did take a practical approach on how to move forward with my career goals, and that is how I am able to have the great job I have now.”

Bodyfelt said he was attracted to animation because of the unique way it allows filmmakers to tell a story.

“You aren’t limited to one type of story or one rating,” he said. “I don’t think it’s limiting to be an animated film. It can be cartoony, or it can be like ‘Polar Express,’ where it looks almost real. You aren’t limited to one type of look. You can set up a reality, and then can do whatever you want with it.”

“Cloudy 2” is the first theatrically released film Bodyfelt has produced. He previously produced the sequels to “Open Season,” which were released straight to DVD.

“Cloudy 2 is more pressure, as it is a much larger investment for the company,” Bodyfelt said. “We have more input and reviews with studio execs and audience previews, and interactions with marketing to help shape and sell the film.”

But the ultimate product is something Bodyfelt said he was proud of.

“Cloudy 2” is a sequel to the 2009 film “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” That film told the story of an inventor who creates a machine that changes weather into food, and eventually comes to life. But when the sequel opens, the town has gone awry, with food animals taking over the island.

It takes years to bring an animated film to the screen. It took three years for “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.” Other films can take the better part of a decade.

Bodyfelt said he likes the slower pace of animated films, compared to other Hollywood films.

“It’s like driving a big boat,” Bodyfelt said. “You have to look out far ahead because you will have to turn the wheel very early if you are going to avoid an iceberg.”

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tigard High graduate and Hollywood movie producer Kirk Bodyfelt catches up with business teacher Randy Rutschman during last weeks campus visit.

How did they do that?

Bodyfelt remembers the day he became interested in making movies.

He was in the third grade, he said, and had wanted to see the new Disney animated film “The Rescuers” at the old Westgate Movie Theater.

But his mother had other plans.

“It was the good ol’ original 1977 ‘Star Wars,’” Bodyfelt said. “My mom pushed us to see that instead.”

What he saw changed the way he looked a movies, he said.

“There was so much interest at the time of how they did that,” Bodyfelt said. “There were TV specials and books about how they did the effects. Outside of the experience of the movie, what was even more interesting to me was in terms of effects and explosions.”

Learning about the movie-magic technology led Bodyfelt to explore how other types of movies were made.

“I thought, ‘I love animation, how did they do that?’”

Throughout middle school and high school, Bodyfelt began studying animation. He made short videos for his independent studies course, and then his simple stop-motion films began creeping into his schoolwork.

At Tigard High he convinced his teachers to allow him to make animated films in lieu of writing papers.

“Rather than do a report on squids, I would do a movie about squids,” Bodyfelt recalled. “We used kitty litter as the sand and did a three-minute-long film with all the facts you would put into a report.”

When his father’s law firm purchased an early portable video camera, Bodyfelt began working on live-action videos for his classes.

They produced Walter Cronkite-style reports on Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and other class projects.

“I was editing it using two VCRs, and I just continued to build a library of work,” he said. “I really liked the filmmaking aspect of it.”

Bodyfelt went to film school at the University of Southern California, and eventually broke into the industry when a friend of his told him about an opening at Disney Animation.

One of the temporary workers wasn’t available for a week or so, and Bodyfelt stepped in.

As the temp to a temp, Bodyfelt didn’t expect to be around long, but he made enough connections to land a job of his own on Disney’s next film “The Rescuer’s Down Under,” which was released in 1990.

That job led to a 13-year career at Disney, working up the ranks. On one of his first films, “Beauty and the Beast,” Bodyfelt spent his days taking the hand-drawn cells from the animators and photographing them, slowly piecing the film together, frame by frame.

“It was long and laborious, but I didn’t care,” Bodyfelt said. “I was working at Disney Animation, working with real artists and touching stuff you knew was going to be on the big screen.”

Bodyfelt moved to Sony Animation in 2003, and said his 9-year-old twins are a great source of inspiration.

“I ask them all the time, ‘What are you reading?’ ‘What do you like?’”

Now that “Cloudy 2” has been released, Bodyfelt decided to take some time off from the movie business before getting started on the next project.

Whatever that next project is, Bodyfelt said he isn’t tired of animation.

“I’m not bored yet,” Bodyfelt said. “There are still stories to tell and great people to work with.”




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