Often, when actors sign on to do animated films, it's an amusing lark, an opportunity to do a silly voice for a few weeks, not a chance to expand their acting range. 

That doesn't seem to have been the case for Anna Faris and Bill Hader on the new 3-D animated romp "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs." In addition to being pelted by gigantic steaks, engorged hot dogs and juicy burgers, the two leads actually had character arcs and emotional journeys to navigate.

"What I... liked about playing her was that she’s feisty and frustrated," Faris tells reporters of her turn as aspiring weathergirl Sam Sparks. "They really had a specific character. Sometimes you play a character and you have no idea what the character is like, and the character is just serving other characters softballs, or something. But, this was great, and I love the way she looks."

But Sam's looks are standing in her way, forcing her to dumb down her own meteorological interests. In a reverse of the "She's All That" formula, Sam only self-actualizes when she puts her hair up and dons glasses.

"It was really fun to have that reversal" says Faris. "Normally, you have the nerdy girl become hot and cool, and it was fun to flip that on its head, a little bit. Thematically, I guess it’s a little sad that she feels the need to suppress that. But, I had a blast doing it. I thought it was just going to be a total cake walk. I was like, 'It’s an animated movie. It will be easy, easy, easy.' But, no. It was so hard."

Hader, playing the film's hero Flint Lockwood, a bumbling, but well-meaning inventor, had a different challenge. In his time on "Saturday Night Live" and in animated features like "Doogal" and "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," Hader has proven to be a master mimic, but he's avoided doing one voice over the years. 

"I had done some animated stuff before, but I’d always done different voices. This was the first thing I had done, where they were like, 'No, we want your normal voice,' and I was like, 'How do I do that?'" says Hader, whose character is driven by a yearning for the affection of his emotionally reserved father (James Caan). "We had to scrap my whole first day of work because they were like, 'We want your voice.' That was really tough. And, also, it’s so insanely draining, just doing this work. If you watch it, we’re all at a 10, through the whole movie."

Hader adds, "There is an emotional thing to it. There were scenes in it where I would approach it like an actor. It’s not all just going in and yelling and screaming. With other animated movies I’ve done, it was like, 'You’re a British guy,' or whatever, and you just do that and it’s a little character. But, with this, I remember doing the scene when Flint’s in the trash can, and they were really talking me through it. They were like, 'You’re really sad.' And then, I saw that scene in the movie and my wife got really sad during it. She was like, 'Aw, you’re in a trash can.'"

Yes, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" is grounded in human moments. Or maybe the human moments are grounded in absurdity, as Flint's most successful invention awash in delicious and oversized edibles. Either way, Hader and Faris credit writer-directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord with maintaining the balance.

"They were really good at walking you through it and saying, 'No, this is a real moment. This isn’t a funny moment. We want this to be a real moment.' They’d be like, 'Okay, the spaghetti twister is coming toward you. This is a real moment,'" Hader cracks.

While most animated films usually record actors separately, Hader and Faris got to record together. For about two days. However brief that collaboration was, though, it appears to have worked.

"A journalist complimented us on our chemistry," Faris laughs.

Hader adds, "She kinda wished that Flint and Sam had sex in the film. We were like, 'Yeah, we don’t need to see that. Not in 3-D.'"

 

"Cloud with a Chance of Meatballs" hits theaters in 3-D on Friday, Sept. 18.