When you consider the abundance of animated films, it’s surprising none have featured food and grocery items as characters until Sausage Party…
I think that was part of the original thought that [writers] Seth [Rogen], Evan [Goldberg] and Jonah Hill had. They were thinking all these Pixar films are about the secret life of fish, the secret life of bugs, cars, toys… but what about the secret life of food? It’s a pretty grim existence if you really think about it – they just sit in a package in a store and wait to be taken home and eaten. That would be an interesting secret life to explore.
Seth and Evan’s screenplay is extremely clever in the way it uses a supermarket as a metaphor for the real world. What did you think when you first read it?
It was the fact that they had turned a whole grocery store into a world with a culture. It was really interesting to visualize that after having read it in the script, there was a lot to play with there. That was one of the challenges because if you think about it, a grocery store is a giant square warehouse with aisles, and it could be one of the most mundane things to design. My co-director, Greg Tiernan, and I actually saw the world they’d written and had ideas on how we could leap from there and visualize this as a world instead of just a place.
After making family films like Shrek 2 and Madagascar 3 for Dreamworks, did you find it a bit surreal to be working on something like Sausage Party?
Not surreal as much as a dream come true. Doing something adult with animation had been a lifelong dream of mine, but it was surreal in the sense that I was ecstatically happy. I had to stop and think, ‘I’m actually making this!’ In fact everybody on the movie would stop and laugh and say, ‘I can’t believe we’re getting to make this, it’s fantastic!’
Was it a tough project to get green lit?
That was the biggest challenge of the whole thing – getting anyone to buy into it. When Seth and Evan first pitched it to me, I was going to be handling the animation side and they were going to be handing the actors and script side of things. Once we had all that figured out, we got a bunch of designs together and it was three years of pitching to pretty much every studio in town. It wasn’t until Megan Ellison of Annapurna Pictures signed on that we actually got our first bite.
How did working on Sausage Party compare to the bigger animated films you’ve done?
We didn’t have a big overhead, but I thought Sausage Party looked really good for what we had financially. The software and technology has gotten so good, you can make a really good-looking film without having to write new programming or spend a lot of money. The concern was mainly time. There was so much we wanted to do, and time is literally money when you’re making one of these. In the beginning, we wondered how much we could get away with. We have to live up to the look of a Pixar film because we’re asking the audience to buy into our film as they would a Pixar or Dreamworks movie. So if we ask them to invest in it like one of those other movies, we have to make it as cinematic and engaging and emotional as any of those other films.
The supermarket door has been left open for a sequel; has anything been discussed at this stage?
There was one thing that was said about a sequel, and that was from Evan Goldberg. He said, ‘We’re not going to make a sequel unless we have a damn good idea.’ Everyone cares too much about this movie to rush into a sequel that won’t be just as good, entertaining and jaw-dropping as the first. We probably even have to improve on it. And when you end a film with a gigantic orgy, you’re hard pressed to figure out where you go from there.
Sausage Party is out now on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K.