ParaNorman Revisited

(To celebrate the release of Missing Link, we’re revisiting the stop-motion animated films of Laika this week and discussing why they’re so special. Today: ParaNorman is the kind of kid-friendly horror movie that could transform a youngster into a genre fan for life.)

My transformation into the horror-lovin’ goblin y’all know around these parts was not a graceful one. Early childhood memories are those of anxious fear. Hiding from Child’s Play commercials, avoiding Party City depots during Halloween, and so on. It wasn’t until my later high school years where “so bad it’s good” trash masterpieces sparked my spooky-but-outrageous interests. College is where I dove headfirst into the meanest, most vile terrifiers the genre has to offer, then started gradually working backward. Again, not very methodical. In a different life, I would – and should – have started with a balanced introductory horror tale for the whole family such as Laika’s ParaNorman: satire, homage, and chilling goosebumps bedtime story all rolled into one stop-motion-magnificent package.

It’s no surprise that Laika cuts through festering flesh to expose the immeasurable deepness of our human experience. By embracing horror, creators Chris Butler and Sam Fell provide commentary on death, grief, and acceptance with unflinching steadiness. Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) can see bodyless souls trapped on Earth until their unfinished business is completed, whether that be protection from a townwide witch’s curse or grandmother’s vow as a guardian angel. ParaNorman wastes no time becoming an allegory for providing comfort in death since those long buried still live on in our remembrance or actions, never mincing words nor message.

So how does Laika achieve this understanding without scaring children into existential confusion? Through a genre veteran’s appreciative lens, no less? By embracing what horror fans have known all along – there is no greater, more comforting feeling than confronting our fears face to cackling face.

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Boxtrolls Revisited

(To celebrate the release of Missing Link, we’re revisiting the stop-motion animated films of Laika this week and discussing why they’re so special. Today: The Boxtrolls showcases the kind of film, and filmmaking, that only Laika could make.)

Have you ever heard the nursery rhyme that sounded innocent at first? But then you grew up and you realized the lyrics had ghastly implications? Think of Ring a Ring o’ Rosie and its lyrical ties to the Black Plague. Think of Rock-a-bye Baby, where a baby falls from the branches. Think of the stop-motion movie The Boxtrolls, except it wears its ghastliness front-and-center, even as it is geared toward young minds. If Roald Dahl and Charles Dickens adopted a gremlin baby, they’d raise it to be this film.

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coraline

(To celebrate the release of Missing Link, we’re revisiting the stop-motion animated films of Laika this week and discussing why they’re so special. Today: Coraline is an adventure movie where adulthood is the villain.)

At first glance, Coraline seems ripe for the haunting of children’s dreams. Henry Selick’s 2009 stop-motion feature adaptation of the Neil Gaiman storybook of the same name is creepy, ghastly, and a little disturbing, with elements that could put an adult-targeted horror film to shame.

But the scariest part about Coraline isn’t the horrifying implications of the button eyes or the spindly child-eating spider-woman. It’s the idea that we’re all doomed to become boring, uninteresting adults.

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Kubo and the Two Strings Revisited

(To celebrate the release of Missing Link, we’re revisiting the stop-motion animated films of Laika this week and discussing why they’re so special. Today: Kubo and the Two Strings is a moving parable of love and remembrance.)

Memory is a fragile, fickle, formative thing. It’s manipulable and elastic, but it’s also the base of our identities, the metric by which we measure our personal growth and change, the mechanism by which we form opinions and make judgments about the world. This is why we tell ourselves stories, to give our memories a continuity of purpose and meaning, and if there’s one thing that stop-motion animation studio LAIKA understands about those self-told stories, it’s that they are our primary connection to those who came before us.

Kubo and the Two Strings is a story about holding on to family through our memories, and how love is born from memories, even when we don’t have conscious access to them or simply have stories to go by.

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(To celebrate the release of Missing Link, we’re revisiting the stop-motion animated films of Laika this week and discussing why they’re so special. First up: how The Boxtrolls highlights the art of voice acting.)

Depending on who you listen to, working as a voice actor in animated projects is either very easy or very hard. On its face, to anyone who hasn’t gone into a recording booth, it might seem like the easiest job in the world. You get paid to read lines of dialogue (without having to memorize them), and you don’t even have to get dressed up in a costume. Want to wear sweatpants and a baggy T-shirt? Why not? People will only hear your work, not see it.

Voice work might seem easy, and because of that common misconception, it’s equally easy to take for granted a great voice performance. One such underrated performance comes from a titan of modern acting: Sir Ben Kingsley in Laika’s The Boxtrolls.

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missing link set visit

Like the other films from Laika Animation Studios, Missing Link is a breath of fresh air. Laika’s films are all welcome reminders of the value and beauty of art made by hand. The attention to every last detail in a given shot for stop-motion animation is staggering; by that metric, Missing Link is the studio’s most visually accomplished and ambitious film to date. Though its story isn’t as emotionally complex or deep as that of either Kubo and the Two Strings or ParaNorman, Missing Link is a charming, fast-paced adventure that serves as both a showcase for a mix of slapstick and verbal wit, and for the studio’s textured and beautiful animation.

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missing link soundtrack

Carter Burwell, one of the best film composers in the business, lends his singular talents to the upcoming Laika animated film Missing Link. Light, playful, and immediately recognizable as something created by Burwell (Carol, Fargo and many more), the Missing Link score is a treat. We have an exclusive track from Burwell’s Missing Link soundtrack, and you can hear it below.

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missing link set visit

LAIKA is back with another stop-motion animated adventure, Missing Link. But unlike their previous films, this is the first time the protagonist of the movie isn’t a kid. Instead, we follow adventurer Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) as he traverses the world in search of mythical and elusive creatures. So it’s wonderful that he runs into the famous Missing Link (Zach Galifianakis), who is in search of other creatures just like him.

The first Missing Link reviews have hit the web, and while it sounds like LAIKA has delivered another beautiful piece of stop-motion animation that continues to push the medium to new horizons, it would seem the story doesn’t quite match up to the strengths of their previous efforts. But that doesn’t make for a disappointing experience overall. Read More »

missing link clips

Laika movies may not break the box office, but they sure are lovely to look at. The stop-motion studio behind Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls and Kubo and the Two Strings are back with Missing Link, and based on the series of clips below, it looks like another delightful entry in the Laika cannon.

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Missing Link Traller

LAIKA is at the top of their game when it comes to telling stories with stop-motion animation, so we’re excited for whatever they’re cooking up next. This year the animation studio has quite the ambitious adventure that will take us across the world with a Bigfoot named Susan.

Missing Link follows the last remaining Bigfoot of his kind (Zach Galifianakis) as he strikes a deal with explorer Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) to find his Yeti cousins in the valley of Shangri-La. It’s a journey that will span the globe and have them encountering all sorts of people along the way, making for a very quirky adventure. You can watch the new trailer now. Read More »