LAIKA creates some of the most innovative animated films today, mainly because they make movies in a way that nobody else does at their level. This year at San Diego Comic-Con 2017, LAIKA took over part of the San Diego Gaslamp Quarter to show off the actual puppets, props, and sets they use to bring their stop-motion animated movies to life.
With throngs of geeks filling every nook and cranny of the San Diego Convention Center, it’s sometimes hard to remember that there is so much more to be found outside the con, in the streets of the city, around nearly every corner. Here we explore what we found most compelling and fun beyond the con during San Diego Comic-Con 2017.
Coraline, Paranorman, Boxtrolls, Kubo and the Two Strings – All Academy Award nominated films for best animated feature. And they have yet to take home the big award, it doesn’t mean they haven’t earned it or they aren’t worthy of it many times over. In what many consider to be an old-school animation process, Laika has taken stop motion animation into the 21st century with each successive film they produce. With a mixture of styles, scales, and a considerable amount of 3D printing, they bring whole worlds to life. Here is only a small sample from each of their films to give you an idea of what it takes to create a LAIKA film.
Coraline – Academy Award Nominee 2009 Best Animated Feature
Coraline was the first-ever stop motion animated feature to be conceived and shot entirely in Stereoscopic 3D. The on-set 3D photographic process entailed shooting two pictures for each frame – a left-eye and a right-eye frame – with the same camera.
Over 250 crew members worked on creating, dressing and animating the character of Coraline. For that character, there were 28 identical puppets. The main puppet stands 9 3/4 inches high. She has 42 different wigs and goes through ten costume changes throughout the film, with accessories. A miniature knitter knit Coraline’s gloves and star sweater by hand (six of each). A single garment this small takes anywhere from six weeks to six months from conceptual design to finished product. Some of the needles used are as small and fine as human hair.
ParaNorman – Academy Award Nominee 2012 Best Animated Feature
It takes at least three to four months to craft a new puppet from start to finish, not including design or testing time. It took 60 puppet makers to create 178 individual puppets for ParaNorman including 28 individual full body puppets for our hero, Norman. ParaNorman is the first stop motion movie to utilize a 3D color printer to create replacement faces for its puppets. Over 31,000 individual face parts were printed for the production. Norman himself has about 8,800 faces with a range of individual piences of brows and mouths. Being a “man of 8,800 faces” meant that he could have approximately 1.5 million possible facial expressions.
The Boxtrolls – Academy Award Nominee 2014 Best Animated Feature
“The Boxtrolls is different from our previous movies, Coraline and ParaNorman, in that those were contemporary American stories told with shadings of supernatural elements. This movie is a period piece – and is a mash-up of detective story, absurdist comedy and steampunk adventure with visual splendor and a surprisingly wholesome heart. It’s like Charles Dickens entwined with Roald Dahl and Monty Python.” – Travis Knight, LAIKA CEO, Producer & Lead Animator of The Boxtrolls
Kubo and the Two Strings – Academy Award Nominee 2016 Best Animated Feature
Each of LAIKA’s films has a unique look. On Coraline, illustrator Tadahiro Uesugi’s clean, elegant and confident line informed the film’s style. ParaNorman employed a sketchy, rough-hewn scribble. The Boxtrolls favored an organic, irregular and nervous line evocative of German Expressionism. For Kubo and the Two Strings, texture became the unique signature and through-line for the designs. Inspired by the work of Kiyoshi Saito, a woodblock printmaker in the sosaku-hanga art movement of twentieth century Japan, production designer Nelson Lowry incorporated large blocks of strong colors overlaid with tactile textures – the key to the film’s design language.
What’s next for LAIKA? That information was still under wraps, no matter how much we prodded them for a hint. If they keep up their current every-two-year release schedule, we might just see something in 2018. Fingers crossed.