Laika's "ParaNorman" not only outpaced its two stop-motion rivals, "Frankenweenie" and "The Pirates! Band of Misfits," at the box office with a respectable $55.8 million, but it also pushed the boundaries of a family movie with its theme of intolerance. This, along with a naturalistic style unique to stop-motion, just might earn the zombie-comedy an Oscar nomination for best animated feature.
"I always knew in writing 'ParaNorman' that it might cause a little bit of a fuss because of the areas that it delved into, but that was intentional," Chris Butler proclaims. "We wanted to be bold in our storytelling. And I'm glad that people have seen that and have responded to it."
However, Butler's more experienced directing partner, Sam Fell, was keenly aware of the thematic risks. After a disappointing stint at DreamWorks on "Flushed Away," he was delighted to be in an environment that encouraged being different. "Animation people have told me how well made 'ParaNorman' is and how they were surprised by its story; how unexpected it was," Fell relates.
In terms of the new verisimilitude on display in "ParaNorman"
(now available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3-D), it's what Oregon-based Laika is all about. Travis Knight, Laika's lead animator and president/CEO, likens it to "luddites embracing the loom." Stop-motion may be an age-old medium with its tactile aesthetic, but Butler insists they're not bound by it.
"It's not some historical novelty that we're honoring from a distance," Butler adds. "We're trying to take it as far as it will go. We're willing to use whatever new technology provides us to do that. I think we still maintain what is fundamentally attractive about stop-motion while using every trick in the book. And I think the rapid prototype 3D color printer is a perfect example of that. We used the printer on 'Coraline,' but it was black and white. And the innovation here on 'ParaNorman' was a color one so that we had an incredibly complex painting technique on the characters' faces. Also even the way that the material was printed, the color was within the material -- the resin-- so the way that it refracted light gave it a look that we'd never seen before. It looked more lifelike. We had never seen that before in stop-motion."