This is what the directors believe takes stop-motion to a whole new sophisticated level. It's still puppetry with its warmth and tactility, yet it remains distinct from the virtual puppetry of CG animation. And when you combine the benefits of rapid prototyping for character animation with the use of set extensions and slight digital enhancements, you strip away some of the artifice for a more believable experience.
In fact, Fell admits that stop-motion has benefited from VFX advancements in live action and CG animation. "We have the VFX department at Laika and the facial animation was figured out with Maya, but, coming back to stop-motion, what I love about it is that you're using real photography and you're relying on real surfaces. And the way the light works on those faces, using subdivision surface scattering, we get for free in stop-motion. I think there's a sophistication to the photography that's just naturally available to you in stop-motion; it's so effortless. I have yet to see that in a CG animated movie that feels quite as tangible or warm. It's beautiful and the high-end is certainly fantastic, but it's not long before it goes a little synthetic again."
The directors would go so far as to say that what they've achieved with stop-motion in "ParaNorman" is what they're chasing in CG animation. "I wish people would understand that," Butler asserts. "Real light on real objects."
Indeed, it's like having the best of both worlds.
Our exclusive "ParaNorman" clip below: