Grotesque, quirky 'Boxtrolls' find home on margins of animation

Thu Sep 25, 2014 6:16pm EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As the hipsters of animation, Portland, Oregon-based Laika studios is not afraid to play on the fringe with its latest film "The Boxtrolls," and its lead stars are not your average cute animated monsters.

"We're never going to make things that are middle of the road or inoffensive," said Laika's President Travis Knight.

"The Boxtrolls," out in U.S. theaters on Friday, makes stars out of its odd, grotesque little grunting green monsters who are named after the cardboard boxes they wear, such as Fish and Shoe. The creatures are feared by the residents of the whimsical town Cheesebridge for their alleged human-eating traits.

""We could have gone the standard animation route where they aren't really monsters. They're fuzzy little adorable balls of fluff, but that plays against the basic idea of something being marginalized for what they look like," Knight said.

"This society hates these things because of appearance and how they've been presented."

Laika, the independent studio behind 2009's "Coraline" and 2012's "ParaNorman," both nominated for Oscars, prides itself on creating aesthetically different tales from other animation studios such as Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks.

"Family films have become more watered down because you're trying to be calculating populous in your approach, where you have to appeal to every possible demographic," Knight said.

Laika's selling point lies in hand-made artistry, creating miniature physical sets and puppets and using stop-motion animation, where each frame was positioned by hand and captured by camera by 400 artists working over 18 months. The only computer-generated imagery used was to build the backdrop to the physical sets.   Continued...

Director Anthony Stacchi of animated film "The Boxtrolls" poses for a portrait in Hollywood, California September 19, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson