“It’s the worst way to make a movie…but it’s an incredible art form that is so rare and so beautiful.”

 

After you watch The Boxtrolls, watch it again. This will ensure that the first time you view it, you allow yourself to become engaged with the adorable story of the film. The second time you watch it, pay attention to the small details that bring the town of Cheesebridge to life. A lot of times people don’t realize how much hard work, craftsmanship, and creativity it takes to produce a stop motion animation. Laika is the production company that has brought The Boxtrolls, Paranorman, and Coraline to life. This three-time Oscar nominated studio integrates claymation, engineering, and computer graphics animation. A 1-2 minute scene took roughly a week to shoot. Phil Knight, the owner of the company, said, “It’s the worst way to make a movie. It makes no sense. You’re cutting your hand and contorting your body. But it’s an incredible art form that is so rare and so beautiful.” Preach.

In The Boxtrolls, Eggs is a human boy who thinks he’s a boxtroll because he was raised by them. When a girl discovers Eggs and finds that he is living underground with the boxtrolls, she brings him into civilization to prove to the adults that boxtrolls aren’t the evil monsters they are perceived to be. They actually saved the boy, not kidnapped him.

So let’s break down the art of this film by focusing on the design of the puppets themselves. What’s the big deal about puppets? It took a team of people to make one single puppet that stood no more than 12 inches tall. Each body of a character had a robotic-like skeleton that made it easy for puppet riggers to move around for each frame they shot. In order for the facial expression to match the scene, thousands of faces for each character were printed off and molded from a 3D printer. They were magnetic to the body so it was easy to remove and attach a new one. Eggs alone had roughly 1.4 million faces made. Yes, over a MILLION. I didn’t even know anyone was capable of that many expressions.

Costume fabricators were needed to create costumes and props by using their expertise of sewing, fusing, gluing, and embroidery by following close direction for what was designed for each character and scene. Among these various artists is graphic designer Annie Atkins, who designed the labels on each box the boxtrolls wore. Atkins was the lead of the production team who won an Oscar for their work in The Grand Budapest Hotel. As a specialist with props in period pieces in cinema, she was a great fit for the Victorian era the film takes place in.

Director Anthony Stacchi felt driven to make a film like this because it’s nostalgic for many people. He hopes for people to recall their childhood and remembering playing with dolls or figures, holding that tangible object in their hands and having complete control over their imagination.

The Boxtrolls will captivate and move you. The amount of work put into production is insane and shows how dedicated filmmakers and artists are to their craft. Escapists like me will find it easy to get lost into the film and when we come back out, we feel inspired to kick some ass. Stop motion animation is changing the world, one fictional, handcrafted world at a time.

 

Directed By: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi

Produced By: Travis Knight, David Ichioka

Screenplay By: Irena Brignull, Adam Pava

Starring: Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Toni Collete, Jared Harris, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan

Distributed By: Focus Features

Release Date: September 26, 2014

Run Time: 96 Minutes

Rating: PG

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