Stop-Motion Animation Makes a Strong Comeback With ‘The Boxtrolls’

One child viewer described it as “the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen” to animator Travis Knight after a recent screening.

Yet to Knight and his Portland, OR-based animation company Laika, the young viewer’s compliment was the highest praise he could have received for “The Boxtrolls,” which just snagged the company its highest-ever opening weekend with $17.3 million at the box office, according to the LA Times.

Laika’s animation studio has made a name for itself with off-kilter, unconventional films in its nine-year history, like 2009’s Oscar-nominated “Coraline” and 2012’s “ParaNorman.”

In particular, “The Boxtrolls,” a film that centers around the eponymous box-inhabiting, trash-collecting creatures who adopt a human boy, stands out from typical Hollywood animated fare by the way it was created — with stop-motion animation.

“Animation’s never been more popular than it is right now, and yet as a fan there is a generic sameness to so much of what comes out from the big animation houses,” Knight, Laika’s president and CEO, told the LA Times. “It’s a shame because you can use this extraordinary visual medium to tell really unusual, beautiful stories. … When someone tells me that it was the weirdest thing they’ve ever seen … to me that shows that they’re engaged.”

Few animated films these days are made with stop-motion, as the century-old technique involves a painstaking process in which animators move figurines by a fraction of an inch, then photograph them in each pose. Eventually, the photographs are strung together to create a motion picture.

Stop-motion isn’t exactly a fast way to make a film, either. According to Forbes, one day of work on a stop-motion film can yield one to two minutes of usable footage.

Yet audiences are drawn to the unique, aesthetically-driven feel of watching a movie made with the stop-motion technique.

While bigger animation studios may prefer to create sleek, easily-animated 3D features with computer software, smaller studios like Laika are working to preserve the near-forgotten art of stop-motion animation. And with “The Boxtrolls” set to at least break even at the box office, Laika could have a bright future ahead of it.

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