Travis Knight, the chief executive of stop-motion animation studio Laika wanted to be clear about something while presenting the upcoming feature “The Boxtrolls” to the fans in Hall H on Saturday.
“No farts,” Knight said of the script to the film. “This ain’t DreamWorks.”
Indeed, the animators responsible for “Coraline,” “ParaNorman” and now “Boxtrolls” made a point of showing just how much their work was a labor of love. The sizzle reel shown at the beginning of the panel spent ample time showing animators hand-crafting the sets, props and puppets used in the film.
The film is based on British author Alan Snow’s 2005 children’s novel, “Here Be Monsters!” And Knight spoke to how the source material spoke to him.
“It had whispers of classic literature,” he said. “Roald Dahl, Monty Python and Dickens.”
The story is set in Victorian England in a village of Cheesebridge, a place where the humans are inordinately obsessed with their cheeses. A community of benign trolls live in the caverns below, scavenging trash to use for their world.
What was striking about the sequence from the film screened for fans was the lack of dialogue. The trolls communicate through grunts and squeaks and the filmmakers found many unique ways of having the characters express themselves even in the few minutes they showed.
Which is not to say the entire film is dialogue free. The main character is Eggs, a human orphan raised by the trolls and voiced by Isaac Hempstead Wright, better known as Bran from “Game of Thrones.”
Wright appeared on the panel alongside Elle Fanning, who plays Winnie Portley Rind and Sir Ben Kingsley, making his Comic-Con debut as the villainous exterminator Archibald Snatcher.
“It’s very liberating to depend on just my voice,” Kingsley said. “I did my recordings lying down to allow my voice to come from another place.”
Knight said that it was Kingsley’s performance in “Sexy Beast” that made him think of the respected actor for the part.
The film has been in development and production for 10 years, which is only natural when it comes to stop-motion animation, which Knight estimated topped out at a minute or two of finished footage per week.
But Fanning, whose sister, Dakota, provided the voice of Coraline in Laika’s first feature film, recalled the magic of seeing a woman whose job it was to knit very tiny sweaters for the characters in their film.
But that’s not to say the filmmakers are precious with their creations. Knight said that most things get destroyed during the production process, with parts of their sets cut away bit by bit to allow the animators room to manipulate the characters.
Knight also led the Hall H crowd in a recorded message for Tracy Morgan, who provided a voice for the film before his serious car accident in June. The audience thumped their chests and shouted out, “We love you, Tracy.”
But despite the love everyone has for Morgan, stop-motion animation and the apparent heart and wit in the clips shown, one young boy still seemed skeptical when he took to the microphone to ask the filmmakers how this film would compare to films they may do in the future.
“I haven’t decided if I’ll go see this,” he told the animators. “My sister may make me go.”
— Patrick Kevin Day | @patrickkevinday
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