Post Magazine

October 2014

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 23 of 51 22 POST OCTOBER 2014 ith their third feature fi lm, The Boxtrolls, Hillsboro, OR's Laika ( has quickstepped stop- frame animation into heady new worlds. Cheesebridge, the fi lm's location, is a Victorian-era town with quirky buildings, cobblestone streets, a town square, and a castle-like Guild Hall where snooty, rich, cheese-obsessed aristocrats and the Cheese Guild's "White Hats" meet. One would-be White Hat, the red-hat wearing Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Ben Kingsley), has convinced the citizens of Cheesebridge and the White Hats that Boxtrolls steal their cheese and snatch their children. His chief evidence, such as it is, is a baby's disappearance. His goal: to become a White Hat. The Boxtrolls, harmless dumpster div- ers and mechanical tinkerers, are strange little creatures that live in the sewers and wear cardboard boxes around their mid- dles. Their names are the labels on their boxes: Fish, Shoe, Oil Can, Fragile, Specs. They didn't steal the baby, they rescued him; the baby grows up wearing a box labeled "Eggs." When Eggs meets Winnie, the ruling White Hat's daughter, the two become determined to set the story straight. The result is a madcap action/adventure story with Snatcher chasing Eggs and the Boxtrolls over rooftops, through the streets, and into the sewers. The Boxtrolls has more action, more characters, and a larger environment than usually seen in a stop-motion fi lm. "We're taking a hard look at this mag- ical medium and trying to do diff erent, exciting things," says Steve Emerson, VFX supervisor. "A big part of that has been embracing CG technology. Our phi- losophy is moving forward while looking backward. We respect the craft for what it is and then take a supplementary role. They make their magic on the stages, and we fi ll in the gaps." Emerson notes that Laika shot Coraline, the studio's fi rst stop-frame fi lm, almost entirely in-camera. With ParaNorman, the studio's second fi lm, CG artists helped the directors open up the stop-motion world. The Boxtrolls takes the notion further. "We did a lot more on this fi lm than in the past," says Eric Wachtman, look development lead. "We have more backgrounds and set extensions, and the complexity is greater. On ParaNorman, we had a handful of [CG] buildings and houses. On this fi lm, we had 20 or 30 rendered at character level with displace- ment, paint, roof tiles. And the complexi- ties of the characters' costumes went far beyond what we did for ParaNorman." As with ParaNorman and, to a lesser extent, Coraline, the hero puppets' faces are printed from CG models using a rap- id-prototyping system based on 3D Sys- tems' printers. Animators create expres- sions by combining printed mouth and brow parts. In addition, the stop-frame department heads rely on artists in the VFX department to extend their world. During the course of a stop-frame pro- duction, animators typically position the puppets on 50 stages. To determine what The Boxtrolls needed, Emerson sat with the department heads early in the process as the group broke down the script. "I sat back and stayed quiet to see what they could pull off on the stages, in the model shop, and the puppet depart- ment," Emerson says. "When they ran out of resources, everyone in the room turned to me." CG EXTRAS The hero characters are always real — there are no digital doubles for the live-ac- tion puppets that star in the fi lm. And the focus of a shot is real. But, the sequences often called for more characters than the puppet department could handle. "In terms of crowds, we typically build the fi rst and second rows physically," BY BARBARA ROBERTSON AN EXCERPT FROM COMPUTER GRAPHICS WORLD W OPENING THE LID ON THE BOXTROLLS LAIKA COMPLETES THIRD STOP- MOTION FEATURE The town of Cheesebridge. Hero characters are all practical puppets. ANIMATION

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Post Magazine - October 2014