Portland-based animation studio Laika are currently hot
stuff. They only have two completed features with a third on the way but they
have managed to garner plenty of critical and fan acclaim in addition to decent
commercial success with films Coraline and ParaNorman. Their latest film, The
Boxtrolls, is set for release in September, 2014 but it’s similarity to it’s
sister films once again raises the question as to whether Laika is stuck in a
creative loop of sorts.
Of course, that isn’t to say that they make poor films; far
from it. They’ve been rightfully praised for not only their superb quality, but
also for offering an alternative to the brazen CGI comedic efforts of other
studios. The decision to go in the the dark, scary direction obviously sets
them apart and they play that to maximum stop-motion advantage with all kinds
of weird and wacky characters, sets and special effects along the way.
That said, all three films share an inescapably similar look
and tone – take another look at the trailers below. They’re dark and quirky in the horror mold and have kids as their
central character. It could be argued that Laika have discovered a bit of a
niche and have settled into it quite nicely by creating films with a known and
winning formula. Proof of being stuck in a creative loop surely, no?
On the other hand however, it’s necessary to consider their
output in the grander scheme of things. Laika have proven to be the only
animation studio not to suffer from sequalitis and their films, while sharing
similar traits, could not be said to be as overtly similar as pretty much all
the 3-D CGI features that hit the market after Shrek. For that alone, they
continue to be a pioneer and innovator of feature animation.
Charles Kenny writes prolifically on his own blog, The Animation Anomaly.