Continuing with the third piece on films in the Best Animated Film category for this week is a look at the trailer for Laika Studios' latest The Boxtrolls. Readers will undoubtedly remember my admiration for ParaNorman and the studio's impressive stop motion techniques. In fact, I eagerly await whatever their next move is. While this isn't the first trailer to pop up for the film, it is the first to give a strong grasp as to what the film will be about. In true form, it looks equal parts innovative as it does entertaining, pushing boundaries of animation into new and interesting places.
While it is true that Pixar and Dreamworks Animation are able to churn out films at a more rapid rate, I do feel like Laika Studios has produced better films. This isn't to take away the accomplishments of Toy Story or How to Train Your Dragon respectively, but if it wasn't for the laborious production model, I feel like Laika Studios could easily compete with the big studios. Seeing as they have limitations, they instead come by every few years with an impressive film capturing an audience that I don't feel the major studios are overlooking. Even if one wants to attach the morose and unfairly used moniker of being "Tim Burton-esque," these films capture the misfits crowd by covering more supernatural stories that aren't as clean and grounded. Also, with technology making hand drawn animation seem outdated, stop motion has the unfortunate relevancy contemplation as well. Even then, I'd like to think that Laika Studios will thrive not on nostalgia for movies like that of Henry Selick, but for something that feels more organic and, simply put, weird.
The one benefit of limited output is that it makes each of their films stand out upon release. Even if the animation style sticks out, it has helped Laika Studios have the highest rate of success at the Oscars with two-for-two Best Animated Film nominees. They have yet to win, but it does reflect the Academy's specific love for recognizing the diversity of animation. Even if the films have only been nominated on sympathy vote, it is a sign of a category willing to look at anything and everything. In fact, the year that ParaNorman was nominated, there were three total stop motion films competing (The Pirates! Band of Mists and Frankenweenie being the other two). Before that included Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009. To say the least, stop motion is likely to get in on the clause that it is a rarity and a welcomed change of pace. Also, most of these films are really superb.
What does this have to do with The Boxtrolls? In all honesty, I am mostly excited because of the studio and what they stand for. I have watched several of the teaser trailers and have been amused by them, yet not sold. I am not an expert on stop motion, but I am a huge admirer of Laika Studios. As a result, I feel like I am bound to see it based on history more than personal interest in available footage. However, a full length trailer has arrived and I finally have a venue to talk about it.
Check out the trailer:
It looks like Laika Studios has stepped up their game. Where Coraline was a visual treat and ParaNorman was a loving horror homage, The Boxtrolls looks to be the most lively. Having had time now to develop a style, the trailer is full of pratfalls and sight gags that are very pleasing. It may seem a little more crass than its predecessors, yet its audacity looks to compensate. Even if I really wanted to see it before, I really really want to see it now, if just for the impressive visual action presented in the trailer.
So what is the film about? According to IMDb:
"A young orphaned boy raised by underground cave-dwelling trash collectors tries to save his friends from an evil exterminator. Based on the children's novel 'Here Be Monsters' by Alan Snow."
If one thing can be said, the titular Boxtrolls are visually interesting. They appear to live out of boxes and shift into strange positions. I could critique the whole thing, but that would derail this piece a little too much. I more want to explore the chances of its Oscar chances. Will it actually stand a chance at getting nominated and potentially winning?
Based on previously established points, I do believe that the chances are rather high, if just on a diversity factor. The Academy likes nominating films of different ilk. With that said, I do feel like How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the film to beat this year. With no Pixar film coming out and the only other visible threat at this point being The LEGO Movie, the race does seem a little more open to suggestions than normal right now. Even then, Laika Studios has been here before and there is little doubt that it will be missing out provided the trailers aren't a facade and everything about it is awful.
With that said, I am eagerly looking forward to The Boxtrolls and will probably be talking about it more as the Oscar season takes its shape. For the time being, I wanted to raise awareness and share a trailer that I feel represents why it is hotly anticipated. The animation design may be a little crude, but seeing what they do with objects within the frame is impressive and it is a strong reason that I advocate more love be shown for stop motion films and that more people invest in Laika Studios films. If this trailer has sold you, please pass the time by catching up with Coraline and ParaNorman.
Is The Boxtrolls a lock for being Best Animated Film nominee? What is its biggest competition? Will a stop motion animation film ever win the category?