×
Back left
Back right

How Did They Make The Boxtrolls? We Visited Laika Studios to Find Out

January 20, 2015

SHARE IT!
LIKE IT!
kids articles

Laika Studios has given us some of the coolest stop-motion animation out there, from Coraline to ParaNorman. This year they gave us The Boxtrolls, which is up for an Oscar. So, how did they do it? Kidzworld traveled to Laika Studios in Portland, OR to chat with Georgina Hayns, creative supervisor of puppet fabrication. She told us exactly how much work goes into shooting a full-length film with puppets frame by frame. You won’t believe how cool it actually is!

Georgina Hayns, creative supervisor of puppet fabrication with the cast of The BoxtrollsGeorgina Hayns, creative supervisor of puppet fabrication with the cast of The BoxtrollsCourtesy of Laika Studios

The Boxtrolls Have Tiny Skeletons Inside

Hayns told us that each puppet (which range from a few inches to a foot tall) has a tiny skeleton inside that allows the camera to do stop-motion work. “When we make a puppet, we have to work from the inside out. We’re looking at a character design, but we’re looking at how a character will move and perform. To do stop-motion animation, they have to have an internal skeleton that can be moved frame by frame.”

Each puppet is rigged with an internal skeletonEach puppet is rigged with an internal skeletonCourtesy of Laika Studios

Why the Boxtrolls Seemed Easier Than Other Puppets — At First

“When we got the boxtrolls, we were quite excited. We had these boxes that we could hide whatever we wanted into. We were like great! We normally work with, like, tiny little ankles that we put a ball and socket armature inside, but no, we’ve got this box,” Hayns said. “Then the director says, ‘So yeah, the first thing they do is, their heads, their arms and their legs into the box,’ so instantly all the space that we thought we’d got was gone.”

A lot more goes into this than you’d think!A lot more goes into this than you’d think!Courtesy of Laika Studios

There Is a Lot of Trickery and Movie Magic Involved

So how did they get it all to work if there was no extra room? “It’s trickery, it’s magic. It’s stop-motion magic. We can cheat a lot of that,” she told us. “We did work with these characters to get a certain amount of movement. There is a certain amount of retraction,” she explained, showing us that their little heads could move inside a bit, as well as their legs and arms. Once they have to go completely inside, she said, “We use replacement parts. Lots of partial arm parts that can suck back in and disappear.

Check out the magic behind The BoxtrollsCheck out the magic behind The BoxtrollsCourtesy of Laika Studios

The Ballroom Scene Was the Hardest to Film — Here’s How They Did It

Remember when Eggs and Winnie enter the ballroom? How did they do that if they have to move a ton of puppets all at once? First off, they had a bunch of actors show up in costume and they filmed it for reference. The ballgowns were really difficult, according to Hayns. “Stop-motion is the action of moving a puppet frame by frame. We had to do that with fabric! We actually looked at the ball scene from Gone With the Wind and really broke it down to see how it was moving. And then, we made our ballgowns just like the crinolines that the ladies actually wore. We made metal-jointed crinoline skirts that are on heavy rigs that you never really see.” That made it possible to move the long, flowing skirts. Check out the picture to see the details.

Check out the mechanics behind the flowing skirtsCheck out the mechanics behind the flowing skirtsCourtesy of Laika Studios

The Faces Are the Coolest Part

You may have noticed all the colors in the characters’ faces. Hayns told us that they did a lot of research on the painters of the Dickensian era. “A lot of the painters of that era would use block colors and then edge it with a highlight in a different colors,” she said. “We used that on a lot of the faces” They also have replaceable faces. (Check out the photo) Laika Studios uses 3D-printed faces with magnets on the back, since they needed thousands and thousands of them for each character. They’re the first studio to do that!

They used thousands and thousands of 3D-printed faces to make the expressionsThey used thousands and thousands of 3D-printed faces to make the expressionsCourtesy of Laika Studios

The Boxtrolls Close Up

 

Have Your Say!

What did you think of The Boxtrolls? Do you have a favorite character? Did you know how much work goes into the making of a stop-motion film? If you were a Boxtroll, what would your box say? Let us know in the comments