Photo by Tally Broderick
Over the past 15 years, Portland-based Laika Studios has produced a few successful animated movies, such as Coraline, which is set in Ashland, and Kubo and the Two Strings. I have an undying love for Laika and stop-motion animation in general, and because this year marks the 15-year anniversary, I would like to take this opportunity to take a closer look at the studio’s breakthroughs and what it took to make these films.
First, let’s talk about the 2009 classic, Coraline, which is based on the book by Neil Gaiman. This was Laika’s first film. it took about a year and a half to make, and the clay creators had to make more than 15,000 faces for all the characters. Coraline alone had 6,000 expression changes made from clay and plastic molds. The story takes place in Ashland and fans can see the new official movie sign located near the Oregon Shakespeare Festival explaining how our town became a part of Coraline.
In fact, you can see many clay and plastic versions of Ashland streets and scenes that are featured in the movie. The movie was a box-office hit and won many awards, including an Academy Award nomination for best animated film. It still has a cult following, especially during Halloween.
Another popular Laika film is Kubo and the Two Strings. The film follows a young orphan boy, Kubo, who can create characters out of origami paper that comes to life. There is tension in Kubo’s family that forces him to flee his home and it’s then that he meets a Samurai beetle and a monkey. The trio has to travel across ancient Japan to defeat an evil god all while being followed by a set of evil twins. The movie has a star-filled cast, including Matthew McConaughey and Charlize Theron, and the animation and art production is beyond beautiful. There is a spectacular ocean fight scene that took the animators a year and a half to complete, but it was less than 15 minutes in the film.
During the production of Kubo, Laika pioneered stop-motion animation techniques in creating the characters. They used state-of-the-art 3D printers for animators combined with computer animation that made the design of the movie look like nothing ever done before.
Based in Hillsboro, Laika Studios has done three other movies, including the most recent one, Missing Link, which won a Golden Globe animation award and another Oscar nomination. Laika hasn’t announced what its next film will be.
If you would like to learn more about their process and all info I did gather for this article you visit their website.