The Boxtrolls was not only the latest hit for animation studio LAIKA, but it proved to have the golden touch as well. When Oscar nominations were revealed, the film about a group of underground living trolls (who wear boxes when they go out in public, thus their name) had scored a nod for Best Animated Feature.
And it certainly is one of the top 9 animated movies of 2014 and that can be gleaned from watching it now that The Boxtrolls has landed on Blu-Ray, DVD and digital download.
What’s also so special about this home video release is that the bonus features take us brilliantly inside the painstaking process of not only stop motion animation, but the effort to bring a powerful and resonant story to the big screen regardless of genre.
The story takes place in a Victorian-type village named Cheesebridge. And if it seems like the dairy product of the city’s moniker is like currency here, it is because in many ways it is. Our protagonist is Eggs, and he’s been orphaned since he was a little boy and brought up by the Boxtrolls. They live a peaceful and familial life underground and only come up late at night to get things they need from what humans discard.
Enter our villain, Snatcher (a sublime Ben Kingsley). He wants in the elite cheese club and he promises that the “evil” trolls will ruin their town. If he can get rid of them all, he would do it all for entrance into the creamy goodness’ upper class. The powers that be agree and the scourge of the trolls begins. There’s another whole element of the story featuring Elle Fanning as a young girl named Winnie who will work with Eggs to see that Snatcher is stopped and that trolls can be a vital part of the community.
The film has a magical touch that can be credited to another outstanding effort from LAIKA (Coraline, ParaNorman) and its standards of excellence that are extolled in this feature by directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi. Stop motion has never looked, or sounded, this good as LAIKA continues to push the animation and storytelling envelope with visuals that pop and themes that are resonant and universal. The experience of witnessing their work is as perfect as movie watching gets.
LAIKA does bonus features as good as anyone and The Boxtrolls DVD and Blu-Ray extras take you inside the exquisite and complicated process that is making one of their magical stop motion animated movies.
The Preliminary Animatic Sequences not only takes you through the process of six different scenes from their most basic beginnings to brilliant and beautiful conclusions, but with the audio commentary track by the film’s directors, it’s a lesson in building brilliance. From Baby in the Trash, Eggs in the Underworld, Man on a Horse, Trubshaw’s Inventorium, Cheese Shop to Tea and Cheese, you’ll never look at these scenes the same way after seeing their origins through their sensational conclusions.
The cast of The Boxtrolls features some of the greatest talent working today, from Kingsley and Fanning to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Voicing The Boxtrolls looks at how the cast was selected and features an in-depth conversation with each cast member about what they appreciated about the role and what they felt they brought to the role.
One of the most astounding characters is our villain, Snatcher. The Big Cheese: Allergy Snatcher showcases how the directors, Brian McLean (director of Rapid Prototyping) and the producers converged to make one of the most intricate puppet faces they’ve ever undertaken with the character voiced by Kingsley. One of the biggest challenges is how to take that face, and have it ever changing as his cheese allergy causes him to have his appearance altered within the film more than any other character in LAIKA history.
One of the more mesmerizing scenes in all of The Boxtrolls features a ball and to make it as realistic as possible, filmmakers enlisted the help of choreographers and, most importantly, costume designer Deborah Cook to create a sequence that felt as real as possible in a world that could not have been more created in the imagination.
Lastly, the Think Big: The Mecha Drill featurette is a stunner and mirrors the efforts of everyone at LAIKA to truly push the envelope when it came to making The Boxtrolls. The Mecha Drill is the largest stop motion puppet/prop ever created by the Portland, Oregon based animation studio. It is five feet high and weighs over 75 pounds. How’d they do that? Well, dive into that bonus feature and it is just one of many that shows how LAIKA is changing how we not only view animation, stop motion animation, but storytelling in general.