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The Making of ‘Boxtrolls’ with Lead Animator Travis Knight

We visited the set as a guest of LAIKA

Travis Knight. Photo courtesy of LAIKA

Travis Knight. Photo courtesy of LAIKA

The film “Boxtrolls” is coming out in theaters on September 26th. Earlier this year, I made a visit to the LAIKA Studios in Portland, Oregon to learn how they made this unique film. We got a unique opportunity to learn about the making of “Boxtrolls” from the CEO and Lead Animator, Travis Knight, while at the studios.

“Boxtrolls” is a stop motion film that takes place in a Victorian or Edwardian time that involves a young boy who is taken underground, and raised by adorable monsters.

Photo courtesy of LAIKA

Photo courtesy of LAIKA

Knight brought us behind the scenes of the film to see the actual set that he was currently working on in the film. The set was an outdoor set, so it only needed one light for the sun, “some of the more complicated sets would have a whole sea of lights,” said Knight.

In the film, “ParaNorman,” Knight worked on the scene where the zombies were coming out of the ground, and that one scene took him about a year to film that one scene. “The pace is pretty glacial on these things,” said Knight.

When it came to “Coraline” and “ParaNorman,” they used both replacement faces and mechanical faces. A Mechanical face has a steel armature with paddles and wires with a silicone skin stretched over it, and they would manipulate the character faces frame by frame. In “Boxtrolls” they did something that has never been done before, “This is a big innovation we have done in the film with rapid prototyping,” said Knight.

“We pop the face off, grab another one, and pop it back on. That is how we animate the faces in ‘Boxtrolls’.” Travis Knight.

Photo courtesy of LAIKA

Photo courtesy of LAIKA

Before the shooting a scene, they would rehearse it first. “We do a rehearsal where we figure out the choreography for the shot. Emotional acting beats of the shot and we talk to the directors to see if we are hitting the mark,” said Knight.

“Every shot you see in the film has been shot at least twice.” Travis Knight.

Before shooting the film, “We cast animators like we cast actors. There are some that are good at big action sequences, and some that are good at subtle emotion sequences. Depending on the needs of the sequences is how we cast animators,” said Knight.

With most animated films, multiple animators will work on an individual sequence in the film, but in “Boxtrolls” just one animator would work on an individual scene in the film. “We felt that by letting animators own entire chunks of the film and sequences, they can really wrap their minds around what the scene is about,” said Knight.

“Boxtrolls” is an incredible film that your family is going to fall in love with in theaters on September 26th. Learn more about the film online, Facebook, and Twitter @TheBoxtrolls #TheBoxtrolls.

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