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How Stop-Motion Movies Are Animated At The Studio Behind ‘Missing Link’ | Movies Insider


– [Narrator] Stop-motion animated movies have been around a long time, but there’s a Hollywood
studio solely dedicated to bringing the animation
style into the 21st century. Laika Studios is responsible
for movies like “Coraline,” “ParaNorman,” “Kubo and the Two Strings,” and most recently “Missing Link.” Creating each movie is more painstaking than the last for the
Oscar-nominated studio, with “Missing Link” being
its most ambitious to date. – I think for me
stop-motion is truly special because it has a unique
quality to it that almost go… It speaks to your childhood,
when you’re a kid, and you’re playing with toys, and you’re imagining them coming to life. – [Narrator] This is Chris Butler. He’s the movie’s writer and director. He decided to direct “Missing Link” in the vein of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Around the World in 80 Days.” And it was an idea 15 years in the making. But first, a little background. The first stop-motion animation film is thought to be 1898’s
“The Humpty Dumpty Circus.” It’s a painstaking
process in which objects are moved in small
increments, frame by frame. And though it’s difficult,
it’s stood the test of time, and few places are doing it
better right now than Laika, which was first founded in 2005 and continues to push the envelope while remaining true to stop-motion roots. Take for example its
use of rigging systems as seen on this horse puppet. The rig doesn’t help move the puppet but rather enables
animators to manipulate it. This is helpful for puppets
of unusual shapes and sizes and thus allows the
animators to dream big. It also came in handy for some
of the movie’s action scenes like one that takes place
on a collapsing ice bridge. – If you think about a character jumping, while its feet are on the ground, you can manipulate that puppet. But what do you do for the frames when its feet are off the ground? It can’t mysteriously float, so you have a rig attached to it that will support its weight. – [Narrator] Even with the support system, this sequence was so complicated that it took about a year to shoot. – Even when I was writing that I thought, “I shouldn’t be writing this.” – [Narrator] Butler wanted the
action to feel like something you might see in a live-action movie. In “Missing Link,” Hugh
Jackman plays Sir Lionel Frost, an adventurer who
discovers the missing link, known to some as Bigfoot or Sasquatch, voiced by Zach Galifianakis. – Well, that didn’t go as planned. – [Narrator] Frost is
given an unlikely task: helping unite Link with
his long-lost ancestors. “Missing Link” is the
first Laika production in which all the main
protagonists are adults, and it greatly shaped how
the movie was designed. – You base the scale of the movie around the size of your main character. – [Narrator] So it’s not
the puppets themselves that need to be bigger, but what they interact
with needs to be smaller. – There is an optimal size for a puppet. It’s around about 12, 13 inches. That’s a good size. If you get bigger than that, then the poor animator
has to wrestle with it. If you get smaller than that, then you can’t get the amount of mechanics into the actual puppet that you require. So that’s a good size. – [Narrator] Sir Lionel
Frost hit the sweet spot at about 13 inches tall. Link, meanwhile, stood
at about 16 inches tall. The sets on “Missing
Link,” Butler estimated, were about two-thirds the
size of those on “Kubo,” which meant they could fit
more sets into one building, which is very useful for a movie that had such a wide array of locations, including forests, mountains,
and the open ocean. But you wouldn’t call any
of these constructions tiny at all. – I think the hardest
character on “Missing Link” was probably Link himself. He’s certainly the most complicated puppet that we’ve ever had at the studio. I think he took over a year to figure out, and really it’s because he’s
covered in hair head to toe. And it doesn’t help that he
is the shape of an avocado. He doesn’t have a neck. He’s basically a big, cuddly lump. – [Narrator] Fur might be
the most difficult part of the design of a given
claymation character. Butler and the “Missing Link”
team found a way around this. They didn’t cover Link in actual hair. – I think because of the
stylization of this movie, we decided that Link should… His hair should look the same as the hair on the
heads of the characters. So we went for this very
intricate, sculpted tufting, which was hand-sculpted
in clay and then cast, and eventually he became
a silicone puppet. – [Narrator] The world the characters are given to inhabit is truly amazing. The crew built a moving train and an accompanying track for it. A sequence set inside a stagecoach was powered by motors and rumble seats. Yet this famously practical
medium isn’t CGI-free. The Loch Ness Monster, who
pops up early in the movie, required CG animation for
most of its massive body. The head and neck are practical, but a lot of what you see underwater had to be computer-animated. This is just one of the
ways in which stop-motion, which has been around practically
since the start of movies, stays modern without abandoning
what makes it so special. – I think as long as there
are artists out there who love and respect the
medium of stop-motion, there will continue to be stories told. I don’t think it will ever really go away. It just requires people to champion it. Certainly at Laika, we love it. We love the look of it.
We love the feel of it. We love the artistry of it, and I think as long as you
can still move with the times, you can still use technology to help, but you can embrace stop-motion
for what’s special about it. In the end, for me what that means is it’s real light on real objects, and there is something about
the imperfection of reality that is magical.

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