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Discover the magic of stop-motion animation, with Laika and Universal

August 8, 2016, 4:08 PM · Stop-motion animation might be the perfect form of that medium for a theme park fan. It offers the whimsy and imagination of an animated story while existing in the tangible realm — just like a great theme park attraction. So when Universal Studios Hollywood announced that it was hosting a tribute to Laika — which pretty much owns stop-motion animation in Hollywood these days — getting to see it moved to the top of my "to-do" list.

Housed in the park's Globe Theater, "From Coraline to Kubo: A Magical LAIKA Experience" offers a walk-through exhibit of characters and sets used to film Laika's Academy Award-nominated animated films: Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls. And, as the exhibit's name suggests, it offers a look at some of the characters and props used in the upcoming Kubo and the Two Strings, which opens later this month.

Exhibit start
Photos by Brian and Robert Niles

Coraline's house

The Other Mother
For me, Coraline's "Other Mother" ranks with Dolores Umbridge as one of the all-time scariest movie villains.

It's tempting to rush forward and focus on the characters and sets, given the wonderful detail in which Laika's artists have rendered them. But take a few moments to read the well-explained notes that accompany the exhibit, too. They explain how Laika makes its on-screen magic, from shooting in Stereoscopic 3D to using 3D printing to create unprecedented facial expression changes on its characters.

Norman

In the car

Archibald Snatcher

Lord Portley Rind

This year, Laika won a Scientific and Technical Academy Award for its Rapid Prototyping process of developing sequences of 3D-printed partial faces that could be swapped out on a character in lieu of fabricating and replacing the entire head to adjust its facial expressions.

Rapid Prototyping

Even as Laika refines its process of crafting its characters and sets, it's used those technical tools to create distinct visual styles for its films, rather than making them conform to a single, studio-wide esthetic. As one exhibition label explained,

On Coraline, illustrator Tadahiro Uesugi's clean, elegant and confident line informed the film's style. ParaNorman employed a sketchy, rough-hewn scribble. The Boxtrolls favored an organized, irregular and nervous line evocative of German Expressionism. For Kubo and the Two Strings, the kind of line used in the early conceptual designs ended up matter less than what filled the surfaces.

Kubo

You can best see Laika's attention to surface detail in Kubo's magic sailboat, displayed in the exhibit. Meant to evoke Kubo's talent for origami, the boat is covered with nearly a quarter of a million laser-cut paper leaves. The boat took nearly four months to complete and its sequence in the film took 19 months to shoot.

Kubo's magic sailboat

Kubo, again

Yes, this is intricate, disciplined work. But don't think that it's simply "miniature." Laika's animators work on a large scale, too, as evidenced by the massive Giant Skeleton at the conclusion of the exhibit.

Giant Skeleton

Unfortunately, if you want to see "From Coraline to Kubo: A Magical LAIKA Experience," you'll need to hurry. This temporary exhibit runs only through Sunday, August 14. If you'd like to learn more about Laika and its process, here's a short BTS video from the studio:

Replies (2)

August 9, 2016 at 8:21 AM · This looks great. Always liked the Nightmare Before Christmas exhibits at Disney-MGM Studios. I know that movie making as theme is going away, yet these seem like no-brainer exhibits for underutilized spaces.
August 9, 2016 at 12:10 PM · There was a Laika exhibit at USH the last time we were in the park in 2013. It was just 3 displays, but was pretty cool to see the scale of the characters and all of the different accessories needed to pull off the art of stop motion animation. Laika is awesome, and they have yet to release a film that I did not think was deserving of a Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination. The company is 3 for 3 so far in earning nominations, and from all reports, Kubo appears to follow the same pedigree.

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