Visiting the Set of The Boxtrolls (Part 3)

Boxtrolls-Perinelle
Florian Perinelle works with the Lord Portley-Rind puppet. Photo: John Leonhardt / LAIKA, Inc.

(In case you missed it, read Part 1 and Part 2.)

I thought I’d share just a few more bits and pieces that I learned about The Boxtrolls during my set visit in April. The story itself is based on a book, Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow. I hadn’t heard of the book before, but it’s on my list now. Directors Anthony Stacci and Graham Annable explained that the movie only covers a small portion of the story from the book, and in fact does differ from it in some significant ways, but they did try to stay true to the spirit of the book.

The Boxtrolls themselves do appear in the book, but so do an assortment of other bizarre things, like rat pirates and cabbageheads. The movie takes place in Cheesebridge (renamed from the Ratbridge in the book), a town obsessed with fine cheeses. Underneath Cheesebridge are the Boxtrolls, who are believed to steal children and cheese. Of course, as you probably could guess from the trailers, the Boxtrolls are actually quite friendly and inventive, and have adopted a human boy, Eggs. (They’re all named after whatever is on the box they’re wearing.)Cite

The book—and the movie—is full of silly humor and a lot of cheese puns. Just during the set visit I got to see a lot of signs on buildings and in the market, things like Churn of the Century, For Cheddar or Worse, and Great Rinds Stink Alike. Of course, a lot of those will probably go by too quickly for you to catch them all, but that’s what the pause button on the DVD player is for, right?

Boxtrolls directors
(L to R) Director Anthony Stacci, Director Graham Annable, Producer David Ichioka and voice talent Nick Frost review a scene. Photo: LAIKA, Inc.

We did get to meet the directors, who are both dads. Anthony Stacci has worked at DreamWorks and Sony Pictures Animation, on films like Antz and James and the Giant Peach. Graham Annable was a storyboard artist for both Coraline and ParaNorman, but he may be better known for his comic book series Grickle. Both of them shared a lot of fun stories about working at LAIKA—and what it’s like to direct your boss (since CEO Travis Knight is also the lead animator). There’s a great voice cast (whom we did not get to meet, since all of their lines had been recorded well before shooting): Sir Ben Kingsley, Toni Collette, Elle Fanning, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Tracy Morgan, among others.

Travis Knight remarked that LAIKA doesn’t have a formula or a house style, but there are strands of DNA that connect them. They want their films to have substance, something that you can learn and take with you: “bold, distinctive stories that have something to say.” Each movie has a message at its core—The Boxtrolls asks the question, “What makes a family?” Knight said that they don’t want to water a film down so that it appeals to everyone because then it doesn’t say anything.

Making a stop-motion animated film is an incredible amount of work, and a lot went into The Boxtrolls even before they started building sets and designing costumes. The movie has actually been in development for nearly 10 years—they started working on it during production of Coraline. So when the film releases on September 26, you’ll be watching the culmination of a decade of hard work, innovation, and creativity. I can hardly wait!

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