Laika, a team of world-class filmmakers, artists and technicians, who over the course of ten years and three films have quite literally reshaped the format of animated cinema. Opting for an approach different than that of its computer generated counterparts (Pixar & DreamWorks), Laika has provided audiences with, as its CEO Travis Knight has described, “stories that are thematically challenging, aesthetically beautiful, emotionally resonant, and a wee bit subversive.”
Regardless of anyone’s opinion, no one can argue that in the 10 years of Laika’s existence has another format of animated cinema challenged the plethora of 3D-animated features in North America. Knight states, “We discovered new processes for integrating practical and digital visual effects, to make our worlds more authentic.” After 5 years their feature film debut was released, an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, marking the “first ever stop motion film to be conceived and photographed in stereoscopic 3D”.
The technique used in Laika’s films are a hybrid of 3D animation and CG stop-motion. It utilized the versatility of 3D and the classic elements of stop-motion, bringing to life characters and environments that were very real, hand crafted by artists. The ambition of Laika’s visual style compliment the ambitions of their films. “Creating new techniques for building and animating our puppets, to make our characters more lifelike and to connect more immediately and intimately with audiences.”
There’s definitely a lifelike quality to the presence of these puppets, but nothing breathes more life to these figurines than the stories which they inhabit. Laika’s films Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls are unanimously praised by critics for their animation, but are equally praised for their mature, thoughtful approach to otherwise imaginative and whimsical storytelling. As of today all of Laika’s films have been nominated for an Academy Award and they don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. With Knight’s directorial debut Kubo and the Two Strings on the horizon, he speaks auspiciously about Laika’s progress, “as I look forward, I’m more excited for what the future holds. We’re just getting warmed up.”
Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of Laika’s films how they surpass the visual appeal and the technical gimmicks, approaching their works of art as stories first and foremost. As Travis Knight says:
“Stripping everything else away, we’re simple storytellers. We’re the heirs of flamboyant stage magicians, plainspoken raconteurs spinning yarns around a campfire, and knuckle-dragging troglodytes scrawling stick figures on a cave wall. We believe telling stories is one of the prime functions of the human mind and spirit. A good story can elicit empathy, opening us up to new possibilities, to new ways of thinking, to recognizing the shared humanity in which we all participate. And, in the end, that’s ultimately LAIKA’s reason for being.”