Friday at San Diego Comic Con began with ParaNorman, an animated feature film about a boy who can see ghosts. Norman has always been labeled the weird kid at school. It doesn’t help that his sister is a whiny brat. When Norman finds out that an evil witch is trying to raise the dead, he teams up with his one friend to try and stop her. However, along the way, Norman gets stuck with a bully from school, his sister and her jock boyfriend. Despite all their differences, can they stop the evil witch and living dead from taking over their town?
The directors Sam Fell and Chris Butler were joined by Laika CEO/producer Travis Knight and actors Kodi Smit-McPhee, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Anna Kendrick for a panel in Hall H. Butler, who also wrote the script, has been working on ParaNorman for around 16 years. It wasn’t until three years ago that he was able to begin production on the film. As a kid, Butler loved The Goonies and was inspired by it enough to make a movie like ParaNorman. In fact, he describes it as “John Carpenter meets John Hughes” kids zombie movie. From the clips shown, that description seems pretty accurate. In one particular clip, we see all the main ParaNorman characters bickering about what’s going on and what they should do while they’re being chased by zombies. Each character is different, sort of like The Breakfast Club, so it adds some comedy to the bit of horror.
As for the animation, new technology has allowed the animators to really capture emotions and characterizations in a way they weren’t able to do before. They used stop-motion, which isn’t my favorite animation medium. However, the look of ParaNorman from the clips and trailer shown may change my mind about it. There’s a fluidity and preciseness that comes across in the filmmaking. Not only did the story seem interesting, but just watching the animation did as well.
Kodi Smit-McPhee voices Norman, and he talked about how he surprised the directors when he auditioned with a great American accent. (Smit-McPhee is from Austraila.) Since working on the movie, McPhee’s voice dropped, so he can no longer do the same voice that he used for Norman. Anna Kendrick and Christopher Mintz-Plasse both raved about working with Laika. The directors say they chose Mintz-Plasse to voice the bully because he has a bit of vulnerability that comes across in his voice. Plasse joked about his vulnerability and, off-topic, he confirmed that Kick Ass 2 will start filming this September. Kendrick says that she used a higher pitch for her voice and liked that she got to use her body to produce the right voice and tone without worrying about her movements or how her face looked.
There was a fun moment on stage when Kodi Smit-McPhee showed off his dancing skills when Mintz-Plasse said that he’ll sing “Season of the Witch” in his character’s voice if Smit-McPhee danced.
Sadly, Knight wouldn’t reveal what Laika is working on next. But I must say that if its anything like Coraline or ParaNorman, I’m pretty excited to learn more about it!
Watch the trailer for ParaNorman below!
ParaNorman hits theaters August 17th.