Navigation Bar - Text Links at Bottom of Page


Fun Facts and Notable Numbers
Production Design:
The production design can best be described as "epic", "colorful" and "highly stylized." Most people think of the Victorian era through its reproductions such as sepia photographs or ink drawings, however in reality it was a richly colorful time, especially as it transitioned into the Twentieth Century.
Missing Link's production design found inspiration in Victorian patterning such as elaborate wallpapers and textiles. These patterns occur throughout the film, from the roof tiling to the leaves of trees.
There is a unique and highly stylized design of characters and objects that carries through the film. All of these stylized shapes and designs can be broken down into a rule of thirds. For example, Sir Lionel's long legs are two thirds of his frame. The "Nessie" monster's eyes are in the top third of her face. This 'rule' allows for a consistency across continents and cultures and helps to create a cohesive look to the film.
Another design influence was the photography of National Geographic magazine, which brought vibrancy, adventure and new cultures into homes. The film heightens this unique, almost exaggerated color (with the exception of the somewhat neutral Optimates Club, which is stuck in its very definitive 'black and white' world view).
Practical Effects - Puppets and Rigging
Stop-motion puppets are typically built between 1/5th and 1/6th the size of their human-scale characters. This allows the internal structures to be strong enough to withstand a 2-year film shoot while the outer details are large enough to withstand the scrutiny of a cinematic camera and projector.
All of the puppets for Missing Link were built approximately 20% smaller than the puppets of previous LAIKA films. This scale difference allowed sets to be smaller and also kept Mr. Link, the largest character in the film, at an animator friendly size of 16" tall.
The puppets for the elephant and the horse were constructed using a "bodysuit" technique in which muscles are first carved from foam, rubber and plastic and attached to the internal skeleton. A thin outer skin of silicon is stretched over the entire body, then hand painted and detailed.
Each puppet utilized a unique jetpack - a remote turnbuckle device fitted to the hips and the small of the back - which allows for very small incremental movement by the animators.
The Elephant
First puppet to be constructed with a stretchy/baggy skin not adhered to the moveable carbon fiber body panels.
Weighs in at approximately 36 lbs.
Has a specialty stunt foot created with open cavities to create the illusion of weight and compressed flesh. It features 100% independently sympathetic toenails.
Has an interior rack and pinion neck for head lift.
Uses a gas-powered spring to assist in lifting the hips.
The elephant saddle, or howdah, which carried Sir Lionel and Adelina, was on a 2-axis motorized rig to provide illusion of the bounce of the elephant's walk.
Only one elephant puppet was created for the film.
The Horse
Sir Lionel's Horse utilized a custom-created semi-circular rig which transferred the central pivot point of the horse to the outside of the puppet. This allowed the animator to capture the look of the weight-transfer that is unique to a horse's gait. Mr. Link
Is the heaviest lead character ever created for a LAIKA film.
The shot of Mr. Link pulling up his pants while jumping was achieved by swapping whole puppets between frames to achieve zipper closure.
The pants splitting shot was achieved with a specialty-built rig to support a 300% scale Mr. Link rear end. Winders provided tension to pull the fabric seam apart and push the tuft of hair to the exterior.
The shot of the inside of Mr. Link's mouth utilized 6 incremental driver paddles to manipulate the tongue, winders to pull open the skin of the cheeks, and another set of winders to allow for opening and closing of the jaw. The entire mouth was constructed at 500% scale with rapid prototype teeth and gums.
Required 180 individually rigged and motion-controlled tassels.
Rumble seats were constructed to provide 6-axies of movement per each puppet.
The seats, curtains, and movement of the carriage utilized a total of 40 individual remotely controlled programmable motors. Pullman car
Because the characters are seen walking down the center aisle, the set does not have a floor. Instead, the entire set is suspended and moved on rails for animator access.
The exterior train is an actual working train on rails that was pulled by a motorized winch. It ran too smoothly along the rails, so bits of tape painted to look like rust were added to the track so that the wheels would bump along for more authentic carriage motion.
The Manchuria (Ship)
The ship set was too big and heavy to move, so the camera and all of the surrounding lighting was motorized to move around the ship to create the illusion of motion.
The smallest camera head used at LAIKA was built for this set. It allowed the camera to be mounted to a long pole and then sent down inside the long corridor of the ship to capture animation.
Characters and Costumes
Writer/ director Chris Butler also designed the characters ...he's a triple threat on Missing Link. Costume Designers Guild nominee Deborah Cook (the only animated movie costume designer ever nominated for this prestigious award) designed all the costumes.
Mr. Link
On the outside, Mr. Link is loveable and friendly. On the inside, he's a nest of metal parts including a mechanical belly mover, a chest breather, squash and stretch devices, worm gears, and racks and pinions.
Mr. Link's fur was created with several techniques. His general body mass is first established by building up pieces of perforated foam latex onto his metal armature (almost like muscles). Then, like a skin or a fur suit, sheets of molded silicone with the fur texture are applied over this body shape and glued closed.
Due to the extreme amount of mobility and squash and stretch needed in Link's neck, we used individual cast urethane "fur petals" that we attached in layers similar to the way feathers lay on a bird's neck. When Link twists and bends, these layers slide over and past one another rather than buckle and fold as they would if they were a single sheet of molded silicone.
After all the fur is attached, a beautiful and intricate paint job is applied to add depth and highlight individual hairs.
Mr. Link's plaid suit is a nod to Northwest clothing conventions of the day, as well as weaving history, specifically the textile manufacturing companies White Stag and Pendleton, which were established in Oregon during this time period.
Many fabrics are constructed from a very lightweight stretchy fabric base dyed to a particular base color, digitally embroidered to give it an even woven texture in miniature scale, then finished with a print overlay and hand-painted detail.
According to Costume Designer Deborah Cook: "All fabrics for LAIKA costumes are created in-house. Nothing is bought off the shelf. Not only do we need to create costumes on a miniature scale, they need to withstand the puppet performances. And they also need to look good on camera. A lot of experimentation in textile creation happens here, to produce these intricately detailed costumes."
Sir Lionel Frost
Finding the pattern for Sir Lionel's houndstooth suit started out by working with an expert weaver to establish the size, shape and color tones of the interlocking shapes that would represent this weave.
Small weaves or very close parallel lines can produce a moiré effect on screen - a visual perception interference produced from the digital shooting process. Through much experimentation, the costume design team developed the color tones so that one does not appear more prominent than the other on screen. Additionally, it improved the shape of them, giving the impression of woven houndstooth but formulated from an interlocking 'star' shape.
The rich blues and yellows of Lionel's suit reflect his modern, fashion-forward sensibilities.
Adelina Fortnight
Adelina represents the modern woman at the turn of the 20th Century. Independent and adventurous, this revolutionary woman was popularized with the "Gibson Girl" illustrations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Adelina's hair uses nearly 2,000 feet of multi-colored silk thread in various colors (over 1/3 of a mile) which are then blended and styled by hand to mimic the shapes and linear qualities of the pen and ink illustrations of the "Gibson Girl" look.
Another signature look of the "Gibson Girl" was the swan-bill corset, a reaction against the physically restrictive bustles and corsets of the Victorian era. This corset exaggerated women's curves, something that Victorians would have found "unacceptable." Adelina was a keen adopter of the modern swan-bill style.
The fuchsia of Adelina's dress also conveys her fashion-forward style. The first chemical dyes were created in this period allowing for vivid hues like purples and blues. Her and Sir Lionel's colorful dress-sense offers a stark contrast to the Victorian staples of navy blues and charcoal grays.
There were more than 110 sets and 65 unique locations.
The bagpipes were made with a specially-built latex balloon which was inflated and deflated through syringes.
There were 64 individually rigged ice blocks which could be independently controlled for the shot in which the ice bridge begins to break.
The (exterior) train was the largest prop built for Missing Link.
A multitude of custom-made and unconventional materials were used in creating the landscapes in the film, such as silk-screened and laser cut craft paper, textured fabrics, plastic beads, tissue paper, miniature railroad materials, goat hair, foam balls and black light paint.
The reins, bridle and saddle on the horse are made from real leather that had been thinned down dramatically to achieve the required scale. Many of the books in Lionel's study were also leather bound using authentic bookbinding techniques.
Stop-motion animation is the manipulation of physical objects in small increments between individually photographed frames so that they appear to exhibit independent motion when played back in sequence. In practice, the animator moves the object, takes a picture, moves the object, takes a picture, and so on.
LAIKA animators photograph the maximum number of increments for cinema projection, 24fps, frames per second. In industry vernacular, this is known as "shooting on ones". That means for every second there are 24 unique poses an animator creates. LAIKA is likely the only stopmotion feature studio in the world that shoots on ones, as a rule. LAIKA films hew closely to the "naturalistic" style, which requires the painstaking technique of shooting on ones.
The Animation Tracker software and controller, newly developed for Missing Link, use a series of knobs which are linked to encoders on motors. An animator can use the controller to remotely move elements on sets. (This was used extensively in animating the Elephant, for instance.) The software provided a visual graph, mapping of the position of the Elephant, and allowed the animator to compare that position to prior frames.
Not only did we build the largest hero puppet for a LAIKA movie, we also built and animated the smallest. Miniature 3" tall (or small) replicas of our three heroes and a villain were built to allow for the animators to achieve an extreme wide shot in the Himalayas.
LAIKA artists build sets and props at larger or smaller scales to allow for different perspectives of the puppets. While this was again done on Missing Link, miniature 3" tall replicas of puppets with tiny armatures were also built for the first time on a LAIKA film, to allow for the animators to perform for an extreme wide shot in the Himalayas.
Rapid Prototyping/Facial Animation
Nearly a year before filming began on Missing Link, LAIKA was testing brand new, as yet unreleased, color 3D printing technology called the J750 printer, made by Stratasys. Although LAIKA had been using Stratasys 3D color printers since its second feature, ParaNorman, this new technology from Stratasys is revolutionary, allowing for unprecedented accuracy and detail. In order to precisely control each 3D pixel (voxel) LAIKA partnered with Fraunhofer, a German research facility in their development of advanced 3D slicing software, Cuttlefish.
LAIKA is considered a leader in the use of Rapid Prototyping (RP or 3D printing) for facial animation and was awarded a Scientific and Engineering Oscar plaque in 2016 for its innovation in the field. By partnering with Stratasys to provide the hardware and Cuttlefish to provide the software, LAIKA once again displays its leadership position in the use of 3D printing capabilities in cinema.
Missing Link is LAIKA's first film to use full-color resin 3D-printed replacement faces on ALL of its puppets.
Missing Link is LAIKA's first film to 3D print custom animated facial performances for every character in every shot of the film. Past films relied on "face kits" with interchangeable facial expressions that were re-used throughout the film.
The RP department's five 3D printers often ran 24 hours a day churning out approximately 2,000 faces per week for Missing Link.
The RP department printed over 106,000 faces in total for Missing Link. About 39,000 (37%) were Lionel faces; about 27,000 (26%) were Link faces and about 13,000 (12%) were Adelina faces.
The three main characters comprised about 75% of the faces in the film.
Due to the improved surface detail of Stratasys' J750 3D printer, almost 90% of the faces printed for Missing Link did not require sanding. After printing, support material was removed, magnets were installed and the faces were sprayed with multiple layers of a clear and dull coat for a smooth finish. Lastly, each face was organized, tested and then delivered to set.
The silicone fur surrounding Mr. Link's face was animated through replacement animation. By removing and replacing a 3D printed "ring", the fur would change shape. Each 3D printed ring was designed to make sure the fur properly matched the shape of all of his 3D printed faces.
Camera/Motion Control/Lighting/Stages
At peak production, there were 91 units in production - about 50% more than any other LAIKA film.
In the ice pit, there is a shot in which Mr. Link's face is reflected in multiple facets of an ice wall. To achieve this, an array of 10 cameras was set up to simultaneously capture each individual reflection at a different angle.
The Logging Town was so large that a combination of miniature and full-scale sets were combined to achieve the distance of the town viewed from afar. The shooting of the full set required closing down an aisle within the studio and placing the camera rig across the walkway to encompass the shot.
There are 47 motion control camera rigs in-house.
The oldest motion control camera rig at LAIKA dates from 1928. Originally used to hold a Technicolor 3-stripe live action camera, it has been passed down through various effects studios for over 90 years.
The shot of the elephant walking required a 35ft long path and a motorized crane over 14' tall with a reach of 12't to support the puppets. The wraparound nature of the camera motion meant that one side of the set had to be shot first and then struck. Then the other side of the set was installed and shot to completion. It required almost three months to shoot, and is approximately 20 seconds in length in the film.
There were 1486 shots in Missing Link - the most of any LAIKA movie to date.
Visual Effects
Of the 1486 shots in Missing Link, only 446 were 2D rigs and seams clean-up only. 465 shots required CG set extensions, 460 required CG special effects, and 325 required CG animation.
The VFX Asset team created 531 CG assets and 182 CG characters for Missing Link, both the most of any LAIKA film. By comparison, for Kubo and the Two Strings, 249 CG assets and 77 CG characters were created.
There were over 1,000 rigs removed from shots by the VFX Paint team.
The opening shot of the movie, the Loch Ness reveal, had more than 400 elements in the final comp. The average shots with water used over 100 practical and cg elements to produce the final image.
Each underwater Loch Ness plankton simulation in Nuke had more than 2 million particles.
One simulation volume for the stormy ocean water splash contained the maximum number of voxels (3D pixels) that Katana, our lighting software, could handle - which is 3 BILLION.
The VFX Department used over a petabyte of storage - that's a million gigabytes, in the creation of Missing Link.
Missing Link took 112 million processor hours - 12,785 YEARS - to render the entire movie and went through five architectures of the render farm.
The CG Ice Bridge model asset is composed of 37,000 parts, 20,000,000 polygons, 48 UDIMs and takes 4.7GB of memory when fully loaded.
Two different icicles were used to achieve the cracking effect -- a plastic resin version and a silicone version that was photographed separately to recreate the look of cracking ice. Both were captured in multiple lighting scenarios and upwards of 20 stage passes per shot were delivered to VFX.

LAIKA's traditions of bold storytelling, technical innovation, unforgettable characters, gorgeous visuals, and bringing the art form of stop-motion animation into the 21st Century all coalesce in the company's most ambitious work to date, Missing Link. Written and directed by Chris Butler (ParaNorman), this original story marks LAIKA's first full-on comedy enveloped in a grand adventure replete with exotic locations, dastardly villains and themes of belonging, fellowship and identity all wrapped up in the studio's most sumptuous visuals and ambitious technical achievements to date.

In the last 15 years, LAIKA's status in the world of moviemaking has grown from fledgling animation studio to one of the world's most admired producers of animated features. This year the studio celebrates the 10th anniversary of the release of its first animated film, Coraline, directed by Henry Selick and based on the novella by iconic author Neil Gaiman, which announced to the film industry and the moviegoing public that a new cinematic voice had entered the arena. Coraline's beauty and enduring storytelling power has been confirmed in the decade since its release in 2009. From that auspicious beginning, LAIKA's next three films - ParaNorman (2012), The Boxtrolls (2014) and Kubo and the Two Strings (2016), all of which were Oscar-nominated - established its reputation and accrued multiple awards including a Scientific & Engineering Oscar plaque in 2016 for its groundbreaking use of 3D printing.

Chris Butler wore multiple hats on Missing Link: writer, director, character designer and storyboard artist. "When I was really young, I didn't even know that it was possible to create things like films for a living. I was not surrounded by artists or creatives. So to have had the incredibly good fortune to find myself at LAIKA, a place where a community of diverse but like-minded artists from all over the world comes together to make magic, is often unfathomable to me.

Butler has been "creating things for a living" for quite a while now, amassing an impressive list of story artist credits on a myriad of films before making his feature film writing and directing debut in 2012 with LAIKA's spooky and funny tale ParaNorman, for which he was Oscar-nominated. When it came time to pitch LAIKA chief Travis Knight on an idea for his next film, he had a few concepts at the ready. But one idea leapt out to Travis.

Butler describes Missing Link this way: "It's as if David Lean directed Around The In 80 Days starring Laurel and Hardy."

The pitch appealed to Knight on many levels. "Fundamentally, the film is about connectivity," he says. "It's about empathy and moving from isolation to connection. It has a really potent emotional story at the core, and yet on the top of it we put this beautiful veneer of an incredibly exciting swashbuckling adventure and comedy that harkens back to Jules Verne and Indiana Jones. It's a really cool turn-of-century tale with monsters. I thought that was a really exciting story to tell in animation."

Butler was clearly influenced by his favorite movie of all time, Raiders of the Lost Ark but also by a whole slew of other films and works of literature. "There's the whole Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes canon and everything that Jules Verne wrote had an enormous impact on me," he says. "The original 1956 film adaptation of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days resonated in my brain with that luscious, almost lurid, vibrant color palette and the scope of adventure and big comedy moments."

At the core of Butler's drive to create films is his love for stop motion and his zeal to continue LAIKA's expansion of the art form. "I've always been interested in pushing the boundaries of the stop motion medium," he says. "Before LAIKA came along, the scope of a traditional stop motion movie was always quite small and there are plenty of practical reasons for that. There are physical puppets being moved on physical sets and that's incredibly hard and that often resulted in a rather small universe in which to tell stories."

But in the past 15 years, LAIKA has proven that those restraints can be disregarded by employing modern cinematic technological advances to open up the stop motion universe, allowing them to tackle genres heretofore thought to be beyond stop motion's filmic comfort zone.

LAIKA President & CEO Travis Knight has created a mission for the studio to make bold and brave films that cross all genres of storytelling. "From the contemporary American supernatural stories like Coraline and ParaNorman, to the period piece mash-up of detective story, absurdist comedy, and steampunk adventure of the The Boxtrolls, to the epic samurai adventure of Kubo and the Two Strings and now the globetrotting action adventure comedy of Missing Link, we feel like we're just getting started."

"Missing Link seems to be a lot about loneliness, which is clearly in me," says Butler. "Loneliness is the progenitor of all the action. Lots of animated movies are about outsiders but that's probably because they are made by outsiders. And they speak to outsiders and let's face it, the people who are responsible for some of the most beautiful art throughout history are outsiders. These movies are definitely personal. Certainly Link and Lionel are the two parts of my personality. I'm probably more Sir Lionel...maybe more than the innocent that is Link. Lots of Link underneath, though. And there are lots of similarities between ParaNorman and Missing Link, despite the obvious differences. That 'outsider' motif and the need to connect certainly are similar."

"Because I started out as a story artist and character designer, I would hope that there is a cohesive look to Missing Link. One thing I hate in animation as a viewer is to see an animated movie where the characters do not fit the location. Where you can tell there were different sensibilities at work. And I think both ParaNorman and Missing Link are very cohesive stylistically. Obviously because of the hugely talented team that I'm working with and that's what I really set as a goal."

"Our combination of art, craft, science, and technology makes for powerful storytelling," says Butler. "In terms of the look, I wanted it to look like National Geographic photography. In fact there are photographic portraits by an award-winning photographer named Steve McCurry. He did portraits of people from all over the world and they were so rich and luscious."

McCurry's National Geographic cover photograph "Afghan Girl" is regarded as one of the most recognizable photographs of all time. McCurry's heightened naturalism proved apt for this film, which Butler says he "never wanted the film to look like a cartoon. The design is playful and it's very stylized in many ways, the proportions are very stylized. It's very angular, symmetrical.

"Because ParaNorman was very asymmetrical, I wanted Missing Link to look different. I'm a big fan of old school 2D animation. I wanted this to be like The Thief and the Cobbler of stop motion...bright, colorful, a feast for the eyes. But I was also looking at 101 Dalmatians and the drawings of Ken Anderson (production designer on original 101 Dalmatians) and the animation of Milt Kahl, because I think the 9 old men at Disney had a lot to do with inspiring what we are doing at LAIKA, which is naturalistic animation in a stylized form. If you look at the naturalized animation of the villains in 101 Dalmatians, Jasper and Horace, their proportions are outlandish but they still move like humans, they aren't robotic in any way."

LAIKA eschews a "house style" of animation, preferring instead to utilize those techniques, styles, and aesthetics that serve a particular story most appropriately - often blended together. As Travis Knight has often said, "More than anything else, our mandate is to tell stories that are bold, distinctive, and enduring. Our hope is to make movies that matter, and to do so in a way that truly pushes the medium of animation forward."

Knight continues "We are heirs of a great tradition of storytelling. Whether sitting around a campfire, in an amphitheater in ancient Greece, or at the Globe Theatre in Shakespeare's England, experiencing stories in a communal setting is a powerful and timeless ritual. Now movie theaters are where we go for stories about who we are. It's an incredible privilege to assume that legacy. We take it seriously. We want to give the audience something new, a meaningful experience, something they can remember and carry with them into their lives."

Knight, a fan of Chris Butler for over a decade, wears two hats at LAIKA: in addition to running the company he is also the chief creative force behind the studio. He was Lead Animator and producer on LAIKA films and made his directorial debut on Kubo in 2016. Since storytelling forms the nucleus of the creative DNA at LAIKA, it was his decision to greenlight Missing Link. In much the same way that Travis chose Butler's ParaNorman script as the studio's second project, he knew that Chris would deliver a funny, powerfully visual film with an emphasis on impactful storytelling and in-depth character development.

The legend of the Missing Link was ripe for stop motion expression. As Butler knew, everyone has heard legends of the Missing Link. Inspired by his love for the Indiana Jones archaeologist, Butler set out to create the stop motion world's first "crypto zoologist," a searcher not of mysterious artifacts, but of mysterious creatures.

In Butler's mind, there are indisputable elements in creating a crackling good comedic action/adventure yarn.

1. Period Setting. "For the suspension of disbelief I required from the audience, it was important that this not be told in a contemporary setting. It might connect with contemporary themes, but it's in a different time, so you can really have fun with costume and design. All our locations are recognizable, but they are a bit alien too. You can draw on historical imagery and fact and what people already know of that time and place. You can utilize that and then subvert it in some ways.
2. A Bold and Passionate Hero. As times and cinematic tastes have changed, some of those heroes from past eras can seem like selfish idiots seen through a modern lens. But Butler wanted a flawed hero...someone who had something to learn. Certainly Sir Lionel is somewhat informed by Sherlock Holmes. To be charitable, while maybe not sociopathic, Sherlock Holmes was definitely eccentric and almost unlikable in many ways. That made him even more entertaining and fascinating to Butler, especially as a kid. So Sir Lionel gets to take not only a physical journey but an emotional journey as well, hopefully coming out the other side a more well-rounded individual.
3. Big adventure set pieces. Butler was amazed by how well structured the action sequences in Raiders of the Lost Art were. Those sequences had a story arc, a beginning, middle and end. It wasn't just a mess of shots quickly cut together. There was a through line, a narrative within the action scenes. That's what Butler and his team wanted to with Missing Link.
4. Exotic locations. "I have an encyclopedic memory of Raiders, says Butler. "I've seen it hundreds of times and I've always looked at it (even unknowingly as a kid) from a filmmaker's point of view. Our film is not meant to be a copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but we definitely use it as a starting point. Indiana Jones searches for artifacts but what if instead of searching for mythical objects he searched for mythical creatures? Even as a kid, I was always fascinated by this word cryptids. So in my artistic life, I always wanted to do something around crypto zoology, or the study of mysterious animals.

"At LAIKA, we just don't recognize the normal boundaries that stop motion has been governed by for almost a century," says Butler. "We set out to do everything that could be done in a live action movie, but in miniature. We have all the things that go into making huge Hollywood films. That's why walking around the LAIKA studio is so mind blowing. Travis Knight says 'it's like Santa's workshop if the elves had piercings and lots of tattoos.' People are building sets and props, painting scenery, building puppets, designing and fabricating costumes, figuring out lighting and camera angles. And for the continent-spanning kaleidoscopic travelogue that is this film, LAIKA created the most glorious sets: from Sir Lionel's office and The Optimates' Club in London, to the ice caverns of the Himalayas, the forests of America's Pacific Northwest and the jungles of India. All sets but one (Sir Lionel's London office) were used only once leading to the largest number of sets ever created for a LAIKA film."

Butler started to imagine what it would be like if this cryptozoologist, or pursuer of mysterious beasts, lived in the Victorian Era? The Victorian times would provide a period setting and an appropriate context for the story as it was a time of great change. The world suddenly opened up. The cultural frisson created by the old world, or established order, confronting enormous and lightning quick change could provide a rich tapestry for deep and exciting storytelling.

"It's weird when I watch Missing Link now that it's completed," Butler says, "I'm struck by how insular and frightened our villain, Lord Piggot-Dunceby (voiced by Stephen Fry) really is. That's what monumental change does to some people, I think. But we also see how our overwhelming need for fellowship and a relief from loneliness can inspire the very best in human beings, and that was important to me to express."

Another important message that Butler wanted to impart will perhaps evoke recognition from today's audiences: a person's identity is not given to you by someone else but the identity you give to yourself. "That's why there's a lot of play with names in our movie," says Butler. "Mr. Link is given that name by Sir Lionel for his convenience but it's a real turning point in the film when he renames himself 'Susan.' I also wanted to slyly wink at gender identity, of course. It's a classic yearning of the human being to understand who they are."

National Geographic Photography: In the pre-production stage of the film, Butler encouraged his Heads of Department to explore the beautiful, provocative photography of National Geographic Magazine. He himself had immersed himself in several compilation volumes of the magazine going back decades and was absolutely enthralled. Inventor Alexander Graham Bell was the second president of the National Geographic Society (serving 1898-1903) and is credited with having a profound influence on the look of the magazine and its iconic "dynamic photography" mandate. It was initially a scholarly journal sent to 165 charter members but now reaches 40 million people each month. Starting with its January 1905 publication of several full-page pictures of Tibet in 1900-1901, the magazine changed from being a text-oriented publication closer to a scientific journal to featuring extensive pictorial content, and became well known in particular for its photographic style, which was dubbed "dynamic pictures." The June 1985 cover portrait of the (presumed to be) 12-year-old Afghan girl Sharbat Gula, shot by photographer Steve McCurry, became one of the magazine's most recognizable images. McCurry became a totem for Butler and his team and they studied his photographic portraits through the preproduction process.

Missing Link is LAIKA's most ambitious film and Butler opines it's the biggest stop motion film ever done. But he also appreciates that it's the most subtle work he has done in terms of character development and the script, so the macro and micro aspect really appealed to him.

Victorian Engraving: Another inspiration for the LAIKA team was Victorian engraving...not so much paintings but drawings, sketches. Primary among those influences was Sidney Paget, a British illustrator of the Victorian era, best known for his illustrations that accompanied Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories in The Strand magazine. The Strand became one of Great Britain's most prestigious fiction magazines, with the Holmes series its most popular feature. Paget is also credited with giving the first deerstalker cap and Inverness cape to Holmes, details that were never mentioned in Arthur Conan Doyle's writing.

Hatching (hachure in French) is an artistic technique used to create tonal or shading effects by drawing (or painting or scribing) closely spaced parallel lines. When lines are placed at an angle to one another, it is called cross-hatching.

Butler tasked his production design team with incorporating that engraved patterning and crosshatching into all physical aspects of the much the same way as almost all the surfaces in Kubo and the Two Strings bore some physical reference to the overall inspiration of Japanese woodblock prints. "Victorians were mad for pattern on pattern on pattern," says Butler. He gave Victorian Era reference books to Production Designer Nelson Lowry, who informed all matters of physical objects in the production with the influence: clouds in the sky, clouds of steam at the train station, the wooden decks of the Manchuria ship, the waves in the ocean, almost everything has a subtle pattern of cross-hatching.

"It unifies the world and gives it a cohesiveness that connotes order that feels properly Victorian," says Lowry. "The audience doesn't necessarily see it but they feel it."

Butler continues, "You want a cohesive world, that's one of the elements that makes animation special. I'm not interested in replicating the real world. We've got live action for that. I'm interested in seeing the real world through a prism, through a different lens...through the eye of an artist, a painter, an engraver, a sculptor, that to me is exciting. That is always at the back of my mind, what is special about stop motion and are we showing that? First and foremost, it is real light on real objects. And I never want to get to the point where I'm fighting that or losing that or stylizing or fixing stuff to the point where it doesn't feel like real light on real objects. Because that is what everyone aspires to. And then I think it's the tactility. The imperfections that make something live and breathe."

"When I started thinking about this project early on I'm always scribbling, drawing, doodling, because it helps me write. And I might draw a character and then I will know what the physicality of that character is going to be. In that respect, I was very much influenced by Errol LeCain, who was an artist who did very detailed, pattern-rich illustrations. LeCain was the production designer on The Thief and the Cobbler, the 2D movie that was never completed by director Richard Williams. I also looked at Disney's original 101 Dalmatians, which had a really bold and graphic look that I thought lent itself well to the Victorian setting of our film."

Next Production Note Section


Home | Theaters | Video | TV

Your Comments and Suggestions are Always Welcome.

© 2019 80®,  All Rights Reserved.


Find:  HELP!