Fun Facts and Notable Numbers
The production design can best be described as "epic", "colorful" and "highly
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
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
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,
brought vibrancy, adventure and new cultures into homes. The film heightens this
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
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
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"
which muscles are first carved from foam, rubber and plastic and attached to the
skeleton. A thin outer skin of silicon is stretched over the entire body, then
hand painted and
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
First puppet to be constructed with a stretchy/baggy skin not adhered to the
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
motorized rig to provide illusion of the bounce of the elephant's walk.
Only one elephant puppet was created for the film.
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.
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
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
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
controlled programmable motors.
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
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
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
ever nominated for this prestigious award) designed all the costumes.
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
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
than buckle and fold as they would if they were a single sheet of molded
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
finished with a print overlay and hand-painted detail.
According to Costume Designer Deborah Cook: "All fabrics for LAIKA costumes
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
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
represent this weave.
Small weaves or very close parallel lines can produce a moirĂ© 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
the impression of woven houndstooth but formulated from an interlocking 'star'
The rich blues and yellows of Lionel's suit reflect his modern,
Adelina represents the modern woman at the turn of the 20th Century.
adventurous, this revolutionary woman was popularized with the "Gibson Girl"
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
curves, something that Victorians would have found "unacceptable." Adelina was a
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
There were more than 110 sets and 65 unique locations.
The bagpipes were made with a specially-built latex balloon which was inflated
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
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
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
individually photographed frames so that they appear to exhibit independent
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
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
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
remotely move elements on sets. (This was used extensively in animating the
instance.) The software provided a visual graph, mapping of the position of the
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
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
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
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,
new technology from Stratasys is revolutionary, allowing for unprecedented
detail. In order to precisely control each 3D pixel (voxel) LAIKA partnered with
German research facility in their development of advanced 3D slicing software,
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
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
expressions that were re-used throughout the film.
The RP department's five 3D printers often ran 24 hours a day churning out
2,000 faces per week for Missing Link.
The RP department printed over 106,000 faces in total for Missing Link. About
were Lionel faces; about 27,000 (26%) were Link faces and about 13,000 (12%)
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
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
The silicone fur surrounding Mr. Link's face was animated through replacement
removing and replacing a 3D printed "ring", the fur would change shape. Each 3D
was designed to make sure the fur properly matched the shape of all of his 3D
At peak production, there were 91 units in production - about 50% more than
any other LAIKA
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
reflection at a different angle.
The Logging Town was so large that a combination of miniature and full-scale
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
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
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
20 seconds in length in the film.
There were 1486 shots in Missing Link - the most of any LAIKA movie to date.
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
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
Each underwater Loch Ness plankton simulation in Nuke had more than 2 million
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
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
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
delivered to VFX.
LAIKA's traditions of bold storytelling, technical innovation, unforgettable
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
(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
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
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
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
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
'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
"Our combination of art, craft, science, and technology makes for powerful
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
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
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
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
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
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
eccentric and almost unlikable in many ways. That made him even more
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
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
"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,
photographer Steve McCurry, became one of the magazine's most recognizable
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
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
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 film...in 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
"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.