Whether you love dark children's stories, are obsessed with stop motion or classic underdog stories, chances are you'll love The Boxtrolls. Whether you've seen it already or are planning to go soon, these fun little bits of trivia can only make you help appreciate the film even more.
Image via Chynbek [Deviant Art]
It's directed by two n00bs. The film is a directorial movie debut for co-director Graham Annable (though he has directed video games) and is only the second picture directed by co-director Anthony Stacchi, who previously directed Open Season. Of course, that's not to say that the directors don't have any experience in the industry. Annable's resume includes credits on Star Wars: Episode III, Paranorman, Sam and Max and Coraline, while Stacchi has worked on such big name films as Back to the Future, Hook, The Rocketeer, Ghost, James and the Giant Peach and Antz.
The voices might sound pretty familiar. The voice acting cast includes some of the most famous British actors around, including Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Sir Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead-Wright (who plays Bran Stark on Game of Thrones), Jared Harris (who was Lane Pryce in Mad Men) and Richard Ayoade (who plays Moss on The IT crowd). Other names you may recognize Tracy Morgan and Elle Fanning (who played Aurora in Maleficent.
Image via Hasaniwalker [DeviantArt]
The characters always look on the bright side of life. Well, they at least sing like that. Despite the characters looking almost Tim Burton-esque, the songs sound distinctly Monty Python. That's because they were written by Eric Idle himself.
Where do Boxtrolls get names like Fish, Shoe and Eggs? From the labels on the boxes they wear as clothes, of course.
Why does Eggs (the main character) speak English instead of regular Boxtroll language like his adopted family? Because he has a speech impediment, of course.
Boston airport helped produce backup sounds. Aside from the voices and songs, there are a lot of other noises in the film. Since the Boxtrolls are tinkerers who make all kinds of crazy gadgets and gizmos from stuff they steal from the humans above ground, the film needed some distinctly gadget-like noise. They found the source for their sound in some public art on display at the Boston airport that basically consists of metal machines that do nothing functional.
It's loosely based on a book. Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow is children's novel and they changed a lot to make the story into a full-length film. The basic storyline, the villain, the steampunk-style city and the Boxtrolls are all from the book, but much of the rest was the creation of the film's writers. The book also features sea cows, rat pirates and cabbageheads, all of which had to be cut from the film's script for purposes of simplicity.
It's been almost ten years in the making. Laika officially announced the project was in development all the way back in 2008, but they started planning work on Here Be Monsters as soon as the company formed almost a decade ago. As you can imagine (or visualize if you saw those making-of commercials for the film), stop motion takes quite a while to complete.
Teamwork helped the film come together. Most stop motion films take even longer to build and film than The Boxtrolls did though. Laika was able to streamline the process to some extent by the fact that they maintain the same team between films whereas most studios disband a team after a film is made. This allows Laika to avoid the recruitment, training and other processes that would slow down a stop motion film at most studios. Even so, it takes a week to get one to two minutes worth of footage so it still takes at least a year and a half for them to film a movie.
Before any scenes are built, they're blocked out on computer first. Laika uses a unique blend of traditional animation, computer 3D models and stop motion. Before the sets, props and other pieces are built, the company builds rough models of the scene and blocks out the character movement and camera angles so they know exactly how to build the sets to best work with the planned camera shots. Anything the characters touch is made into a physical model while the backgrounds behind the models are shot on a green screen and added electronically later, along with any effects like fog or rain and extra background characters.
Animators strove to make the movie feel bigger than previous stop motion movies. Most stop motion movies use a minimal number of sets and all scenes are shot within close confines of the sets. Laika wanted to make The Boxtrolls feel bigger so they purposefully included scenes with characters running along rooftops and performing other grand-scale actions so they could fight the boxed-in feeling you get from most stop motions.
And some things are still bigger than most stop motion films. Just because you have to build things on a small scale doesn't mean things can't end up big. In fact, the megadrill in the movie is a whopping five feet tall, making it a very megadrill when put in scale with the puppets and sets.
Image via Miss Melis [Deviant Art]
Thank 3D printing for the characters' many impressive expressions. Every stop motion needs a lot of faces so they have enough character expressions to properly emote according to the storyline. The more faces, the less you notice jumps between the characters' faces as they change. The Boxtrolls animators' made around one and a half million faces for their characters, which never would have been possible if it weren't for 3D printing.
You just might like it more than your kids. With messages about class inequities, grotesquely cute troll monsters and songs that sound like they belong in Monty Python, The Boxtrolls might be a children's movie, but there's plenty for adults to love -and plenty that might scare or confuse children.
Have any of you seen The Boxtrolls yet? If so, what did you think?