At this point, virtually anyone who cares about the craft of animation recognizes the name Laika, the Portland, Oregon-based studio that specializes in staggeringly detailed stop-motion. The studio behind films such as Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, and Kubo and the Two Strings has built a reputation for stop-motion that mixes technological ambition with meticulously handcrafted work.
The studio’s latest film, Missing Link, continues the tradition. This time, it’s expanding the action to an around-the-world adventure involving a British aristocrat (Hugh Jackman) who travels to America on a cryptid-hunt and ends up promising to escort a Sasquatch (Zach Galifianakis) on a global hunt for his elusive yeti kin. Zoe Saldana co-stars as a companion on their journey, a widow with her own aggressive agenda.
In this behind-the-scenes featurette, Inside the Magic of Laika, Jackman, Galifianakis, and Saldana all comment on what it was like to work with Laika, and how the company’s vision for stop-motion informed the film. But the real appeal isn’t in the celebrity praise. It’s in all of the behind-the-scenes footage from past and present Laika projects, which gives a sense of the scale of the sets and puppets involved as well as the massive amount of labor that goes into each of these films.
It’s also interesting to see footage from Missing Link right next to Laika’s earlier work. It shows how much the studio’s art has evolved over 10 years of filmmaking. The puppet work is still so smooth that it looks like CG animation, but the level of texture and detail has increased exponentially. For animation buffs, it’s always exciting to see new Laika time-lapse videos, showing how animators personally tweak the characters’ positions over time, producing fluid movement. It’s a short behind-the-scenes peek at everything from live-action reference video of a comedy sequence to the smallest facet of costume construction.