With Shout! Studios being given the rights to Laika Studios’ catalogue, they’ve been releasing almost all of their acclaimed award winning films with some new features. If you’ve been a fan of Laika over the years as I’ve been, it’s not surprising that they’ve risen in the ranks alongside PIXAR and Disney as one of the best of their ilk. Probably their best yet is “Kubo and the Two Strings,” a wonderful mixture of mythology, folklore, horror, action, and adventure along with their amazing animation.
Phil Tippet’s animated love child has been a highly anticipated and much talked about project for years. Tippet is a man whose career is absolutely historic. He’s a two-time Oscar winner, and Ray Harryhausen disciple who’s been the special effects wizard behind films like Star Wars, Robocop, Jurassic Park, and Starship Troopers, respectively. And that’s just a fraction of his massive iconic career. So it is fascinating to see something so unique, bizarre, and yet absolutely engrossing as “Mad God” come from the man.
Laika has the ability to conjure up magic and unique premises that you can’t find anywhere else, and it’s why I think they’re bringing so much to the animation medium. While “The Box Trolls” isn’t their best title, it surely is a meaningful and heartfelt work of art that works as an entertaining allegory about the class structure and the idea of the dream of wealth and whether or not it can ever live up to our fantasies. Is there such a thing as too much? And it is really as ideal as we think?
Director Michael Mort has been working in stop motion animation for most of his cinematic career, working with studios such as Aardman Animations and his own studio Animortal Productions, and is a clear fan of old school action films and their over-the-top styles.
This year, Nickelodeon decided to add some spice to their celebration of Halloween by providing a half hour stop motion special. The folks at Bikini Bottom are celebrating Halloween this time, and rather than the iconic wacky two dimensional style, we’re given a brand new spin, with some hilarious results. The stop motion by Screen Novelties is quite excellent, lending the series a sense of whimsy that you would find in something like “A Nightmare Before Christmas.” There is even a great homage to “The Haunted Mansion” Disney Ride, which is both dazzling and screams Halloween.
Written by Crystal Perea and directed by Calley MacDonald, this short stop-motion animation film is adorably cute and funny. The story shows a lot of heart and love in a family that is rather strict and not accepting of new things. The boy at the center of it all is the black sheep of his family and is shown as a sweet, loving boy. The way the story is built, the surprise near the end is not evident or easily guessed. While there is indeed more to this story than first meets the eye, it all makes sense in a way. This story is loving and filled with just the right amount of humor to make it a comedy but without going overboard silly. The film has very little dialog, almost none really, and it shares its story and emotions through well done animation and through its music.
“XX” is yet another horror anthology, this time featuring four horror segments directed by women, all of which revolve around concepts mostly associated with women. While “XX” garners the recurring theme of motherhood, the tales themselves are based around feminine or maternal concepts that are twisted for the genre. “The Box” is a loose allegory for anorexia, “The Birthday Party” is about status, “Don’t Fall” is kind an allegory for menstruation, while “Her Only Living Son” is about a mother’s unwillingness to let go of her son and let him realize his destiny. The four very talented female filmmakers were given complete freedom and as a result we have a pretty stellar horror film, all things considering.
It just serves to prove my theory that bad animated movies can be excused since they’re “for kids” is a cheap cop out meant to let crap pass by us. Animation studios are providing amazing kids fare, including Laika who seemingly snuck out of nowhere to deliver yet another stop motion children’s masterpiece. “Kubo and the Two Strings” is probably their great animated stop motion achievement to date. It’s an immense, epic, and heartfelt ode to the art of storytelling and the power of memories. It’s teeming with fantastic Asian folklore offering a very respectful view of its characters, and creates a wonderful hero who is capable of defeating evil not with his fists or guns, but with magic and his ability to think outside the box.