The BoxTrolls: A Peek Beneath the Boxes

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I LOVE stop-motion animation.  I have been obsessed with it since I was a child- remember The Year Without a Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?

My stop-motion devotion then carried through to adulthood with The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and Corpse Bride.

I am absolutely mesmerized by the realistic detail and gritty surrealistic effect it delivers.

This weekend the latest soon to be classic in stop-motion animation hits theaters: The BoxTrolls.

The BoxTrolls is the third feature film from Portland based Laika Studios (ParaNorman and Coraline).

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“Adapted from the young adult novel Here Be Monsters by author Alan Snow – as part of the first volume in the Ratbridge Chronicles – The Boxtrolls film focuses the 529 page novel down to tell the story of a toddler orphan named Eggs, and his adventures living with a group of mischievous, garbage picking creatures called the Boxtrolls. Set within the wealth-obsessed fictional city of Cheesebridge – a place inspired by the swank Victorian and Edwardian eras of the United Kingdom – The Boxtrolls is set to become Laika’s first “period piece” motion picture. Additionally, the film features an array of new characters. While spending time in Cheesebridge you’ll be introduced not just to the self-important upper crust of the cheese-driven metropolis, but also it’s odd, yet lovable, cardboard box wearing underground dwellers as well.”

The film was shot using 3D stop-motion animation and CG.  Directed by Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable and starring Sir Ben Kingsley as the voice of Archibald Snatcher – a villainous wannabe aristocrat with a rather disfiguring allergy to cheese, and an abiding hatred of the Boxtrolls, Elle Fanning (as the voice of Winnie), Toni Collette, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Jared Harris, Tracy Morgan, and Isaac Hempstead Wright (otherwise known as Bram from HBO’s Game of Thrones) voicing Eggs.

Laika is in the running for an Science and Technical Achievement Academy Award for its innovations in using 3D printings to paint details on its characters. They use 3D printing to create most of the characters faces.

I bet about now you are wondering “How does this fit in with a Fashion Blog”? Well, Laika is the ONLY animation studio IN THE WORLD to employ its own costume designer, Deborah Cook whose task is to create realistic clothing on characters shrunk to a one-to-five scale.

So, lets talk costumes!

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During the design process Cook worked much the same way she would in live-action — except that the characters she worked with were barely a foot tall. Designing for costumes at a one-to-five scale poses several hurdles.  Cook had to employ the use of laser cutting tools because traditional cutting and stitching thickens edges and can throw off the costumes’ scale. Also, the outfits must be able to stay completely motionless for each frame during stop-motion photography while moving fluidly and believably between shots.

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“We put a lot of engineering under the costumes so that they can move through the frames, 24 frames a second,” Cook told Variety. “We have to be methodical … in how things are processed to make sure that everything has extremely fine detail. The slightest stitch out of place looks huge on screen.”

Cook also used an embroidery machine to sew the miniature knitwear and lace, looking to Paris’s Ballets Russes, which worked with artists like Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse, for inspiration.

Fashion designer Alexander McQueen’s patterns gave Cook ideas for how to dress the unusually shaped human puppets. Military uniforms and heraldry informed the costumes of the aristocratic White Hats, while the markings on English punk rock clothes influenced the dress of the more villainous Red Hats.

The movie’s smallest costumes were for Eggs as a baby: the sweater, measuring just 3.5” from cuff to cuff across the length of both arms and chest, and the baby socks measuring 5/8” long!

Laika is has their fingers crossed that with her work on The BoxTrolls  Deborah Cook will be the first Costume Designer to secure an Academy Award nomination for Costume Design with an animated movie.

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BoxTrolls open Friday September 26th nationwide.  

SPOILER: Make sure to stay all the way through the credits for an amazing behind the scenes peek at this technological masterpiece.

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1 Comment

  1. I already planned to see this when it comes out, but now I want to see it more.

    Thanks for the tip on the “after the credits” scene.

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