By now, you’ve probably heard the long list of nominees for the 2020 Oscars. One of the films up for Best Animated Feature–Laika Studio’s Missing Link. If you haven’t seen it, it’s up on Hulu right now!
You might recognize the name Laika Studios. They’ve made Coraline, ParaNorman, and Kubo and the Two Strings. They are one of the few stop motion studios in the world and they make damn fine work. Their latest film, Missing Link, is by far one of their most beautiful works to date. But, did you know that the film is a mixture of stop-motion and visual effects? This post isn’t to say one is better than the other; but to say that, when they work together, they can produce beautiful things–Just like in live-action movies.
These films aren’t made overnight. They can take years to film. This one, in particular, took two years!
106,000 faces and 110 sets with 65 unique locations; Missing Link is Laika’s most ambitious film, yet.
Stop motion “is an animated filmmaking technique in which objects are physically manipulated in small increments between individually photographed frames so that they will appear to exhibit independent motion or change when the series of frames is played back.” So, you can see why it can take years to make one film.
At LAIKA, they use these metal rigs to help assist them in the animation process. The green parts are then taken out in post-production; green being easier to key or paint out. Though, it’s not a new technique. Animator, Rachelle Lambden, seen in the picture above, helps bring out the performance of the characters–essentially making them appear as if they’re alive and part of why we enjoy and feel for the characters.
Rigs and VFX are especially helpful for action sequences, characters jumping, and dealing with giant/unusual size creatures.
Other ways they use technology to help them is using VFX to add more backgrounds, clean up, or set extensions.
The sequences dealing with water, are also VFX as it’s much easier to deal with and animate. It would be extremely difficult to animate characters in water. But, the fact that Laika Studios pairs stop-motion animation with visual effects is not a bad thing. They can work well together to produce a movie like Missing Link, which is, without a doubt, beautiful.
This is especially true with the ice bridge scene which took a year to animate.
When all departments work together; it’s magical. They create a beautiful film with beautiful characters. What did you think of Missing Link? What part of movie-making would you like to know more about?
If you’re looking for a more in-depth look into the VFX and stop-motion used in Missing Link, check out Befores & Afters.