LAIKA fans were in for a treat this year at San Diego Comic-Con. Before you ask, no, we didn’t get any major announcement regarding their next feature film. We know as much as you do and, if I remember correctly, it should be coming out next year. But the studio was in San Diego to share the magic of their other beloved movies.
They hosted ‘The LAIKA Experience’ – a sort of gallery experience featuring props, puppets, and more from their previous films. Fans were invited to take a look behind-the-scenes at their popular films Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, and Kubo and the Two Strings.
One of the most creative and innovative groups making films today, LAIKA embraces a very unique means of filmmaking. They make beautiful films with deep, meaningful storylines in one of the most painstakingly difficult methods possible – stop-motion animation. Every character is built. Every set is built. Costumes are sewn, props are painted, and every little detail is the direct result of someone’s care and attention.
These films take years to make. Mere seconds and minutes of the story can take months on their own. Changes in characters’ expressions have to be done manually by changing facial features on the various puppets. And as technology advances their puppets and sets and everything else just become so much more complex and intricate.
They do amazing things without the benefits of CGI and I think their films are all the better for it.
Walking through ‘The LAIKA Experience’ was an absolute joy. ‘The LAIKA Experience’ was held in a small venue in the Gaslamp District. The building was long and as fans moved forward they progressed through LAIKA’s production history. At the front of the building was a little pop-up shop with exclusive LAIKA gear. From there you entered the world of Coraline, then ParaNorman, then The Boxtrolls, and finally Kubo and the Two Strings.
I was taken on a tour by one of the most enthusiastic tour guides you could find anywhere in San Diego. He pointed out all kinds of things and shared stories about LAIKA’s history. We got up close and personal with actual puppets used in the various movies and he pointed out little details I may never have noticed.
I was shown the little lines where all the puppets’ faces come apart so that their expressions can be changed. Some characters had thousands of different expression combinations! But the characters aren’t the only ‘puppets.’ Every vehicle and contraption has to move in ways that are conducive to stop-motion animation, too. It was so cool to see all of these things and have someone there to tell me about all these little details I may otherwise never have noticed.
You can check out some of our pictures from the exhibit below!
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‘The LAIKA Experience’ was a lot of fun and I only wish that we could have seen more. For each film we were only really shown one or two sets and a small selection of puppets. The San Diego venue was very small and so they were limited as to what they could bring with them.
If you have the chance to check out a similar LAIKA event, I highly recommend it because I’ll bet you’ll get to see even more than we did! My guide told me that they even had part of the world’s largest puppet (a behemoth that apparently could only be filmed with separate upper and lower halves), which was featured in Kubo and the Two Strings at a prior even in the Pacific Northwest. It must have been amazing to see in person!
All in all, ‘The LAIKA Experience’ was a really great addition to the SDCC off-site offerings. It was a laid back gallery experience that was open to fans regardless of whether or not they had a badge. They had daily giveaways and folks walking around in LAIKA character costumes. And for the most part the lines were reasonable. Best of all, it opened a week before the convention, allowing locals and early arrivals to get there before the rush without missing the rest of the convention!
We hope that more companies host similar experiences in the future!