ParaNorman Stop-Motion Action: The Process Revealed

See how filmmakers spent years bringing each scene to life—one tiny detail at a time

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To say the new 3-D stop-motion animation film ParaNorman(opening Aug. 17) is intricate simply doesn’t capture the extent of work put into creating each individual piece of the 93-minute film. The second stop-motion film—each piece is hand-created and then hand-moved slightly and filmed at each stop—from Laika, the creators of Oscar-nominated Coraline, ParaNorman is the first to feature 3-D.

To garner 93 minutes of feature footage, crews spent multiple years creating 75 sets and filming just five to eight seconds per week, knitting together each picture to create the appearance of motion. In all, 20 hours and 29 minutes melted into the final product.

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In the latest stop-motion narrative written by Chris Butler and directed by Butler and Sam Fell, we get the story of Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee), a “misunderstood” boy who also happens to see and speak to ghosts. Oh, yes, we’ve got claymation zombies here, folks. In a quest to save his town from a centuries-old curse, he must join with friends (Anna Kendrick lends her voice) to fight off zombies, ghosts, witches and even grown-ups. And, since this isn’t just a clever title to a movie, expect some more paranormal activities sprinkled throughout.

But the most paranormal act may have been the work it took to form even one second of film. The two most intense scenes—one is a bathroom encounter between Norman and a ghost and the other features zombies—took an entire year to film. Each.

For Norman’s character alone animators needed to create 9,000 different faces. The smallest item devised was a zombie’s drop of spit.

The ParaNorman creators have offered us a glimpse into the complex “lab” formed to build these highly involved sets. The latest video vignette, This Little Light, gives us the process for bringing to life a miniature desktop lamp, a task that included drawing, molding, glassblowing, painting and more. Intricate, indeed.

Check it out:

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