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LAIKA Chief Surprises Comic-Con Crowd By Saying He Wants To Do Hand-Drawn Animation


At a presentation for LAIKA’s third stop motion feature The Boxtrolls, LAIKA’s CEO Travis Knight told San Diego Comic-Con audiences that he hopes to make a hand-drawn animated film at some point in the future. Slashfilm’s editor Peter Sciretta was in attendance and offers more context to Knight’s comments:

[Knight] says that every one of the Laika stop-motion movies feature small bits of hand-drawn animation composits [sic], but he would like to one day do a whole movie in the medium. It seems like they don’t have any definite plans but you could tell from his tone that it’s something he’s been considering for a while now.

If Knight chooses to pursue the idea, he would have no competion. While dozens of hand-drawn animated features are produced annually in Europe, Asia and Latin America, there has not been a big-studio hand-drawn production produced by an American company since 2011 when Disney released Winnie the Pooh.

(Thanks, Elliot Lobell)

  • If he is really passionate about doing hand drawn animation as a feature film project, I would support him in that venture! I hope he finds support to bring this treasure back to the big screen in the States!

  • JO-JO

    that will be a BIG challenge as how people will accept this since they don’t give their money to a Hand-drawn animated film like the do with CG movies ..

    I don’t know if this really is a good Idea ?! especially that they are very decent with stop-motions animated films.

    • Mike

      Sadly, it’s not like they really give their money to LAIKA’s stop-motion films either. I can’t imagine a traditionally-animated film would fare much worse.

  • martin

    DO IT.

    • Matt

      Palpatine? is that you?

      • martin

        actually I was thinking of Ben Stiller from Starsky & Hutch.

        • Inkan1969

          And I thought you were impersonating Rorschach. :-)

  • tt

    I love Laika so much lol! what the mainstream wants, they don’t do it. but they make things mainstream rarely wants. Hand drawn AND stop motion?? dark and creepy animated films?? out of this world type animated films?? PLZ DO IT!!!!!!

    • Josh Moore

      In some ways, maybe LAIKA might be the best animation studio in the U.S and wanting to pursue 2D is one of those reasons.

      • nw

        In a lot of ways you are very wrong about the way Laika does things…definitely not the best by any means.

        • Josh Moore

          From what I’ve heard, they’re films have a European feel to it.

          • white vader

            From what you’ve heard? Have you not seen any of their films?

          • Josh Moore

            I heard that from someone I know on twitter and he does have a point. Their films do feel a little different compared a lot more mainstream animated films and yes I have seen Coraline and ParaNorman.

          • white vader

            Thanks man. It wasn’t clear from what you said. I don’t think they’re european in feel at all, except maybe character design. But not even any more than say, Tim Burton’s Stop-motion features. If you’ve seen stuff like Jan Svankmayer or the Chech Kuky Returns then you’ll have seen some very European stop-mo stuff.

          • Befuddled Mike

            Was Kuky Returns even stop-motion? I thought it was puppets.

  • nw

    Even if this statement never comes to fruition its nice to know people still have an interest in making classically animated films again

  • Hey, if anyone’s gonna do it, it should totally be Laika. They’ve differentiated themselves from the mainstream with their own films so far, so I believe they have a fighting chance. They’re prominent enough to compete alongside Disney and Dreamworks, but not obscure enough to be as unfamiliar as Cartoon Saloon…as great as The Secret of Kells was.

    I hope Knight’s vision is fully realized in the not-too-distant future and I welcome it with open arms!

  • Josh Moore

    I wish him luck for him and the future of 2D animation. This makes me want to work for LAIKA even more.

  • GW

    I’d like to see an abstract animated feature film. As long as they’re committing box office suicide, they might as well make the movie abstract. Better to do it now while they’ve got the support of Nike money.

    • 2MKcreations .

      Abstract? Really? Imagine the audience reactions.

      • GW

        Walked into that one. Still, it’d draw people into the theater, even if it’s just to make fun of it. But seriously, if it had a good soundtrack and the right visuals I think people may be interested. They probably wouldn’t be attracted to simple shapes like most historical abstract films, but they might go for a film that includes tessellations and 3D fractal imagery. If there were a film that had abstract segments of differing visual themes and was kept under the 90 minute mark it might have an audience. You never know if you don’t try.

        • Mister A

          Michel Gagne just did a well received and nominated abstract short a few years ago called Sensology.These types of shorts will only mostly appeal to those who have either an appreciation of medium of animation or the fine arts. The audience just isnt large enough to make anyone make these abstract shorts other than for a love of the craft. Every now and then though someone breaks out and defies the odds and wins over new fans. I think this one is one of those rare exceptions.

          • Barrett

            Add to the “animation buffs” and “fine art” types a third group, drug users. But yeah, aside from those three, “normal” audiences have maybe 2-3 minutes of attention span to devote to visual abstractions before they get bored/uncomfortable/whatever.

  • BurntToShreds

    More power to them. I’d love to see a hand-drawn non-Ghibli film come out here once in a while.

  • Mister Twister

    What can I say? Godspeed.

  • Robert Holmén

    I’m sure there will be lots of talent that can be scooped up cheap to do it. I think there will need to be a several years of CG disappointments before the adult ticket-buying public will be ready to rediscover 2D hand-drawn animation again.

    • Elijah Berry

      Haven’t we been getting a lot of crappy movies in 2013? (Not every CG movie is crap, don’t get your jimmies rustled)

    • nevilleross

      And that day will be centuries in the future.

  • ThatGuy

    Hand drawn animation is bad for business. Haven’t you heard? It’s old and antiquated…not viable for the future

    • Rain Kaimaramon

      I guess we’ve got to stop using our legs, you know those segways are the future! Those darn legs are old and antiquated too. Or how about ditching live actors, computer replaced them too.

    • Ant G

      I’ve heard kids describe it as “old graphics” similar to 2D games. The trend in animation continues to be how realistically convincing can ‘graphics’ be, both in the movie and games industry, by the targeted largest demographic (kids, tweens, teens) that demand it.

      I always watched 2D animation regardless of my age, so I can only assume their view of it is similar to my view on games; Before, I personally couldn’t play 2D games because I saw them as antiquated during the GC/PS2/Xbox generation (I remember fawning over how much a visual treat playing Metroid Prime was). Now I don’t see it in a hierarchical scale anymore and play more 2D game apps for their charming simplicity…. they are however also a lot cheaper. I never had to answer if I would pay $60 for a 2D game, and I think people see it that way too when it comes to movies, is the S7-$13 price worth it for a 2D movie that doesn’t look as expensive as live-action or 3D animation? Is what they probably ask themselves

      • AnimationGuy

        About your last note on paying for 2D vs 3D films.
        I’ve recently come to realize, and I’m fairly sure of it, that the majority of movie audiences (these days) look at the cinema as a theme park ride, where the goal is something ‘big, flashy and exciting’, and nothing to do with the artistic side.

  • ThatGuy

    Didn’t Lasseter say the same thing 10 years ago?

    • More like Ed Catmull from The Pixar Story, but I’m sure John also said the same thing. Either way, both men are more businessmen than artists these days, so I wouldn’t really hold em to their word.

      • nevilleross

        And yet, if it weren’t for said business practices, Pixar wouldn’t be the success it is now.

    • michel manders

      yeah…but he couldn’t

  • Toonio

    Chilly Tee might be in the right path, However he has to come to terms with American audiences and their crave for cheaply pseudo written animated movies.

    Point in case, if people liked Frozen over Ernest and Celestine (and I’m talking about those who saw both movies) there is no business case to engage in such adventure.

    • nevilleross

      I hope that you’re prepared to face the fact that Laika may have to make a film like Frozen occasionally in order to pay the cost of making the artistic endeavors, same as what Pixar does.

      • Barrett

        What needs to happen is for a smart directorial team to identify what specific elements of Frozen made it apparent catnip to certain large segments of the American public, then try to incorporate those into a film that is in 2D AND has a better story, character development, foreshadowing, etc. You know, the stuff a good film is SUPPOSED to have. I know Frozen wasn’t a hit because it lacked those things, because plenty of people loved Disney movies of the past that actually had those fundamentals, so it’s key to figure out what the “hooks” were.

        • DangerMaus

          Personally, I think the biggest draw for FROZEN was the song “Let It Go”. I actually think that they got a lot of repeat business from people who kept going back to hear the song and watch that sequence. It was the only standout sequence in the entire film.

  • Disney’s ghost

    I can’t wait, I LOVE hand drawn animation!

  • Harrison

    The people who made ParaNorman are thinking about doing hand drawn movie? I’ll be waiting in line for tickets!

  • Capital_7

    Every hand drawn film that has been released in the past twenty years has lost money. I’d prefer they didn’t do this. It’s not like they were Disney and could afford to keep losing their shirts on their projects.

    I’d instead like to see Laika move away from doing the same TYPE of movie over and over. Selick’s reign of terror is over and they still think they have to make Selick movies or something.

    • JulesDeMalte

      Well, they’ve only made two movies so far …

      • Capital_7

        Box Trolls feels a lot like the last two, really, and both of those feel like children of Jack Skellington.

    • Barrett

      Only “Hollywood accounting” could *possibly* mark down films like Tarzan, Pocahontas, and Lilo & Stitch as net losses. I don’t know where you pulled that figure from, but it’s probably not anywhere I’d want to look at.

      • Capital_7

        What figure? There is no figure mentioned in my post whatsoever.

        One of your three films mentioned is nearly two decades old. The most recent one is over a decade old.

  • Fried

    Just as long as they approach a different art style for once and not just the Coraline look over and over, sure. Otherwise, they’re just like every other studio with a “preferred style”.

  • Ian Cook

    A hand-drawn animated film from the company behind Coraline and Paranorman?….Yes :)

  • Greg Manwaring

    If the story is good and the animation is up to snuff then it is about marketing. A very good marketing campaign will get butts in seats.

    Somebody else once said that if Pixar were to take one of the film ideas it has in its pipeline and gave it to Disney to classically animate then it should potentially be a hit film, as long as they market the hell out of it.

  • Cyrus Vba

    Whether they end up doing hand-drawn movie or not, I fully believe that it will be as gorgeous, well thought-out and masterfully crafted as all their previous feature-length works

  • Googamp32

    More power to them! If LAIKA can save stop-motion from being destroyed by the evils of CGI, surely they can bring traditional animation back to life.

    • nevilleross

      Yeah, because CGI is so evil..(sarcasm)

  • Mathias

    Laika for President!

  • Matt

    As great as this sounds there is a big gap between wanting and doing. Setting up a 2d studio is not cheap but is probably somewhat cheaper than it was years ago now that the work can be done on cintiqs. Another problem would be getting talent to come to where Laika is. Most of us from the Warner, Disney days etc are still here in Los Angeles a have families, homes and jobs still in the animation field. I applaud Laika for wanting to do 2d but I do not see it being feasible in their current location. While working on PATF I was one of the younger guys and that was at age 37 and I would not want to go moving my family around just to work on a movie with no long term commitment.

    • Barrett

      They may have to settle for hiring a few “ringers” who had time in the trenches of 2D in the 90s-00s, but get the rest of the crew from the best of the up-and-coming generation of 2D artists. Believe it or not, there are still people going to art school learning not just the fundamentals of 2D animation, but the traditional Disney approach to life drawing, gesture, character construction, visual development, etc. These folks ache to do 2D animation, and lament that the only outlets for their talents in today’s industry are viz dev artist and story artist.

  • michel manders

    LAIKA ….do what Disney couldn’t………and please…call me

  • John Steele

    I really hope this is true and they do it with the animation being done in America!

  • AnimationGuy

    Yes, yes, yes! That’s music to my ears.

  • AnimationGuy

    Not to sound condescending, but have you seen what some animators can do with Toon Boom rigs these days?
    Almost indistinguishable from hand drawn, and we’re talking about RIGS. You can completely emulate a classical look with digital frame-by-frame animation these days.

    • curious

      Can you show us some examples of these super rigs in action?

  • Rick Farmiloe

    I was the one who asked the question at the panel. I worked on the BOXTROLLS film as a 2D animator. Travis is very serious about wanting to do a 2D animated feature. We’ve talked about it a few times. Time will tell. Keep your fingers crossed.

  • Ironhorse

    Paper is fine but the original purity of each animation drawing degrades with each step of the production process. Many independent animators working from paper do everything themselves to protect the drawing. Can’t see a studio, including Laika, allowing this.

  • DangerMaus

    Ha ha. I think it is funny how cel animation is the holy grail now. I guess people have forgotten about all of the limitations of that medium. Wow, might as well go full dinosaur and bring acetates back while you’re at it. Get rid of dem “evil” computers. You know……the ones that Bakshi himself said he’d like to fuckin’ kiss every day because they allow him to do with five people what it used to take a crew of 250 to do.

  • curious

    Certainly some of if not the best puppet animation I’ve seen. Although I highly doubt it could replace traditional hand drawn in a feature film. If you take into consideration that the clip you’ve shown has very linear movement either left right up or down. Little rotation of parts or shots in perspective towards the camera. I’d like to see the animator do a head turn or a Pomeroy perspective shot. Then I’d certainly stand corrected. It has potential though. Maybe just not yet .

  • nevilleross

    Your loss.

    • Doug

      Naw, I had a good rest. Nice animation by itself is rarely enough to keep me awake, unless it’s Richard Williams.

      • Barrett

        If you found those stories snooze-worthy, I’d love to hear what you consider “great” animated films.

        • Doug

          Not that I feel I need to justify my opinion but … Princess Mononoke, The Man Who Planted Trees, The Incredibles, Grave of the Fireflies, Pinnochio, Dumbo, Fantastic Mr. Fox .. they all kept me awake.

          I think this love of creepy and “dark” and the worshiping at the feet of Tim Burton is turning into a a big yawn for stopmo. The love of a look and style is not enough to interest me as a viewer for more than a few minutes. After those few minutes are up, I truly don’t care how well it’s animated.

  • Barrett

    This BS about “2D is dead” is a bunch of bunk, self-delusion promoted between suits and discouraged directors. 2D animation is not dead, and the right 2D animated film could turn this whole perception around. Hell, just give it some time; with a long enough drought, people will be begging for 2D again if they see Disney or Dreamworks is doing a fully-animated feature again. Princess and the Frog was hardly a flop, but because it didn’t do Beauty and the Beast numbers they decided to call it one anyway. As for the Winnie the Pooh feature, that was something more suited to home video release, it was never going to be a huge hit, it’s just another pleasant entry in the long-running series of Pooh movies and shows.

  • Barrett

    I wonder how deep Phil Knight’s pockets go (or rather, how deep he is willing to let this particular venture go.) I love everything Laika has done so far, and I hope to see them keep going with stop-mo AND get into 2D.

    • DangerMaus

      Yes, that is what I’m wondering too. I have liked both of their films, but their films do show that financial success wasn’t the first thing on their minds. “BoxTrolls” demonstrates that even further.

      I don’t think the first two films have been money losers, but they haven’t been out-of-the-ballpark hits like Pixar and Dreamworks have had. That may not necessarily be a bad thing in itself, but it does make one wonder how long Knight will bankroll the studio before saying that they need to have a film that is a big enough hit for them to be self-sustaining. I mean, Phil Knight didn’t become rich by continually funding ventures that only have marginal returns.

      I hope the guy does keep backing them, because it is refreshing to see a studio that does seem to be more concerned about making films than having to concentrate on making blockbuster hits. Pixar was the same way until their infrastructure became so big that every film has to be planned on the basis of whether it will make money, rather than on just being a good film.

      Like I said in another comment that never made it on here, I hope these guys are around long enough to make a traditionally animated film.

  • Rick Farmiloe

    Mike, I did traditional (hand drawn) animation on paper for dialogue tests to see how all the characters faces would move and act more convincingly. They wanted a “Disney’ animator to help step up the acting on the puppets. My animation was transferred to the puppets. Dave Vandervoort and I basically did all the 2D on the characters. I think you’ll like the results. The movie is amazing looking. I also did 2D animation for the end credits.