Laika and Focus go underground with ‘The Boxtrolls’

Mark Deming
Movie Talk

Good news for animation fans – the folks who brought you “ParaNorman”

and “Coraline” have a brand new project in the works.

Laika, the Oregon-based animation studio who’ve earned critical acclaim and solid box-office returns with their ambitious blend of stop-motion animation and CGI, have announced they’re partnering with Focus Features to make “The Boxtrolls.”

The fantasy is based on “Here Be Monsters,” a popular novel for children from artist and author Alan Snow. The announcement comes as “ParaNorman” has won two Annie Awards (the animation industry’s Oscar), and is up for an Academy Award as Best Animated Feature.

“The Boxtrolls” tells the story of a community of eccentric underground dwellers who dress themselves in cardboard and survive by scavenging the cast-offs of the wealthy people of Cheesebridge. For some time, the Boxtrolls have been caring for a child who lost his parents as a baby, but as the daughter of a well-to-do family befriends the lad and his companions, they’re targeted by a maniacal exterminator who is convinced the Boxtrolls are monsters and not to be trusted.

“The Boxtrolls” will mark the third time Laika and Focus Features have worked together, and Laika president Travis Knight, who described the tale as “Dickens by way of Monty Python,” said in a press release, “We’re thrilled to partner with Focus Features and Universal to bring this remarkable story to family audiences around the world.”

“The Boxtrolls” will be directed by Anthony Stacchi, who previously directed “Open Season,” and Graham Annable, who was a story artist on “ParaNorman” and “Coraline.” They’ve already lined up an impressive voice cast, which will include Ben Kingsley, Toni Collette, Tracy Morgan, Simon Pegg, Jared Harris, and Elle Fanning. The picture is now in production, with an anticipated release date of October 17, 2014.