“Missing Link” produced by Laika studios, is the newest in their line of acclaimed animated features such as ‘Coraline’ and ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’. The film starts Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, and Zach Galifianakis. We sat down with the Producers of the film at this year’s 2019 WonderCon! The team took us through animation process, breaking down the structures of the model and even showing us the design (and skeleton) for the main character Susan (voiced by Zach Galifianakis).
We sat down with Writer/Director Chris Butler, Production Designer Nelson Lowry; Head of Production Arianne Sutner, and Puppet Fabrication Supervisor John Craney. Here’s what we learned from the chat:
- One of the landmark locations in the film, Shangri-La, was inspired designed with the audience in mind. Butler and Lowry wanted to create a beautiful location that would “reward” and “wow” the audience in the third act. It’s inspired by a combination of two architectural styles: Jainism (an offshoot of Hindu and Buddhist styles) and Brutalism (characterized by simple, block-like structures that often feature bare building materials).
- What was the inspiration behind the picturesque train station scene? Nelson Lowry used method called “Frankensteining”- using the Santa Ana train station design as a base for the location, but also incorporating inspiration from other train stations as well. The station in the film is as unique as the film itself!
- Butler and Lowry describe each environment as a character. Every detail in the design is intentional, meant to be contribute to and reflect what’s going on in the story.
Photo courtesy of Laika Studios/Annapurna Pictures
- The lead character, Susan’s (Galifianakis) shape is inspired by the idea of a hairy avocado!
- The puppets, especially large ones, are attached or “tied-down” to the location and rigged from above to hold them in place. These rigs are painted out later in the process.
- Naturalism is a key component to Laika’s designs. The key is to make them look as natural as possible so that the audience loses sight that their watching puppets and can enjoy the movie instead! Puppet Fabrication Supervisor, John Craney mentioned that “fur management” was a top priority for his team because they had so many Yetis!
- Susan’s puppet actually has a bounce machine inside of his belly to make his stomach and walk movements more realistic!
- While creativity and pushing the limits of stop motion are priorities for Laika studios, there are a few things Producer/Head of Production Arianne thought might NOT happen: the gorgeous (and complex) boat scene, creating and moving an elephant (which only occurs in one scene at that!) and the design of the missing link himself, Susan!
‘Missing Link’ storyline: The charismatic Sir Lionel Frost considers himself to be the world’s foremost investigator of myths and monsters. The trouble is none of his small-minded high-society peers seems to recognize this. Sir Lionel’s last chance for acceptance by the adventuring elite rests on traveling to America’s Pacific Northwest to prove the existence of a legendary creature. A living remnant of Man’s primitive ancestry. The Missing Link.
Check out the trailer:
‘Missing Link’ premiered on Friday, April 12th. Check your local theater for showtimes!