Case Study – ParaNorman

By November 27, 2015Honours Project



ParaNorman is a 2012 stop motion animated film produced by Laika Entertainment and directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell. It is the second feature length film Laika have produced and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animation.

How Stop Motion is Used in the Film

The whole movie features stop motion characters and set. CGI is used sparingly to enhance background details and add addition visual effects. Like Coraline, ParaNorman uses 3D printing technology to assist in the facial animation of characters. Faces are created in 3D software packages, printed out and swapped in each frame to create the character performance.

The stop motion in this movie focuses heavily in creating subtler and more accurate performance through the use of 3D printing technology. The movement is smoother and therefore is not as much evidence that there is stop motion being used.

Common Themes

ParaNorman continues with a mild horror theme that Laika featured in their earlier film Coraline. The film deals with ghosts, the undead and witchery. While targeted towards families, the film does deal with mature themes such as the story of the character of Agatha and her accusation of witchcraft.

In 2012 there were a number of stop motion films released including ParaNorman, Frankenweenie and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! Two of these were horror based which stop motion has numerous examples in this genre.

Stop Motion Techniques

A scene in particular I observed which utilised stop motion for visual appeal is the scene near the end where Agatha is challenged and Norman tries to calm her down. There is a good use of texture in the forest: the trees and ground feel very traditionally crafted. As Agatha gets more upset the world changes around them becoming more of a distorted reality. I liked how CGI enhanced but didn’t take away from the stop motion charm in Agatha’s character performance. Finally as she calms down, the environment changes into something more pleasant, with cleaner textures and brighter lighting. These are all things that could’ve been done in CGI or another animation medium, but there’s something quite special about using stop motion to create something very visually rich and unique.

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