Sometimes the best gifts really do come in boxes
Stop- motion animation takes time. Lots of time. One second of footage takes approximately eight and a half hours. A feature film like The Boxtrolls takes roughly two years to animate. If you’re going to spend two years painstakingly tweaking puppets, you’d better make your story good. The Boxtrolls comes from from Laika studios, the studio behind Coraline and ParaNorman. Darker than the average kids’ movie without stooping to Tim Burton levels of macabre, The Boxtrolls creates creatures both cute and scary and a world both disgusting and spellbinding, all made possible by the quirky, magical art of stop- motion.
One dark and scary night, boxtrolls take a boy from the human world. Greedy Red Hat Mr. Snatcher makes a deal with the high- society White Hat Mr. Portly Rind: A white hat in exchange for capturing every boxtroll in the city. Mr. Snatcher perpetuates the myth that boxtrolls maliciously hunt and eat children. Meanwhile, the boxtrolls raise Eggs as their own. Eggs watches as his peaceful community shrinks because of Mr. Snatcher’s Boxtroll Catchers. When the catchers snatch Eggs’ boxtroll dad, he embarks on a journey to save all the boxtrolls. The Boxtrolls has a lot of themes on its hands: good versus evil, greed versus selflessness, violence vs. pacifism, family values, materialism, coming of age. Not to mention that not- so- subtle hint that we could build a whole other world with the amount of trash we throw away. But The Boxtrolls wraps all its themes up neatly without losing sight of the story. In addition, The Boxtrolls is incredibly clever. The animators struck gold with those cardboard boxes, and the opening sequence becomes a magical ode to the versatility of such a box. The film mixes high- brow and low- brow humor. Intellectuals can enjoy the Vladamir and Estragon- esque musings of henchmen Mr. Trout and Mr. Pickle, while the juvenile can laugh at the well- times grunts of Mr. Gristle (Tracy Morgan). The White Hats’ obsession with cheese becomes a parody on adults’ obsession with wine. Don’t miss the hilarious opera consisting entirely of cheese names. Some computer- animated features try and dazzle the audience with technical spectacles (see: The Croods). Because all the materials in stop- motion animation exist in the real world, the colors and textures pop automatically (except the hair. No one has really figured out how to nail hair). It seems ironic that the most labor- intensive (and impressive) form of animation humbly lets its story take center stage. Movies like The Boxtrolls may take forever to make, but their appeal lasts just as long.