LAIKA continually pushes its animators and artisans to break new ground. Coming off the success of ParaNorman and Coraline, LAIKA could have returned to grim stories. Yet instead, they decided to tackle a far more challenging story about false narratives and government corruption. The Boxtrolls also forced LAIKA to develop as visual storytellers, especially with many of the titular creatures left with limited speaking roles.
Directors Graham Annabell and Anthony Stacchi stepped up to make the comedy. Inspired by Monty Python gags, Roald Dahl’s grotesque nature, and Rube Goldberg mechanisms, The Boxtrolls remains a unique feature in the LAIKA catalog. It’s darkly funny and takes aim at the class structures of England over the past two centuries. It also features characters in drag, varied costumes, and musical sequences.
Annabell and Stacchi let the visuals shine on every occasion. Unique camera angles were captured throughout the film. The production design feels unprecedented, especially in how it builds the small town. Matte paintings further bring the extensions of the world to life. While the tone may not be for all, its artistic beauty remains something to behold.
About the Film:
This comedic fable unfolds in Cheesebridge, a posh Victorian-era town obsessed with wealth, class, and the stinkiest of fine cheeses. Beneath its charming cobblestone streets dwell the Boxtrolls, foul monsters who crawl out of the sewers at night and steal what the townspeople hold most dear: their children and their cheeses. At least, that’s the legend residents have always believed.
In truth, the Boxtrolls are an underground cavern-dwelling community of quirky and lovable oddballs who wear recycled cardboard boxes the way turtles wear their shells. The Boxtrolls have raised an orphaned human boy, Eggs, since infancy as one of their dumpster-diving and mechanical junk-collecting own. When the Boxtrolls are targeted by villainous pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher, who is bent on eradicating them as his ticket to Cheesebridge society, the kindhearted band of tinkerers must turn to their adopted charge and adventurous rich girl Winnie to bridge two worlds amidst the winds of change – and cheese.
Voice Cast: Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Dee Bradley Baker, Steve Blum, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, and Simon Pegg. Produced by David Bleiman Ichioka, and Travis Knight. Screenplay by Irena Brignull, Adam Pava. Based on the book Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow. Directed by Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable.
DISC 1 (4K UHD):
- NEW 4K Restoration
- NEW Dolby Atmos 7.1 Mix
DISC 2 (Blu-ray™)
- Inside LAIKA – Discovering the Characters of The Boxtrolls with Never-Before-Seen Test Footage
- Inside LAIKA – Revisiting the Puppets with LAIKA’s Animation Team
- Feature-Length Storyboards
- Foreword by Ramin Zahed, the Editor in Chief of Animation Magazine
- Audio Commentary with Directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi
- The Making of The Boxtrolls
- Original Featurettes
The actual 4K upgrade helps The Boxtrolls more than any of the other LAIKA releases. While each of the others, including Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings, are vibrant on their own, The Boxtrolls is pointedly muted. Yet the production design and intracity of The Boxtrolls is anything but. With hundreds of props and sculpted items throughout nearly every scene, the 4K resolution allows you to pick up the hand-crafted brilliance of each.
The behind-the-scenes descriptions of Egg, our protagonist, raises his value to the story. At times, Egg can be a bit difficult to enjoy. Yet their explanations behind his physicality, versus that of the titular Boxtrolls, showcases the intensity of the animation process. In his case, his feral physical movements become far more prominent. On rewatch, you can absolutely see where the filmmakers were coming from with the character.
The uniqueness of the Snatcher puppets also shines through as well. It’s far more fluid, and subtle in his designs. With so many costume changes, physical shifts, and his lactose intolerance, he’s almost grandiose in his physicality. A number of distinct puppets are required to bring Snatcher to life.
Ben Kingsley’s vocal performance also shines in the recording sessions. This footage is quite fun to watch, especially as the Oscar winner lies down while recording. It’s also really fun to hear the Laika team break down the Red Hats. The performers — Richard Ayoade, Nick Frost, and Tracy Morgan — all bring a lot of fun to the booth. To no one’s surprise, Jared Harris and Toni Collette also shine as full-body performers in the audio booth.
Perhaps the most fun is a sequence of Dee Bradley Baker and Steve Blum playing in character. The two voice actors bring an improvised feel to their performances. As they embrace their cartoonish side, they describe the intricacies of the Boxtroll’s language.
There’s another excellent quick-hit featurette that will certainly brighten your day. Using behind-the-scenes footage and a cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” the ballroom sequence springs to life. The featurette does not show any talking heads, but instead animators hard at work. The costume design, implantation, and structures are incredible to behold.
This Shout! Factory release of The Boxtrolls features plenty of fun special features. The visual updates are gorgeous and help it pop off the screen. This is another home run for the Shout! and LAIKA collaboration.