The President and CEO of LAIKA, the Oregon stop-motion studio which this month claimed its sixth Oscar nomination, Travis Knight was excited by the prospect of taking the company in new directions with its latest film, Missing Link.
Directed by Chris Butler ParaNorman, the epic adventure film centers on Sir Lionel Frost Hugh Jackman, an investigator of mythic creatures who comes across the sentient Sasquatch, Mr. Link Zach Galifianakis, in the Pacific Northwest. Befriending the lonely Bigfoot, Frost then accompanies him on a journey to Shangri-La, in hopes of reuniting him with his long-lost relatives.
From Knight's perspective, what was so compelling about Missing Link was that it retained the visual grandeur and thematic richness of the studio's past films, while bringing to the table a brand-new aesthetic and tone, with which to play. “A lot of the films that we’ve done have been darker, have lurked in the shadows, to a degree, exploring murkier aspects of what it means to be human,” says Knight, who produced LAIKA's latest. “Missing Link was interesting for us because it was a big, bright, kaleidoscopic, colorful adventure.”Laika Studios/United Artists Releasing
In essence, the film reflected the core values, with which the studio was created some 15 years ago. “When we started LAIKA, the essential idea was to create wholly unique, original, bold, distinctive and enduring animated films,” Knight says. “So, with each movie that we develop, it has to basically tick those boxes.”
As the producer explains, part of the challenge inherent to Missing Link was that it aimed to bring the visual scale of a live-action epic into the medium of stop-motion. “To try to make something that was on a tabletop look like a huge, epic world is incredibly challenging,” Knight reflects. “But that’s what this story was. It was a big swashbuckling, whip-cracking adventure film.”
A related challenge had to do with the film's basic structure. Like Kubo and the Two Strings before it, Missing Link was a road picture, moving swiftly from one ambitious, hand-crafted environment to the next. “From a producer’s point of view, you want to be able to reuse locations, because every location is a unique design, a unique build,” he says. “When you’re building all these things by hand, it becomes an extraordinary challenge, [particularly given] the fact that a lot of these places are these big, wide, panoramic vistas.”Laika Studios/United Artists Releasing
For Knight, there was no one screening or moment on set when the film seemed to click into place. “I think with each phase, there is that thrill and that...