Like “Coraline” and “ParaNorman,” this quirky concept emanates from Laika animation studio in Oregon, where hand-drawn images are meticulously integrated with RP (rapid prototyping) and CG (computer-generated) pictures. Their painstaking stop-motion process consists of filming frame-by-frame (movies use 24 frames per second) while subtly controlling the characters, props, sets, etc. And when using 3D, each frame is manipulated twice. Eventually, the thousands of photographed frames are artfully edited and projected together sequentially, making the characters come to life. Read on…
Set in a Dickensian city called Cheesebridge, the grotesque and somewhat convoluted story revolves around an orphaned 11 year-old (voiced by Isaac Hempstead Wright) who was lovingly raised by tiny, timid creatures called Boxtrolls who dwell beneath the cobblestone streets, speak unintelligibly and wear cardboard boxes that double as hiding places when they’re scared. He wears a box labelled Eggs, which has become his name. Boxtrolls are terrified of an obsessively aspiring aristocrat, Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Ben Kingsley), who is determined to capture each and every one of them so he can qualify for a coveted White Hat. Envious, socially ambitious Snatcher has convinced Cheesebridge’s gullible citizens that Boxtrolls are dangerous which is obviously not true. Then one day when Eggs ventures out, he’s spotted by foolishly snobbish Lord Portley-Rind’s daughter, Winnie (voiced by Elle Fanning), who’s curious about who he is and where he comes from.
Adapted by Irena Brignull and Adam Pava from Alan Snow’s novel “Here be Monsters!,” it’s subversively propelled by directors Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable, along with producer/lead animator Travis Knight, director of photography John Ashlee Prat, production designer Paul Lasaine, editor Edie Ichioka and composer Dario Marianelli. Through their collaborative efforts, fun abounds – along with surprisingly sophisticated humor. The inventive, imaginative visuals are weirdly wonderful and the voices expressive, including Simon Pegg, Jared Harris, Toni Collette, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan and Nick Frost as supporting characters.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Boxtrolls” is a spooky, surreal 7, an emotionally resonant, steampunk fantasy – with a deliciously droll sequence during the end credits.