ParaNorman, a stop-motion animated comedy directed by Sam Fell and Chris Buttler and featuring the voices of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck and others opens this Friday. The film follows a young boy, Norman, who can speak with the dead, takes on ghosts, zombies and, worst of all, grown-ups, in order to save his town from a centuries-old curse.
Director and screenwriter Chris Butler says the inspiration to do this story came from watching all the wrong movies as a kid. “When I was a kid I loved horror movies. I still do. But also when I was growing up I watched a lot of family movies. We often look at the early Amblin movies like E.T. The family unit in E.T. is a little dysfunctional. That’s what’s nice about it. It’s very relatable to a kid. This is John Carpenter meets John Hughes. It was kind of harkening back to that kind of storytelling.”
There are a lot of messages in the movie. Bullying is explored and the directors talked about how they approached such a delicate subject in a kid’s movie. Butler notes it was part of the reason of writing it in the first place. “It’s that side of bullying that isn’t just the gratuitous getting beaten up every day. It’s the bullying that everyone displays. When you are passing a judgment on someone just because the clothes they wear or the way they speak or the color of their skin. That happens every day to everyone. Everyone is making a judgment about someone else and I thought that was really good raw material for a kids movie.” Fell adds, “It’s very hard to talk to kids about something serious. They don’t want to listen and to entertain them first and then have that woven in seamlessly is the way to do it.”
Anna Kendrick took her first jump into the feature film animation world with ParaNorman. Kendrick's character, Courtney, is the annoyed older sister of Norman. “I always wanted to do one, but I wasn’t really sure how one went about asking to be in an animated film. I felt really lucky that this really special one fell right onto my lap, and I just jumped at it.” ParaNorman is a throwback to classic 1980’s kid films, like The Goonies, which appealed to Kendrick: “When I was reading the script, there is a great moment where I realized it’s just going to be all these kids figuring it out. It’s a kids adventure movie –that was my favorite kind of thing when I was a kid.”
Travis Knight, the chief executive of Laika Inc. and lead animator of ParaNorman, eloquently mentioned what the movie’s main message is to him, “Those things which often push us to the fringe of our communities or societies, those things that make us weird or strange are also those things that allow us to contribute something special, something unique to the world. I think we’ve all gone through those moments in our lives where we felt like we don’t fit in and this movie explores that and is a reminder that sometimes fitting in is not the best thing.”
You don't become a hero by being normal.
Photo Credit: Laika, Inc.