Rarely do I go to a kids’ movie. And rarely do I see a kids’ movie that I truly enjoy and just sit back and take in the wonder of the story and animation before me. “The Boxtrolls,” however, is the exception to the rule, thankfully! This stop-motion animation 3-D feature film, based on the children’s novel ‘Here Be Monsters’ by Alan Snow, will delight children and thoroughly entertain the kid in all of us.
“The Boxtrolls” is about a young orphaned boy who is taken in by the night-time cave-dwellers who patrol the streets and collect trash that they treasure. As gossip spreads by an evil and greedy streets and sanitation worker that a boy has been killed by the misunderstood trolls, a mass extermination plan is implemented. It is up to two young children, from different sides of the tracks, to set everyone straight.
The story is complete as it focuses on father-son and father-daughter relationships as well as young love. The script is tight and the animation is spectacular. Casting is perfect with Elle Fanning playing the female lead and Isaac Hempstead Wright playing the lead boy, Eggs. The absurdity of situations in the film from coveting cheese to wearing a hat to make you powerful, humorously take on the realities of government and life without making it heavy and depressing. It’s enlightening and full of hope to teach children to be open and non-judgmental. The colors of the set and animation brings a greater sense of understanding to the story, giving it an “Oliver Twist” meets Tim Burton feel. The dialogue is quickly paced, keeping the kids’ attention while many of the jokes and ironies lost on them are relished by the adults in the audience. It’s a smart film reminiscent of “Toy Story” with its creativity and level of humor.
This film takes what directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi described as a big book with endless creativity
written by Snow and produces a charming and entertaining story with a take-home message of tolerance and acceptance. The story is compressed into 97 adventuresome and three-dimensional minutes, taking the viewer on a thrilling ride. Complete with “good guys” and “bad guys” and those in between, “The Boxtrolls” beautifully tells a story from a child’s perspective.
Annable and Stacchi spoke with me about directing the animated film “The Boxtrolls.” Their insight and knowledge made me love this movie even more. The two explained that stop-motion films have been around a long time. From the original “King Kong” to “James and the Giant Peach,” stop-motion animation continues to develop, but much of the process remains painstakingly the same. With a one year pre-production period and 18 months to complete the film, each and every scene is multi-layered. In fact, setting up a scene and filming the figures or puppets requires the use of 53,000 porcelain faces to be printed on a 3D printer. This allows for one puppet to express 1.4 million emotions!
Animated movies appear to be even more complex than shooting a movie with actors alone. After recording and videotaping the actors saying their lines, their dialogue is cut into the film. The animation is then created to match the actor. The animator is truly the actor as well and as the directors explained, “It becomes a bizarre combination of personalities.” Graham also stated that he “never really anticipated the intense conversations to create the shot with the animator.” And Annable continued to share that the entire cast and crew were all “emotionally connected” to the story. Stacchi hopes that his audience understands that “families come in all shapes and sizes” and that as an individual, you can change the world to fit you.
If you have kids, go see this movie! If you don’t, borrow a neighbor’s kid to give you an excuse to see it. You won’t be disappointed!