The technology behind ParaNorman

Posted by David Konow

As someone who grew up loving animation and stop-motion animation, I personally think it's great to see the medium coming back in modern times with new technology. 



ParaNorman and Frankenweenie are just two new films embracing stop0motion, and it's also pretty sweet to see the technology being used in ghoulish fun for the family, much like one of my all time favorites, Mad Monster Party, which was created by Rankin Bass.



In fact, Focus Features, which is releasing ParaNorman, recently sent us some info about the technology used to bring the movie to live in 3D. Apparently, 3D Systems Corporation deployed the ZPrinter 650, which is the first full color 3D printer that's been used in a stop motion film. As Focus also tells us, LAIKA, the animation studio that made ParaNorman, used 3D printing to create over 31,000 individual color facial parts for production.This allowed animators to quickly and accurately print hundreds of facial features and expressions for each of the film's 62 characters.

As we've seen with the best of Pixar, one of the things we love so much about watching Toy Story and Monsters Inc is the little details in the characters, from all the individual fur on Sully, to the lens flare reflection on Buzz Lightyear's helmet windshield.


 
For those who aren't exactly familiar with LAIKA, it's an animation company formed by Phil Knight, who also happens to be the co-founder and chairman of Nike. The first LAIKA movie was Coraline - the first stop-motion animated feature to be conceived and photographed in stereoscopic 3D. And clearly, ParaNorman is continuing in this tradition.
 
With so much movie technology at our disposal, it's good that we still have stop motion, and in the production notes for ParaNorman, producer Travis Knight actually summed up my feelings for the art form pretty well:

"It's a process that dates back to the dawn of cinema, with a charm and a warmth and a beauty that other forms of animation – wonderful as they are – do not have... Generations of aspiring animators have, and continue to, experiment with it in their parents' basements or garages. It is a magical moment for you when something is brought to life."