Western Animation: The Boxtrolls

The Boxtrolls is a 2014 Stop Motion animated film from Laika Animation Studios, the makers of Coraline and ParaNorman. Directed by Graham Annable (of Grickle and Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent fame) and Anthony Stacchi, it is loosely based on the novel ''Here Be Monsters!'' by Alan Snow. It features the vocal talents of Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Richard Ayoade and Tracy Morgan with Dee Bradley Baker alongside Steve Blum as the title characters.

Cheesebridge is a posh Victorian-era town obsessed with wealth, class and the stinkiest of fine cheeses. The only thing that its residents are more obsessed with than cheese is their fear of the evil, murderous monsters who dwell in the sewers. At least, that's the legend residents have always believed. In truth, the Boxtrolls are an underground cavern-dwelling community of quirky and lovable oddballs who wear recycled cardboard boxes the way turtles wear their shells. They've even raised an orphaned human boy, Eggs (Hempstead-Wright), since infancy as one of their own. When the Boxtrolls are targeted by villainous Boxtroll exterminator Archibald Snatcher (Kingsley), who is bent on eradicating them as his ticket to Cheesebridge society, the kindhearted band of tinkerers must turn to their adopted charge and an adventurous young girl named Winnie (Fanning) to save them all.

You can watch a teaser here.


This movie provides examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: The entire town really, but a special mention should go to Lord Portley-Rind, if it's not about cheese, he has absolutely no interest.
  • Adult Fear: The residents live in fear of the Boxtrolls stealing their cheese... and their children.
  • All Trolls Are Different: The Boxtrolls are short, Ugly Cute scavengers who wear discarded cardboard boxes (to the point of living in them, like a turtle's shell), live in the Absurdly Spacious Sewer beneath the town of Cheesebridge, and love to tinker. The citizens of Cheesebridge see them as a menace (mostly thanks to the propaganda spread by Mr. Snatcher), but they're Not Evil, Just Misunderstood.
  • An Aesop:
    • The first teaser trailer includes same-sex couples as well as single parents of both genders as some of the possible "shapes and sizes" that parents and families can come in... and there's nothing wrong with that.
    • The movie proper tells how you are defined by yourself more than anything else. Another moral from the movie is not to judge others based entirely on what you hear.
  • Authority in Name Only: Lord Portley-Rind and his fellow White Hats. They appear to be the ruling body of Cheesebridge but are obsessed with cheese and their Nice Hats to the point that they neglect their duties to the city... and in Lord Portley-Rind's case at least, their families.
  • Ax-Crazy: Mr. Gristle takes quite a bit of joy in exterminating Boxtrolls, chases after Eggs with a cricket bat and is constantly grinning. And unlike Mr. Trout and Mr. Pickles, he never questions whether he's a good guy or a bad guy.
  • Benevolent Monsters: The title characters are kind-hearted creatures that do little more than take trash to their underground lairs to make contraptions. The people above ground, however, fear them because they don't know what they really are, and are goaded along by the film's real Big Bad, who plots to use them to advance his social status.
  • Berserk Button:
    • After Eggs is rendered unconscious, Fish shows anger for the first time.
    • Mr. Snatcher, when he and his henchmen sit down to eat cheese:
      Mr. Pickles: You sure this is a good idea, boss? You know what cheese can do to you...
      Mr. Snatcher: unless you are referring to how cheese bring men of sophistication and power together in brotherhood, (leans in angrily) then no, I do NOT know what cheese "does to me."
      Mr. Pickles: (gulps nervously) Uh... then that's what I meant, yes.
  • Big Bad: Archibald Snatcher. Leader of the Boxtroll Exterminators.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The box-trolls save Eggs at the end.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Mr. Trout, Mr. Pickles, and Mr. Gristle, respectively.
  • Blessed Are the Cheesemakers: The setting is a town whose economy seems to be based entirely on cheese. The town is even named Cheesebridge. Basically, this is a film about cheese. And boxtrolls.
  • Book Ends: The story begins with Fish looking around for Eggs. In the end, Eggs is asking around for Fish.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: A mid-credits sequence has Mr. Trout and Mr. Pickles discussing their animated existence and the lives of the animators who make them move. Meanwhile, stop-footage is shown at the same time showing an animator as he animates this particular sequence.
  • Brotherhood of Funny Hats:
    • The White Hats, who rule Cheesebridge like a fiefdom and hold tastings of the finest cheeses.
    • Snatcher and his men wear equally silly-looking red hats.
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes: The Boxtrolls eyes glow in the dark.
  • Call Back: Eggs' dad will frequently say the word "jelly". By the end of the movie, he's wearing a box with the word "jelly" on it. The boxtrolls must have thought it was his name.
    • To cure Snatcher's allergic reaction to cheese, Mr. Gristle fetches leeches from a barrel. In the final fight, he ends up falling into a barrel of leeches before being crushed by the machine.
  • Captain Obvious:
    • Much of Mr. Gristle's dialogue is him describing what he's doing. "I'm jumping on a cage!" "I'm swinging on a chain!"
    • "You bit me, with your mouth." First said by Winnie after Eggs bites her, then by Archibald after Winnie bites him.
  • Casting Gag: Mr Pickles constant commentary on the morality of good and evil because even funnier when you realise that the man voicing him is Richard Ayoade.
  • Child Of Two Worlds: Eggs is one of these, according to his biological father at any rate: he was born a human, but raised by the boxtrolls after an attempt on his birth father's life.
  • Cross-Cultural Handshake: The Boxtrolls rather adorably slap their hands on their boxes when they're happy.
  • Curse Cut Short: Mr. Gristle lets out an "Oh sh—" before getting crushed to death by Snatcher's machine falling over.
  • Darkest Hour: Eggs and the last of the boxtrolls have all been rounded up, and it looks like all the boxtrolls have been killed, and Snatcher is about to kill off Eggs and get what he wants: a spot on the council and a Nice Hat. Then Winnie convinces Trout and Pickles to make a Heel-Face Turn, and the boxtrolls return for a Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • Disappeared Dad: Eggs' biological father is missing, presumed dead, after Snatcher and his men tried to take Eggs hostage. He turns out to be alive and well, still held hostage by Snatcher.
  • Disguised in Drag: Archibald Snatcher is really Madame Frou-Frou.
  • Disney Death: It seems that Snatcher was successful in crushing the boxtrolls to death, but it turns out they escaped in the middle of Eggs' speech, and they return in time to save the day.
  • Distant Reaction Shot: Snatcher's Death by Gluttony happens this way, with a cut to a distant shot of Cheesebridge and a huge cloud of orange-yellow mist erupting from the Portley-Rind mansion.
  • Drunk on Milk: Well, milk by-product at least; cheese makes Snatcher act like a surly drunk. Though this could just be his allergic reaction messing with his head, since it also gives him hallucinations.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Archibald Snatcher has one.
  • Everything's Better with Cows: A distant shot of cows accompanies Archibald Snatcher's death-by-milk-product explosion.
  • Famous Last Words:
  • Four-Fingered Hands: All the Boxtrolls have them, while the other characters have five-fingered hands. It's Winnie pointing out the difference that convinces Eggs that he's a human.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Like ParaNorman, the film has its share of naughty gags:
    • When Winnie takes Eggs to the party, he scratches his groin. She scolds him and tells him not to touch himself there in public: "That's why they're called 'privates'."
    • After Lord Portley-Rind realizes Snatcher is Madame Frou-Frou, he says "I regret so much."
  • Giant Food: The film features a giant cheese wheel called the Briehemoth. The White Hats bought it with money meant for building a children's hospital.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Mr. Trubshaw has gone more than a little dotty from being chained up and possibly tortured for ten years by Snatcher and his flunkies. He seems to get over it after Snatcher is defeated and he's reunited with his son Eggs.
  • Good Times Montage: In the beginning, theres a lovely montage of Eggs growing up, making music with fish, and exploring the world. it becomes something of a Sad Times Montage however when the pile of sleeping box trolls becomes progressively smaller and smaller.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Snatcher exploding.
  • G-Rated Drug: Archibald Snatcher is obsessed with cheese as a status symbol, even though eating it causes a violent allergic reaction that not only makes his face swell up in a nasty fashion, but causes him to act like a surly drunk and even hallucinate at one point. One of his lackeys, Mr. Pickles, even warns him "You know what cheese does to you..."
  • Has Two Mommies: Eggs has Fish as his primary caretaker and indirectly refers to him as a father later on, but all the boxtrolls probably help out in taking care of him as well. His biological dad is the missing, presumably dead inventor who was kind to the boxtrolls and sent his child away with them when he was attacked by Snatcher and his men. Eggs rides around in a carriage with both of them at the end of the movie.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Snatcher does a version of this. When Winnie discovers that Eggs is the missing child as the Exterminators are trying to catch him, Snatcher asks Winnie if her father is with her. When she says he isn't he tries to kill her too so as to blame that on the Boxtrolls as well.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Done by Mr. Pickles and Mr. Trout. Averted with Snatcher and Mr. Gristle.
  • Heel Realization: It eventually dawns on Trout and Pickles that they're not the good guys, and all it takes to get them to rebel against Snatcher is an Armor-Piercing Question from Winnie.
  • Heroic BSOD: When Fish - the troll who raised Eggs for ten years; his adoptive father - is finally captured by Snatcher, Eggs seem to shut down for a little while before ultimately deciding to rescue him, thus finally taking action against Snatcher for the first time.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Eggs briefly becomes convinced of this after his disastrous attempt to blend in with civilized people and Lord Portley-Rind's refusal to help.
    • The trope is discussed back and forth by Mr. Trout and Mr. Pickles throughout the movie as they try to determine wether or not they're actually the good guys.
  • Interspecies Adoption: Eggs is a Cheesebridge orphan raised since infancy by the eponymous Boxtrolls, to the point that for a long time he thinks he is one.
  • Ironic Echo
    • "You bit me, with your mouth" is first said by Winnie to Eggs, then by Archibald to Winnie.
    • When Winnie tries to get her dad's white hat, she is met by Archibald, who asks how the hat got all the way out on the street. Later, as Winnie tries to distract Archibald while the Boxtrolls dismantle his machine, she asks him the same question.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Winnie is obsessed with gruesome stories of the boxtrolls eating people, rivers of blood, mountains of baby bones.. but flips out when she none of that is true. She even acts like a fool with everyone, though this is mostly because she's an ignored child of privilege. Later however, she helps Eggs get to know the human world.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: During a pseudo-drunken rant, Snatcher gripes about how all Lord Portley-Rind and his fellow White Hats do is sit around and waste taxpayer's time and money on eating fancy cheeses, which is a startlingly accurate description.
  • Keep Away: Snatcher tries to take away Lord Portley-Rind's white hat when Winnie takes it and tosses it back and forth between the other good guys, as a distraction while the Boxtrolls dismantle Snatcher's machine from under him.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Snatcher's Famous Last Words: "Aromic, oakey, with an undertone of— (BOOM!)
  • Lame Excuse: Eggs comes up with several, insisting that he's a boxtroll despite all evidence to the contrary.
    Winnie: Let's see you fit in your box.
    Eggs: I—I can't right now.
    Winnie: Mm-hmm?
    Eggs: I'm long-boned!
    Winnie: And you don't talk like them.
    Eggs: I have a speech impediment!
    Winnie: Your ears aren't pointy.
    Eggs: I slept on them funny!
    Winnie: Oh, for goodness' sake!
  • The Last Straw: Snatcher is already bloated from falling in the remains of the Briehemoth. Eating one more piece of cheese caused him to explode.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The ending has Mr. Pickles and Mr. Trout discussing how neatly everything has wrapped up, as if it was a story, "Assuming we're in one." The stinger goes on to have the pair debate their existence and whether all their actions are controlled by invisible giants. As the discussion continues, the audience sees the sped up movements of a stop-motion animator flitting about a miniature set, manipulating them both. They finally conclude that such a job would be horribly tedious and that nobody would seriously do that as a primary line of work... just as the credits for the animators roll.
  • Left the Background Music On: When Winnie is directing Eggs to the Boxtroll Exterminators' lair on Curds Way, she points him towards a sign for Milk Street and tells him, "Milk turns into it." This is followed by a Rimshot caused by the one-man band tripping and dropping his cymbals.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: The Boxtrolls get their names from whatever words and images are depicted on their box, leading to names like Fish, Shoe, Fragile, and Knickers. The protagonist, a human boy raised by the boxtrolls, gets the name "Eggs".
  • Lovable Coward: The entire Boxtroll species. They’re completely unwilling to fight back against Snatcher. Eggs helps them grow out of it.
  • Madness Mantra: Eggs' birth father has lost it a bit due to being hung upside down for ten years. As a result, he spouts the word "jelly" fairly often.
  • Meaningful Echo: A minor one, but when teaching Eggs manners, Winnifred tells him to tell people "It's a pleasure to meet you", even if he doesn't actually mean it. Later, when he leaves after the failed attempt at revealing the truth, he tellsher "It was a pleasure to meet you. And I really mean that."
  • Missing Mom: Eggs' is never seen. Averted with Winnie, but Lady Portley-Rind isn't involved with the main plot.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Archibald Penelope Snatcher.
  • Nice Hat: The members of the White Hat Council, the ruling body of Cheesebridge, wear very tall white hats as a status symbol; Snatcher and his lackeys wear similar red hats, and his obsession with moving up in the world includes getting a spot on the council and a hat of his own for wiping out the Boxtrolls.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Winnifred is fascinated by all the gory tales of the boxtrolls and their rivers of blood, to the point that she nearly throws a tantrum upon finding that none of them are true.
  • No Social Skills: Eggs, who needs to have simple greetings explained to him.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Lord Portley-Rind, who ignores his daughter in favor of cheese or his white hat.
  • Oblivious Adoption: Eggs is convinced he's a boxtroll, up until Winnie convinces him otherwise.
  • Obliviously Evil: Mr. Trout and Mr. Pickles, who both believe they are the good guys. They waver throughout the movie though.
  • Obviously Evil: Snatcher, and to a lesser extent his henchmen.
  • Parental Substitute: Fish, for Eggs. Eggs indirectly calls the boxtroll his father at one point.
  • Plot Allergy: Archibald's severe lactose intolerance (he swells up from a tiny sliver of extra mild Cheddar) is part of what prevents him from joining the White Hats and eventually leads to his Karmic Death.
  • Post-Climax Confrontation: Eggs and the boxtrolls have defeated Archibald Snatcher's Spider Tank and exposed his lies about the boxtrolls being baby-eating monsters... when Snatcher emerges from the remains of a giant cheese wheel, drunk on one of his "cheese fits", and holds Winnie hostage, blackmailing Lord Portley-Rind into handing over his Nice Hat and escorting Snatcher to his exclusive "tasting room". Fortunately, Snatcher's cheese obsession proves to be his own undoing.
  • Punny Name: Milk Street turns into Curds Way.
  • Scenery Censor: When the Boxtrolls come to Eggs' rescue, they don't have their boxes to cover them up anymore, so anything that isn't a butt is covered by scenery, props and other Boxtrolls.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: Eggs tries to convince Snatcher that he doesn't need a fancy hat or fancy cheese to be somebody important, and that he is what makes himself. Snatcher retorts "I've already made myself, kid... this is my destiny!", and Death by Gluttony ensues.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Mr. Trout, played for laughs.
  • Sommelier Speak: The citizens of Cheesebridge speak this way in regards to fine cheese.
  • Spider Tank: Snatcher builds one, with the help of captured boxtrolls, to break into the boxtroll lair and round up the rest.
  • Steam Punk
  • The Stinger: Mr. Trout and Mr. Pickles have an existential discussion, wondering if there really is free will and if they're just the puppets of some higher bodies. As they're having this discussion, the camera slowly zooms out to show the tiny set and the scene turns into a time-lapse of the animation of Trout and Pickles, still discussing the universe.
  • Stock Sound Effect: Baby Kate Cry: In the flashback story, Baby Eggs did this while he was lowing to the ground in his Eggs box. The thunder booms, the lightning flashes, and rain pours down as Fish bolts through the gate and out of the yard with Baby Eggs still in the Eggs box.
  • That Poor Cat: The film features this among other sounds produced by a giant cheese wheel crashing through the town of Cheesebridge.
  • Theme Naming: The Boxtrolls take their names from whatever's printed on their boxes.
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: After Snatcher reveals himself to be Madam Frou-Frou, Lord Portley-Rind has a horrified look on his face and states "I regret so much".
  • Upper-Class Twit: All the White Hats, but especially Lord Portley-Rind; never before has one man so perfectly embodied Hanlon's Razor.
  • Villain of Another Story: Lord Portley-Rind. Let's make a list. He wastes taxpayer's money and time just sitting around eating rare cheese, completely ignores his daughter to focus more on his hat and cheese, spends charity money for a children's hospital on a large wheel of cheese that most likely only he and his other White Hats would have eaten, completely ignores Eggs' public confession, tries to get out of his deal with Snatcher, when it is revealed the Boxtrolls are alive he flat out rubs the fact into Snatcher's face that he will never get what he wants, and even when his daughter was caught by Snatcher and he had to trade his hat to save her he tries to negotiate with him for something else. If Snatcher wasn't such a monster Lord Portley-Rind could have easily been the villain of this story.
  • Villainous Crossdresser: Snatcher performs as Madame Frou Frou to spread fear of the boxtrolls.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Snatcher has no qualms with attempting to kill Eggs on multiple occasions as well as Winnie when She Knows Too Much.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Trout and Pickles, two of Snatcher's minions, are convinced they're the good guys fighting the forces of evil. Though both of them realize throughout the film that they are aware they are Wrong Genre Savvy.