Laika, LLC is a stop-motion animation studio that creates highly-acclaimed feature films, commercials, music videos and other material. The company is based in Oregon, with studios in Hillsboro and Portland.
The company was founded in 2005 following the collapse and massive reorganization of Will Vinton Studios, with two divisions: Laika Entertainment for feature films, and Laika/house for smaller projects like commercials; later named HouseSpecial, Laika/house animated the They Might Be Giants Animated Music Video Bastard Wants to Hit Me. In 2009, Laika released their first film, Coraline, directed by Henry Sellick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Monkeybone), which was nominated for an Academy Award. In 2012, they released their next feature, ParaNorman, to similar (if slightly smaller) success. This was followed by The Boxtrolls, which was released in 2014, and Kubo and the Two Strings, released in 2016. Their most recent film is Missing Link, released in 2019.
Besides feature films, Laika has also produced commercials for a variety of clients, including Ben & Jerry's, Apple, M&Ms and Honda, among many others. Their "Rivalries" spots for Coca-Cola were aired throughout South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East during the 2006 World Cup. Laika eventually spun off its commercial division in May 2014. In July 2014, company head Travis Knight announced that the studio has considered making a completely hand-drawn animated feature. The medium has been used for special effects in their past features and has been met with unanimous excitement from fans who wish to see a medium that's all but disappeared from American feature animation.
Their first four features were distributed by Universal, under their Focus Features label. In this regard, Laika functioned as a stop-motion arthouse-level animation studio to go along with Universal's homebase studio Illumination Entertainment and acquired firm DreamWorks Animation. Of course, since Laika isn't owned by NBCUniversal, neither the man who operates Illumination, Chris Meledandri, or DWA founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and current DWA head Bonnie Arnold had any involvement or influence on the studio or its works.
- Corpse Bride (2005): Their first project. Co-production with Tim Burton, Warner Bros. and Cosgrove Hall. Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
- King of California (2007): Animated a stop-motion dream sequence.
- Coraline (2009): Their first fully-independent feature; nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
- A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (2011): Stop-motion sequence.
- ParaNorman (2012): Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
- The Boxtrolls (2014): Also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
- Kubo and the Two Strings (2016): Once again nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and for Best Visual Effects.
- Missing Link (2019): First film not to be released by Focus Features, instead by the newly formed United Artists Releasing on behalf of Annapurna Pictures. Became the first film from Laika (and the stop-motion format in general) to win the Golden Globe Award For Best Animated Feature Film.
Tropes Associated with Laika films
- An Aesop: Each and every one of their films has a message or moral that ties into the theme of the movie. Of the weird variety usually.
- Contrasting Sequel Main Character: You'll find that each protagonist of their films somehow differs from their predecessor.
- Coraline featured Coraline Jones, an abrasive but good-hearted average American girl who lived in a secluded apartment complex with eccentric neighbors and was estranged from her parents due to their commitment to their work making them unintentionally neglectful towards their daughter, which led to Coraline discovering an alternate reality containing seemingly idealized versions of her parents that showered her with gifts and affection, only to find that it was all a facade created by the Other Mother to get Coraline to sew buttons onto her eyes and become her newest prey.
- ParaNorman gives us Norman Babcock, an introverted young boy living in the relatively normal American town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts who was viewed as a freak by those around him, his family inclusive, for his uncanny ability to see and communicate with the dead. Unlike with Coraline, who was resentful over being accidentally neglected by her parents, Norman did not hold any ill will to those who treated him with scorn throughout the movie for his power, even when those around him ostracized and treated him like garbage for being open with his abilities.
- TheBoxtrolls had Eggs, a young British orphan living in the Victorian-era town of Cheesebridge.
- Creator Thumbprint: A few.
- Stunning stop-motion animation, their main medium.
- Dark fantasy stories involving frightening supernatural forces and young children having to face them.
- Themes of family, frequently with abusive or villainous family figures, and familial love.
- Themes of loneliness.
- At least one non-human character with human qualities, questioning the definition of "human".
- Defanged Horrors: Most of their films are made with a child audience in mind, but are darker than a typical kids' flick, including a lot of horror elements.
- Lighter and Softer: The Boxtrolls is a bit more lighter but still has its dark moments. Missing Link is also relative light and devoid of horror elements (although both of them have truly despicable villains).
- Shades of Conflict:
- Coraline: Black-and-Gray Morality
- ParaNorman: White-and-Grey Morality
- The Boxtrolls: Darker Shade of White-and-Grey Morality, though it later turns to The Good, the Bad, and the Evil
- Kubo and the Two Strings: White-and-Grey Morality
- Missing Link: Black-and-Gray Morality, at worst, Black-and-White Morality at best.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: They're more towards the idealistic end, even through the hard situations their films include.
- Space Whale Aesop: Laika films love this.
- Coraline: Be a little more grateful for what you have, otherwise an evil spider Humanoid Abomination from another dimension will try to eat you.
- ParaNorman: People are different. Treat people fairly or they will return as vengeful ghosts and cast a centuries' long curse on your community.
- The Boxtrolls: It's important to listen to people. Overcome your fears or some giant Steampunk machine will destroy the city.
- Kubo And The Strings: Forgetting important things will turn you into a giant spirit snake demon.
- The Stinger: Every film to date has included a mid-/post-credits sequence, filmed with time-lapse photography, that shows the process of animating a particular character or scene.