Archive for the ‘LAIKA’ Category

Bradley Wald Named LAIKA CFO And SVP Business Operations

FEBRUARY 1, 2016:  LAIKA has appointed Bradley Wald to the post of Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Business Operations. The announcement was made today by LAIKA President and CEO Travis Knight.

Mr. Wald will be responsible for leading LAIKA’s business operations as the studio continues to grow its roster of animated feature films while also cultivating a broad range of growth opportunities for the company. He was most recently Chief Commercial Officer of International TV Production at NBCUniversal in London.

“Brad brings a powerful voice and vision to LAIKA’s leadership team,” says Mr. Knight. “His far-reaching, high-level business expertise, vast international experience, sensitivity to the creative process, and wise governance will be invaluable to our studio’s evolution. As we embark on our second decade as a company, Brad becomes my partner in guiding LAIKA to a bold new future and more awesome movies. We welcome Brad to the LAIKA family with open arms.”

“I’ve long been a big fan of LAIKA’s artistic approach and amazing storytelling chops,” said Mr. Wald, “so it is more than a little exciting to join them at their 10 year mark – with so many accomplishments already under their belt and so many more to come. I’m thrilled to bring my range of financial, operational and commercial expertise to LAIKA to help propel the studio to the next level.”

Mr. Wald’s career highlights include managing NBCU’s highly successful commercial activities surrounding Downton Abbey . In addition to working closely with distribution and home entertainment teams to fully expand the show’s global reach, Wald developed new ancillary revenue streams from scratch including a LIMA Award-winning consumer products portfolio and 360 degree sponsorship solutions for licensed broadcasters.

In addition, Wald developed and produced innovative social media content and apps around the show drawing industry attention and providing further editorial and commercialization opportunities. Mr. Wald previously was Managing Director/SVP, Europe, Middle East & Africa, at Comcast International Media Group, where he led a team which developed E! and other Comcast channels into household names throughout the region, running all aspects of sales, business development, marketing and finance.

Previous to NBCU/Comcast, Wald held a senior executive position at Liberty Media’s The Box Worldwide where he developed “The Box Music Television” around the globe. Wald began his financial career at Arthur Andersen and had progressive financial roles at Paramount Pictures, Turner Pictures and Videotron’s OpTel.

AMPAS Honors LAIKA RP Department With Scientific And Engineering Award (Academy Plaque)

JANUARY 8, 2016: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announced that ten scientific and technical achievements represented by 33 individual award recipients will be honored at the annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation on February 13, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Recipients included LAIKA’s Director of Rapid Prototype Brian McLean and Martin Meunier who will receive a Scientific And Engineering Award (Academy Plaque) “For pioneering the use of rapid prototyping for character animation in stop-motion film production. LAIKA’s inventive use of rapid prototyping has enabled artistic leaps in character expressiveness, facial animation, motion blur and effects animation. Through highly specialized pipelines and techniques, 3D printing capabilities have been harnessed with color uniformity, mechanical repeatability, and the scale required to significantly enhance stop-motion animated feature films.” For more information, click here.

LAIKA Celebrates 10 Years Of Bold Filmmaking

DECEMBER 15, 2015:  Today LAIKA celebrates its ten year anniversary.  For a company whose name means “little barker” in Russian, LAIKA has made quite a noise in the global film industry over a relatively short time.  With its world-class filmmaking team, LAIKA pushes the boundaries of family entertainment and animated movies, redefining what stories can and should be told through the art form.

“When LAIKA began we had a simple goal: to make movies that matter,” says Travis Knight, LAIKA’s President and CEO, who also is lead animator and a producer on its films.  “LAIKA is devoted to telling new and original stories in new and original ways.”

“We aspire to make films that are bold, distinctive, and enduring,” Knight continues.  “We are committed to telling stories that are thematically challenging, aesthetically beautiful, emotionally resonant, and a wee bit subversive.  By combining stop-motion animation with cutting-edge creative approaches, we’ve embraced the fusion of art and craft and technology, honoring tradition while looking toward the future.  We invented new systems and technologies for liberating the camera, to make our films more cinematic.  We created new techniques for building and animating our puppets, to make our characters more lifelike and to connect more immediately and intimately with audiences.  We discovered new processes for integrating practical and digital visual effects, to make our worlds more authentic.  But we’re never satisfied.  There’s an inherent restlessness at LAIKA.  We always want to challenge ourselves.”

LAIKA began its unconventional cinematic journey with Coraline in 2009, continuing with ParaNorman in 2012 and The Boxtrolls in 2014.  All three films featured LAIKA’s unique and innovative 3D stop-motion and CG hybrid technique.  LAIKA’s original distribution partners, Focus Features and Universal Pictures International, remain the studio’s collaborators to this day.  “We have the bravest distributors in the world,” says Knight.  “They are lionhearted souls who took a chance on a ragged band of misfits from Oregon.  Together, we share an abiding love for original stories and inventive storytelling.”

In addition to numerous critics’ awards and multiple Annie Awards (the animation community’s Oscars equivalent), all three of LAIKA’s feature films have been nominated for Academy Awards, BAFTA, and PGA Awards.  The Boxtrolls also received a Golden Globe nomination; ParaNorman was cited as the year’s best animated feature by more critics’ groups than any other film in 2012, and Coraline was named one of the American Film Institute’s Top 10 Films of the year.  “These last ten years have been magical,” says Knight.  “But as I look forward, I’m more excited for what the future holds.  We’re just getting warmed up.”

Knight, who makes his directorial debut with LAIKA’s next film, Kubo and the Two Strings (release date: August 19, 2016) adds, “Stripping everything else away, we’re simple storytellers.  We’re the heirs of flamboyant stage magicians, plainspoken raconteurs spinning yarns around a campfire, and knuckle-dragging troglodytes scrawling stick figures on a cave wall.  We believe telling stories is one of the prime functions of the human mind and spirit.  A good story can elicit empathy, opening us up to new possibilities, to new ways of thinking, to recognizing the shared humanity in which we all participate.  And, in the end, that’s ultimately LAIKA’s reason for being.”

Coraline (Release Date: February 6, 2009). Combining the visionary imaginations of two premier fantasists, director Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) and author Neil Gaiman (Sandman), Coraline is a wondrous and thrilling, fun and suspenseful adventure and the first stop motion film ever to be conceived and photographed in stereoscopic 3-D, unlike anything moviegoers had ever experienced before.  In Coraline, a young girl walks through a secret door in her new home and discovers an alternate version of her life. On the surface, this parallel reality is eerily similar to her real life – only much better. But when this wondrously off-kilter, fantastical adventure turns dangerous and her counterfeit parents try to keep her forever, Coraline must count on her resourcefulness, determination, and bravery to get back home and save her family. Voice Cast:  Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Keith David, John Hodgman, Robert Bailey Jr., and Ian McShane.  Produced by Bill Mechanic, Claire Jennings, Henry Selick, Mary Sandell. Based on the book by Neil Gaiman. Written for the Screen and Directed by Henry Selick.

ParaNorman (Release Date: August 17, 2012). In the comedy thriller, a small town comes under siege by zombies. Who can it call? Only misunderstood local boy Norman, who is able to speak with the dead. In addition to the zombies, he’ll have to take on ghosts, witches and, worst of all, grown-ups, to save his town from a centuries-old curse. But this young ghoul-whisperer bravely summons up all that makes a hero – courage and compassion – as he finds his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits. Voice Cast:  Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill, Jodelle Ferland, Tempestt Bledsoe, Alex Borstein, and John Goodman.  Produced by Arianne Sutner, Travis Knight. Written by Chris Butler. Directed by Sam Fell, Chris Butler.

The Boxtrolls (Release Date:  September 26, 2014). This comedic fable unfolds in Cheesebridge, a posh Victorian-era town obsessed with wealth, class, and the stinkiest of fine cheeses. Beneath its charming cobblestone streets dwell the Boxtrolls, foul monsters who crawl out of the sewers at night and steal what the townspeople hold most dear: their children and their cheeses. 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. The Boxtrolls have raised an orphaned human boy, Eggs since infancy as one of their dumpster-diving and mechanical junk-collecting own. When the Boxtrolls are targeted by villainous pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher, who is bent on eradicating them as his ticket to Cheesebridge society, the kindhearted band of tinkerers must turn to their adopted charge and adventurous rich girl Winnie to bridge two worlds amidst the winds of change – and cheese. Voice Cast:  Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Dee Bradley Baker, Steve Blum, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, and Simon Pegg. Produced by David Bleiman Ichioka, Travis Knight.  Screenplay by Irena Brignull, Adam Pava. Based on the book Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow.  Directed by Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable.

Kubo and the Two Strings (Release date:  August 19, 2016).  Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA, the film follows clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of Game of Thrones) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Akihiro (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and Kameyo (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro).  But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known.  With the help of his shamisen – a magical musical instrument – Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara)  to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family and fulfill his heroic destiny. Voice Cast: Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, Art Parkinson, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro.  Screenplay by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler.  Produced by Arianne Sutner, Travis Knight. Directed by Travis Knight.

Steve Emerson Delivers Visual Effects-Focused Talk At SIGGRAPH

AUGUST 9, 2015:   VFX Supervisor Steve Emerson presented at SIGGRAPH on August 9 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.  In his talk. titled Visual Effects at LAIKA: A Crossroads of Art and Technology, Steve  discussed the history of visual effects at LAIKA — in-camera and digital — and the evolution of the studio’s production processes over the past ten years, from Coraline (2009), ParaNorman (2012), The Boxtrolls (2014) and Kubo and the Two Strings (in theaters August 19, 2016).  He also examined LAIKA’s live-action approach to visual effects, the specifics of the workflow and the future of the technology.  For more information, click here.

The Boxtrolls Captures Telly Award

JUNE 24, 2015:  The BoxtrollsDressing For Success featurette captured a Telly Award today.  The Telly’s honor the finest in film and video productions and groundbreaking content.  The piece was produced by LEG Productions.

Visual Effects In Spotlight At Annecy International Animated Film Festival

JUNE 5, 2015:  Jeff Stringer and Jon Dobson participated in a collaborative tools and flexible methods presentation on June 16 at the Chambre De Métiers building in Annecy, France.  The talk summary: “The once linear and rigidly segmented production chain for animation is now making wider use of interactive and/or collaborative tools with multiple functions. As a result, methods are now more agile, offering greater artistic control and improved productivity. The conference offers four hands-on examples from studios’ experiences.”  For more information, click here.

LAIKA Auction Offered A Rare Opportunity To Purchase Handcrafted Artwork, Props

FEBRUARY 1, 2015:  At The Art of LAIKA, the first-ever auction of select artwork from Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls, more than 250 pieces of screen-used material, including 45 puppets and a selection of models, props and art were on offer.  For more information, click here.

A portion of the proceeds of the auction were donated to The Art of Elysium, a nonprofit arts organization that works to make art a catalyst for social change by bringing creativity and inspiration to children, artists and various populations in need.

The Boxtrolls Wins Two Annie Awards

FEBRUARY 1, 2015:  The Boxtrolls won top honors in two categories at the 42nd annual Annie Awards ceremony honoring the best in animation production.  Ben Kingsley picked up an Annie Award for Voice Acting In A Feature Production and Paul Lasaine, Tom McClure and August Hall were honored with the Annie for Feature Production Design.  Presented by the Los Angeles branch of the International Animated Film Association, ASIFA-Hollywood, the Annie Awards were held on the campus of UCLA.  For more information about the awards, including all nominees and recipients, click here.

LAIKA Announces Fourth Animated Film: Kubo and the Two Strings

DECEMBER 22, 2014: LAIKA and Focus Features, the two companies behind the Oscar-nominated films Coraline and ParaNorman and recently released feature The Boxtrolls, today announced production on their fourth collaboration: Kubo and the Two Strings. LAIKA President & CEO Travis Knight and Focus CEO Peter Schlessel made the announcement today. Knight, an Annie Award-winning animator, is making his directorial debut on Kubo and the Two Strings.
The new movie, from an original screenplay by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler (ParaNorman) is a sweeping, swashbuckling adventure set in a mythical ancient Japan. It is being brought to life at LAIKA via the company’s innovative 3D stop-motion and CG hybrid technique. In addition to directing, Knight is producing the film with Arianne Sutner (ParaNorman). The all-star voice cast includes Academy Award winners Matthew McConaughey and Charlize Theron; Academy Award nominees Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, and Brenda Vaccaro; and Art Parkinson, who plays Rickon Stark on Game of Thrones and who is providing the voice for the title character of Kubo.
In the epic fantasy, scruffy, kindhearted Kubo ekes out a humble living while devotedly caring for his mother in their sleepy shore-side village. It is a quiet existence – until a spirit from the past catches up with him to enforce an age-old vendetta. Suddenly on the run from gods and monsters, Kubo’s chance for survival rests on finding the magical suit of armor once worn by his fallen father, the greatest samurai the world has ever known. Summoning courage, Kubo embarks on a thrilling odyssey as he faces his family’s history, navigates the elements, and bravely fights for the earth and the stars.
The movie will open in theaters nationwide domestically on August 19 th , 2016; as with the three previous LAIKA movies, Focus will release Kubo and the Two Strings in the United States and Universal Pictures International will release the movie internationally. It is the first movie in the new three-picture partnership between LAIKA and Focus.
“Kubo and the Two Strings is a rare gem,” said Knight. “It’s a gripping yarn woven from Japanese folktales and mythology, with lost civilizations, mystical origami, noble heroes, star-crossed lovers, and blood-curdling monsters. At once epic and intimate, Kubo is a funny, intense, and ultimately uplifting fairy tale draped in some of the most bizarre and exciting imagery I’ve ever seen. Most importantly, it’s deeply moving. It’s a story that means something, a story that deserves to be told. In short, it’s a LAIKA movie. And with a poetic script, sublime cast, and our freakishly talented artists and craftspeople, Kubo will be a strange, stirring, and altogether stunning film. I can’t wait to share it with the world.”
“LAIKA raises the bar on animated movies as a creative art,” said Schlessel. “Each picture Focus does with LAIKA is unique yet identifiably theirs. Travis and Arianne have convened a wonderful group of animators, actors, and artisans to tell a story that moviegoers of all ages will be transported by.”
About Focus Features
Focus Features ( makes, acquires, and releases movies from rising and established talent and filmmakers. The company is moving forward with a diverse slate of wide releases appealing to a range of moviegoers. Staying true to the company’s roots, the slate will also include several specialty films each year.  In addition to the Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe Award-nominated The Boxtrolls , current and upcoming releases from Focus include The Theory of Everything , nominated for 3 Screen Actors Guild Awards and 4 Golden Globe Awards including Best Picture; Black Sea , the suspenseful adventure thriller starring Jude Law for director Kevin Macdonald; the romantic drama A Little Chaos , directed by Alan Rickman and starring Kate Winslet; Leigh Whannell’s Insidious: Chapter 3 , the newest chapter in the terrifying horror series; Tarsem Singh’s Selfless , starring Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kingsley; Sinister 2 , directed by Ciaran Foy; London Has Fallen , the sequel to the worldwide smash hit Olympus Has Fallen , starring Gerard Butler and directed by Babak Najafi; Juan Antonio Bayona’s visually spectacular drama A Monster Calls , starring Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, and Liam Neeson; and Stephen Hopkins’ Race , starring Jeremy Irons, Jason Sudeikis, and Stephan James as the legendary athletic superstar Jesse Owens.  Focus Features is part of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, world-renowned theme parks, and a suite of leading Internet-based businesses. NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.

LAIKA And Focus Features Sign New Distribution Deal

OCTOBER 3, 2014: LAIKA and Focus Features, will continue their partnership on LAIKA’s next three projects.  Focus CEO Peter Schlessel and LAIKA President and CEO Travis Knight made the announcement today.  As with the three movies that the companies have partnered on previously, Focus will distribute the next three movies domestically, and Universal Pictures International will release them overseas.  Focus opened The Boxtrolls nationwide last weekend to a $17.3 million gross, marking the biggest debut yet for a LAIKA movie. To read the full release, click here.

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