Funny and gentle Mr. Link, the very last of his species, yearns for companionship and a place where he belongs. To help find his rumored cousins in the fabled Valley of Shangri-La, he recruits Lionel Frost, the “world’s greatest” sleuth of myths and monsters. Together with courageous adventurer Adelina Fortnight, they embark on a hilarious globe-trotting journey to find Link’s far-flung family.
On the outside, Mr. Link is lovable and friendly. On the inside, he’s a nest of metal parts including a mechanical belly mover, a chest breather, squash and stretch devices, worm gears and racks and pinions.
Missing Link is LAIKA’s first film to utilize custom 3D printed faces for every character in every shot of the film – so each moment and emotion is absolutely unique. Previously, filmmakers relied on “face kits” with interchangeable facial expressions that were reused throughout the film.
Of the 1486 shots in Missing Link, 446 involved 2D rigs and seams clean-up only. 465 shots required CG set extensions, 460 shots required CG special effects and 325 shots required CG animation – a marriage of hand craftsmanship and technology.
The puppets for the elephant and the horse were constructed using a “bodysuit” technique in which muscles are first carved from foam, rubber and plastic and attached to the internal skeleton. A thin outer skin of silicon is stretched over the entire body, then hand painted and detailed.
The pants-splitting shot was achieved with a specialty-built rig to support a 300% scale Mr. Link rear end. Winders provided tension to pull the fabric seam apart and push the tuft of hair to the exterior.
The seats, curtains and movement of the stagecoach carriage required a total of 40 individual remotely controlled programmable motors.
More than 110 sets and 65 unique locations were created to bring the world of Missing Link to life.
Not only did we build the largest hero puppet for a LAIKA movie (Mr. Link!), we also built and animated the smallest. Miniature 3” tall (or small) replicas of our three heroes and our villain Stenk, were built to allow for the animators to achieve an extreme wide shot in the Himalayas.
The shot of the elephant walking required a 35ft long path and a motorized crane over 14’ tall with a reach of 12’ to support the puppets. The wraparound nature of the camera motion meant that one side of the set had to be shot first and then struck. Then the other side of the set was installed and shot to completion. It required almost three months to shoot, and is approximately 20 seconds in length in the film.
The exterior train is an actual working train on rails that was pulled by a motorized winch. It ran too smoothly along the rails, so bits of tape painted to look like rust were added to the track so that the wheels would bump along for more authentic carriage motion.
LAIKA’s Excellent Adventure Film Is the Most Accessible Yet
Missing Link is an absolute technical marvel with charismatic characters, impressive visuals, and enough heart and humor to make it an instantly rewatchable family favorite.
LAIKA’s Deborah Cook takes us behind the scenes of ’Missing Link’
Even though “Missing Link” is on one level a fantasy adventure, real world accuracy becomes incredibly important in terms of making the bigger than life believable.