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KRISTIAN LARSEN
STOP-MOTION ANIMATOR

KRISTIAN LARSEN
STOP-MOTION ANIMATOR


How would you describe your role at LAIKA?

As an animator at LAIKA, my job is to make the puppets feel like real characters. It’s not only about moving them in a believable way, but also about infusing each movement with genuine emotion and expression. This needs to be in tune with the director’s vision of storytelling.

In every shot that I animate, I try to see how it will feel and fit into the sequence and the bigger picture. It’s important to know what a specific character would feel and do in a given situation.

What is it like working in the Animation department at LAIKA?

We are very lucky because we have access to all the best people and tools in the industry. It can be challenging, but seeing the end product is worth it. Every day, I get so much inspiration when I see all the amazing animation from my coworkers.

In my department, we are very supportive of each other. I feel the workplace is very inclusive, and I have made a lot of really good friends here.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

Each day presents new challenges and opportunities for creativity, and a normal workday can vary depending on all the steps in the animation process.

Before I start animating a new shot, I get a brief from the director explaining what the character is feeling or how the action and movement should feel.

Usually, I shoot a Live Action Reference (LAV), where I perform the action of the animation and try to get a better sense of the movements in my own body. Then I block the action of the animation, which is a very rough pass like a sketch. Here I get to experiment and explore ideas that I think will work. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, but this is a very fun step in the process. I show this block to the director and get notes.

Before I start the hero animation (which is the shot that will be seen in the movie), I collaborate closely with the Camera, Rigging, and Puppets teams to figure out what is needed for the performance. The last step is me alone with the puppets in the unit trying to finish the shot on time. Animating a shot can take anywhere from a day to weeks, depending on the length and complexity.

What do you most enjoy about working at LAIKA?

I most enjoy the teamwork and how everyone is so specialized and collaborates to make the finished product. I feel lucky to work among so much talent and so many friends. Being from Norway myself, it's great to meet and work with people from all over the world.

How would you describe the educational and professional journey that brought you to LAIKA?

I have always enjoyed drawing, painting, and especially sculpting. In high school, I got interested in 3D animation and started learning about it in my spare time. Later, I started a bachelor course in animation in a small town in Norway called Volda. I also had an exchange year at The Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark. The school was very professional, and I'm very thankful for everything I learned there.

After a stop-motion course we had in Volda, I got very inspired and felt that it was the ultimate animation technique because it was all real. The physical puppets, sets, and props really spoke to me, and I knew that stop motion was the animation technique I wanted to work with in my career.

After college, I was lucky to get an internship as a set dresser/prop maker at the first stop-motion feature produced in Norway in over 30 years. At this studio, I learned a lot about the process of making animated films. Along the way, I have had the opportunity to work on several stop-motion films, CG productions, and computer games.

What advice do you have for people trying to break into stop-motion animation?

Reach out to people in the industry. It’s a small community that is very friendly!

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