This LAIKA Thanksgiving Video Puts All Their Characters Together

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LAIKA Studios has an exquisite run for an animation studio, each of their films providing deliciously beautiful stop-motion animation with bittersweet, emotional, and darkly funny narratives to boot. Now, for the first time ever, all of their wondrous characters have been put under one roof to celebrate Thanksgiving together — and we’ve got the exclusive video.

What characters are in this MCU-esque crossover? You’ve got Mr. Link and Sir Lionel from Missing Link, Eggs from The Boxtrolls, and the titular characters from Coraline, Kubo and the Two Strings, and ParaNorman. And now, please enjoy how this motley crew celebrates Thanksgiving — sorry, Friendsgiving.

I don’t know about you, but that really warms my heart. And makes me feel better — I’m not saying I’ve ever dropped a Thanksgiving turkey like Mr. Link, but I’m not not saying that, either.

How on earth did they do this? Take a look at this behind-the-scenes video to see just how much work goes into a stop-motion piece of animation, even at just 30 seconds.

For more BTS goodies — Thanksgiving sides, if you will — we spoke with Brad Schiff, head of animation at LAIKA and Animation Supervisor on the studio’s last four Oscar-nominated films (Missing Link 2019, Kubo and the Two Strings 2016, The Boxtrolls 2014 and ParaNorman 2012), who led the team on this idea of bringing “the ‘hero’ characters from our five previous films together for an epic ‘Friendsgiving’ dinner. And like most family events, a bit of chaos is bound to happen.” And this chaos, like the rest of their feature films, took forever to make:

“Our films take years to create and work on our latest project is ongoing. But as a studio we are more and more committed to creating shorter form content that our fans can enjoy online and on our social channels. But anything we create has to meet the incredibly high bar that LAIKA has established. We have extremely high standards at the studio and we applied them to the Friendgiving piece as stringently as we did on our five Oscar nominated films. We can’t work any other way, frankly. This piece, only 29 seconds in length, still took 10 full weeks of production from concept to end of production today and involved every production department. We know that our movies have a lasting impact on audiences and we wanted to create something shorter…but no less impactful. We still want a viewer to be profoundly affected in some way by everything we put out into the world. We want it to enhance the animation medium, to engage our fans, to add to their holiday celebration, and to stay with them long after viewing.”

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Image via LAIKA

Schiff and the team “called upon every department in LAIKA’s production pipeline… Concept & Story, Animation, Art, Lighting and Stages, Costume, Rigging, Puppets, Set Dressing, Visual Effects, and Editing – it was all hands on deck for this piece” to produce this piece, tackling it “in the same capacity we would shoot a feature film – from the intricate set dressing details to every flying carrot that became airborne due to the work of a rigger.” And — all of this was done safely under COVID protocols: “This was all done under LAIKA’s very stringent pandemic-mandated health standards and practices. It entailed collaboration among various departments, most of whom worked remotely, some of whom were in-studio to create a seamless production that makes us all very proud. Masks and distance can’t deter LAIKA creatives.”

Schiff also touched on the challenges of putting together so many unique characters and keeping “each character’s personality and actions on style with who they are at their core. They are not actors who play these characters. These characters are who they are in their films and we will not stray from that. Coming up with ways to play each unique personality against one another lends itself to a really fun group dynamic in the piece… Coraline acts and responds differently than Kubo or Mr. Link/Susan…and the animator has to be constantly aware of each character’s unique personality.” Apparently, Schiff and LAIKA has “played around with a few of them cross-mingling but this is the first time we’ve ever had all five interacting with one another.”

As for that lead animator? That’s Anthony Straus, and this project and the ability to get his hands on every LAIKA character was a full-circle moment for him. As Schiff says, “We have animators here at LAIKA who are here because they were inspired by one of our earlier films but have never gotten to animate any of those characters. Animator Anthony Straus, who animated this piece, was still in school when Coraline came out in 2009. That film had an impact on his pursuit of a career in stop-motion and I know it was fun for him to have the opportunity to pose her for this piece.”

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Image via LAIKA

For more upcoming short-form content from LAIKA, give them a follow on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook; after all, Schiff says his favorite part of social media is that it “allows our creative team to create new environments and situations for our characters that audiences have grown to love over our 15 years of our moviemaking.”

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Happy Thanksgiving! Don’t drop ya turkies!

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