In the new stop-motion animated film ParaNorman (read our official review), a youngster named Norman deals with some of the difficulties that kids often face, including a school bully and a catty sister. But aside from those issues, Norman has another more unique problem to contend with: He can see and talk to the deceased.
The story begins with Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) being treated as an outcast by his classmates and by his family. Because of his supernatural abilities, people treat him like a freak. Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the local bully, mocks him – while his older sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick) wants little to do with him. As the plot develops, though, a town curse threatens the community and Norman, his sister, Alvin, Norman’s friend Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) and Neil’s dim jock brother, Mitch (Casey Affleck) – must work together to save the day.
At Comic-Con 2012, Screen Rant had the opportunity to sit down with the Chris Butler, the writer and one of the directors behind the project, along with stars Smit-McPhee, Mintz-Plasse and Kendrick.
Butler, who at the film’s Comic Con panel called it a “zombie movie for kids,” told us that he had been thinking about making the film for sixteen years, ever since he had the original idea. Although he didn’t work on the film every day, he filled notebooks with concepts to use in the film and wanted the movie to include a certain level of nostalgia for many of the shows and movies from the 1980s. He noted:
CB: I always thought that there was something really good there that was worth telling…There’s a whole bunch of people who grew up on the same movies [and] the same TV shows that are making movies now. There’s that warm nostalgia for that kind of stuff. Now is the perfect time to do it, especially with the zombie resurgence, obviously.
After filming began, a dedicated animation team worked tirelessly for several years to bring Butler’s vision to life. And even though the actors don’t physically appear in the movie, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t help develop what their characters moved like. Smit-McPhee, who previously starred in Let Me In (2010), explained that in the studio, there was more freedom to really get into character but it wasn’t only the voices that were being recorded:
KSM: You’re not thinking I look weird doing this face. You just do everything. You just go crazy and have fun and just let loose…They have a camera on you all the time so they can take that craziness and then put it into the character.
Even though the actors didn’t see all of the animation being created, many of them did have the opportunity to visit the animation studio to see the work that went into the project. Kendrick told us that she was impressed when she saw the movie sets after filming was done. She noted that her visit to the sets “really was magical” and added that if the props were real, she would love to take Neil’s locker home with her.
The locker, she said, had a sign in it with a paw print from Neil’s dog. The sign notes that the dog “is great. Understands me. Barks at bullies.” Kendrick was impressed with the meticulous details that went into such a seemingly insignificant item.
Mintz-Plasse, who also discussed Kick-Ass 2 during our roundtable, told us that he enjoyed doing the movie and noted the freedoms that come with doing an animated movie (as opposed to live-action), and how Paranorman gave him the opportunity to create a new character that was nothing like him:
CMP: The thing is with Kick-Ass and Role Models, there’s little aspects of me in my characters. But animation, you don’t have to be that guy at all. You get to create something completely new. Completely different from yourself.
If you haven’t read our ParaNorman review, the film is a pretty good time. Be sure to check it out.
ParaNorman is now in theaters nationwide.