Laika Offers a Rare Look at its Wondrous Wares – Animation Scoop

Laika Offers a Rare Look at its Wondrous Wares

Today through next Sunday, August 14th, you can get a rare look at the actual stop-motion character figures, infinitely detailed sets and technical apparatus that have helped make Laika the Oscar-winning studio it is today.

Following that odd, frequent theme park tradition of lengthy titles that the public shortens themselves anyway, Universal Studios Hollywood is calling the exclusive exhibit From Coraline to Kubo: A Magical Laika Experience. For anyone who grew up with the perennially charming but humble low-tech Rankin/Bass films, the astonishing Ray Harryhausen or Willis O’Brien masterworks and the exquisite handcrafting of George Pal’s Puppetoons, this is the chance of a lifetime.



The park has converted a huge soundstage into a high-end museum exhibit with generous use of videos, each piecing together the Laika process and philosophy. A small portal that will instantly remind baby boomers of The Time Tunnel reveals figures from Coraline, leading to the massive home structure created for the film. Next is Paranorman, including a high school corridor with figures and a life-size bedroom.


The Paranorman house is a great example of the meticulous detail. Laika has a botanist tend to the shrubberies to make it look and move properly. A tiny newspaper near the trash can has actual print. Stacks of boxes set the mood for the Boxtrolls segment, featuring Archibald Snatcher and his grotesque steampunk machine as well as white-hatted stinker Lord Portly-Rind descending a grand staircase.


The richly dressed and coiffed Lady Portly-Rind figure is another prime example of Laika’s craft. The stitches are in scale. No oversized Barbie snaps.


The most elaborate portion of the exhibit, naturally, celebrates Laika’s superb new feature, Kubo and the Two Strings. There’s a complete interior set with its hardware (lights, etc.) attached. Also on display are a fraction of the tens of thousands of faces used for each animated figure.


No pictures can really capture how surprisingly large these sets and figures can be. It all comes down to the mathematics of scale. This sailboat would have to be ten feet high for the character to “make sense” inside.


Especially gasp-worthy is the sixteen-foot skeleton figure from the film’s denouement. This fellow is mounted on a platform that accentuates its height, making it a perfect place to pose for your Halloween cards.



The average viewer, having seen the entire exhibit, might marvel at how much has been accomplished through a body of work that spans only four films. In that time, they’ve made artistic and technical advances (most recently taking stop-motion “out of the closed studio” in into the world through green screen CG with Kubo and the Two Strings) The mind reels at how far they’ll go in the next four and more.


Admission to Universal Studios Hollywood is required to see From Coraline to Kubo: A Magical Laika Experience now through August 28th, 2016. (Now if they’ll only open a ride though attraction based on Laika movies, we’d be all set.)


The new feature itself, Kubo and the Two Strings, opens in theaters on August 19th.

Jerry Beck with the characters from "Kubo And The Two Strings"

Jerry Beck with the characters from “Kubo And The Two Strings”

Jerry Beck

Jerry Beck

Writer, cartoon producer and author of more than 15 books on animation history. A former studio exec with Nickelodeon and Disney; currently on the faculty at both CalArts in Valencia and Woodbury University in Burbank.
Jerry Beck

Latest posts by Jerry Beck (see all)

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.