During preview night at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, LRM had the opportunity to head to the press preview of LAIKA Live, where they served all sorts of snacks and drinks…but more importantly had an amazing array of sets on display from films like Coraline, ParaNorman, Boxtrolls, and Kubo and the Two Strings. It was a magnfificent display of artwork, but that wasn’t all.
We also had a chance to see some of the talent in their usual working environment, including animator Gabe Singer, who showed off the process of animating Kubo running. The animators animate at 24 frames-a-second, and in this case, he would animate frame-by-frame alongside a shot of him running using the same angle. In doing so, he was able to replicate natural body movement, as well as the way the clothing swayed.
I had a chance to speak with Springer and discuss the process with him.
LRM: How many movies have you worked on for LAIKA, and for how long?
Singer: 12 years. I started on Coraline.
LRM: How did you get your foot in the door? At that point, it was kind of new, wasn’t it?
Singer: Well, during that time LAIKA was, had two divisions. They had features and they had commercials. So I was working in the commercial division. And so they needed people to finish the movie, so I came over. And helped out, finished the movie.
LRM: Oh, so you helped out finish the movie, you didn’t start on it.
Singer: I did like five months of Coraline, the last five months I was on it.
LRM: What kind of commercials were you working on beforehand?
Singer: Did a lot of the M&Ms commercials. Like-
LRM: Those were stop motion?
Singer: Those are CG, so I do both.
LRM: Ah, okay.
Singer: Yeah, yeah. So we did some commercials from Samsung. Coca Cola commercials, Wheaties.
LRM: Well, what’s the appeal of you know, stop motion animation over CG for you?
Singer: You know, I like getting to touch and feel. You know, I sat behind a desk and computer and there’s just, there’s too many things in between me and the character on screen. There’s a mouse, there’s keys, there’s just something that keeps me away from getting my hands on. I like the ability to reach out and grab the puppet and use ten fingers to manipulate. I can turn the hips and the shoulders and the head all at one time, you know. Or … And I like getting to stand under the lights with a real camera on a real set. I mean that’s … I get to see the final product all at one time. Where in computer you’re always just seeing a low res version of what, you have no idea what it’s going to look like at the end, you know, so. I don’t know. It’s like a little movie set. I enjoy that part of it.
LRM: Do you work alone when you do this?
Singer: Yeah, we have a good team that gets us set up. The camera team, the lighting team, puppets, all those people. You’re working with, you know, five or six people right before you’re launched. And once they, you know, shoot your slate, sorry … Once they shoot your slate, they walk away and you’re by yourself for two days or two months.
LRM: Wow. I think it’s interesting. I’m looking at the setup you have here, and it looks like you have, you said, 5D, basically pro-sumer cameras, not even like, I mean nothing crazy or hardcore about that. Which I think kind of accentuates the purity of it all.
Singer: You notice too, we have Nikon lenses.
LRM: I did notice that, yeah.
Singer: We shoot all Nikons Primes, the old ones with an adapter, so that’s not even on a Nikon camera but Nikons on Canon.
LRM: So what was your favorite LAIKA film that you worked on?
Singer: Me personally, to animate, work on, was ParaNorman. I enjoy working on comedies, you know, it’s more collaborative. People coming together. Everyone’s trying to make it funnier. You know, and that’s something that excites me.
LRM: Was there any new challenges that their upcoming film “The Missing Link” brought to the table for you as an animator?
Singer: I mean every movie we do, just we step up the game. We want more subtly, they want more finesse. You know, they want larger action sequences. They want everything to be done faster. So I mean, it’s every movie is just a percentage more difficult.
LRM: I heard that “The Missing Link” itself is very much sort of a lighter and more fun affair over all. Do you think that makes it appeal to you more since you are a more of “ParaNorman.” Which I’d say is probably one of the lighter movies.
Singer: Yeah, I would say any movie that’s a comedy is exciting for me. That’s, anything that’s a bit lighter. I mean I like heart and emotion. And I like Coraline and Kubo, but I do enjoy the, just the movies that have a sense of adventure and fun behind them. You know, I think it makes them exciting to watch and exciting to work on, so, yeah.
LRM: Any word on any “Coraline” sequel at all?
Singer: I don’t know. We always talk about it inside like it’d be cool. But we haven’t heard anything. Yeah.
Darn. Maybe next time.