Anyone wanting to ditch their Studio Laika Blu-ray collection will find the collectable Steelbook releases of Coraline and Paranorman worth the upgrade. This ultra high-definition release by Shout! Factory have a lot of fantastic artwork to admire. Not only do fans have a beautiful display piece which César Moreno and Kevin Tong crafted that honours the spirit of each film, but also love the expanded Dolby ATMOS soundscape.
In this remastered edition, Dolby Vision is used to enhance the detail. For example, Coraline’s hair is even more defined than I remember, and the colour palette is exquisite. When examining this work up close, all those textures are even more realistic. That’s moreso because of the sets than the characters. In Paranorman, the transparency effects used on the ghosts are more pronounced. Also, I wanted to see if I can notice where the digital effects overlaps with the stop-motion. It’s tough to spot!
In this package, the mini-essay that’s included reminds fans why the movies from this Portland, Oregon studio are special. The talents behind each work put their heart and soul to these animatronics, and to spend years animating a few minutes per day is better explained with the bonus material that’s on the included Blu-ray disc, which is basically the past release. I’m glad that two versions are offered since I can trade in my old discs for some other titles, and I’ll be upgrading my collection for sure!
I’m a die-hard fan who believes this studio can do no wrong. To even rank their works is tough. Thankfully, Shout! Factory decided on what to release first. Although it is technically chronological, I suspect every film will be released by the end of 2024, including Missing Link. Maybe by then, they will have exclusive distribution to the next Laika film, Wildwood. This story is based on the book series by Colin Meloy and illustrator Carson Ellis.
While the early cinematic masterpieces make up the initial wave of releases, the second wave will be Kubo and the Two Strings and The Boxtrolls and the date set for distribution is February 28, 2023.
Henry Selick is the master of the surreal, rather than Tim Burton. Although the narrative and visual production presented in The Nightmare Before Christmas is mostly the latter filmmaker’s design, the direction by Selick suggests he deserves more credit. But to truly create nightmare fuel, I think this auteur is best when working on his own. Before directing Coraline, he worked on two family friendly works–James and the Giant Peach and Monkeybone. While they were fine films, they are not as memorable.
With this film based on Neil Gaiman’s book, what viewers learn is that this title character (Dakota Fanning) is living in a somewhat haunted house. Within its confines is a mirror universe where The Other Mother and Father (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman) offer this girl a chance to truly live her life in their realm! What she learns afterwards is that these doppelgängers’ intentions are not pure.
Selick’s method to create terror is excellent, and he proves he can work with other creator’s visions to fashion terrifying stuff. Even though he left Studio Laika to return to Pixar/Disney, sadly, none of those projects ever panned out and fans of his work had to wait. Thankfully, we got Wendell and Wild (movie review) to show what he can produce standalone, and it’s exceptional.
In contrast, Sam Fell and Chris Butler, directed a wonderful film about how the living and dead can get along–assuming there’s no curse beset upon the town. All they need is the service of Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee), an 11-year-old boy who can speak to the dead. Like The Sixth Sense, he recognises these souls. But when he’s told he must protect the township, he’s in over his head, and his crazy Uncle Prenderghast’s (John Goodman) cryptic quest only makes things worse.
The enormous obstacles he has to face are with his dad trying to accept his gift, and the township which sees him as a threat.
The narrative is a paranormal investigator’s wet dream come true. Not only do we get to understand why ghosts linger around, but also we discover not all of them are intentionally malicious. But there’s more going on. The heart of this film is about how to communicate.
Paranorman is a gorgeously animated film because of the transparency effects. This layer is difficult to do since it has to be added during post-production, after all the stop-motion work is done, and some sets perhaps destroyed, making redoing impossible. That alone makes me appreciate this medium a lot more. Also, when presented in a super high resolution, any errors are easy to spot. They might have been cleaned up, since I didn’t find any flaws in the 4K presentation.