Tags: 3D, Alex Borstein, Anna Kendrick, Bernard Hill, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, Casey Affleck, Chris Butler, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, D-BOX, Digital Copy, Elaine Stritch, Hannah Noyes, Jeff Garlin, Jodelle Ferland, John Goodman, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Laika, Leslie Mann, Sam Fell, Tempestt Bledsoe, Tucker Albrizzi, UltraViolet, Universal Studios Home Entertainment
has an average rating of 7.0 on IMDb
proves to be pretty impressive
1080p in AVC MPEG-4 on 50gb disc
DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
are very informative and worthwhile
– 93 minutes
This uses 43.4GB total.
Overall Verdict – Highly Recommended
— Review written by: Justin Sluss —
The Movie Itself is the second film made by the stop-motion animation studio Laika; whose first film was “Coraline” from 2009. The story here was written by Chris Butler, who also served as one of the directors. Butler had previously worked as a storyboard artist on Laika’s “Coraline” as well as storyboard artist on another stop-motion film, Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride” from 2005. The other director here was Sam Fell, who actually has a bit more work on his resume; especially as a director. Fell was the director on the CG animated films “The Tale of Despereaux” from 2008 and “Flushed Away” from 2006.
The story here focuses on an 11-year-old boy by the name of “Norman Babcock” (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) who has the ability to both see and communicate with the dead, or to put it in more of a less depressing terminology, ghosts. The main ghost he sees is his grandma (voiced by Elaine Stritch) who enjoys watching TV with him. As things start out we’re introduced to Norman as he’s watching a zombie movie explaining to his late grandma (sitting on the couch) what’s happening in the film. After that he goes into the kitchen where we’re introduced to his parents and sister. His parents ask what he’s been up to and he promptly tells them he’s been talking to his grandma. This leads to his father getting very upset; as he explains to Norman she has been dead for quite some time. His mother “Sandra” (voiced by Leslie Mann) is a tad bit understanding about this but his father “Perry” (voiced by Jeff Garlin) and his older teenage sister “Courtney” (voiced by Anna Kendrick) give him a very hard time about his claims.
His father and sister look at poor Norman as some sort of freak and that’s pretty much how he’s treated at school as well. One bully in particular, “Alvin” (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse), loves to write “FREAK” on his locker everyday. Norman isn’t the only kid bullied by Alvin though with words written on his locker, there’s a red-headed heavyset boy by the name of “Neil” (voiced by Tucker Albrizzi) who gets similar treatment. Neil likes Norman and tries to be friends with him, despite Norman telling him that he likes being alone. Neil doesn’t quite seem to understand the concept of that as he suggests that they can be alone together. Needless to say Norman has a hard time ditching Neil and the two actually become friends. Neil asks Norman about his ability to see the dead and if he could see his dog who died. Norman agrees to try and accompanies him home one day where he meets Neil’s older teenage brother “Mitch” (voiced by Casey Affleck). Mitch warns Neil that Norman is considered a weirdo and he shouldn’t be hanging out with him but that doesn’t seem to phase him.
There’s one very important thing to note here about the town where Norman lives that plays a huge part in the plot to this film. The town Blithe Hollow is known for hanging a witch many centuries ago. In fact, the town is celebrating its 300 year anniversary. It’s over the past three centuries developed itself as a tourist type town with most of its local businesses named after witches and such. The town even has a stereotypical statue of a witch in front of their town hall. The witch that was hung 300 years ago had vowed to put a curse on the town and little to Norman’s knowledge this curse has been held off over the years by those like him, who can see and speak to the dead. After his uncle “Mr. Prenderghast” (voiced by John Goodman) is no longer able to handle the duty it’s up to Norman to stop the curse and also keep the undead (zombie) versions of those who hung the witch from reeking havoc on his town. That essentially is the entire plot to the film.
“ParaNorman” in either 3D or 2D proves to be an enjoyable film for most all ages. Even as an adult I could relate a tad bit to the character of “Norman” — especially with his love for zombie movies and such. This may not be as universal of a story as Laika‘s first film “Coraline” but it is definitely another visual feast of stop-motion “eye candy” with some funny moments and great voice acting. Kodi Smit-McPhee who most may remember for his lead role in the film “Let Me In” gives an excellent voice acting performance here as “Norman” and so do all of the supporting voice cast. This works as a zombie movie for all ages, just as the writer & director Chris Butler says he intended for it to be. He even put in some personal bits that related to his own life in there, which makes the story (in my honest opinion) have more substance to it.
The film was received rather well by critics as it holds an impressive 86% (out of 100%) on the “tomatometer” and as a result has earned itself a “Certifiably Fresh” seal over on Rotten Tomatoes. It also holds a pretty nice 7.2 (out of 10) rating over on IMDb. The film did OK at the box-office in terms of ticket sales by accumulating roughly 56 million domestically and another 43 million foreign. It is reported the film had a budget somewhere around 60 million, so it’s safe to say the studio made their money back just in the theatrical run. This is all according to Box Office Mojo. It’ll be very interesting to see what the stop-motion animation studio Laika does for their third film; as so far they’ve made a name for themselves with two great films.
Along the way here I’m going to offer up some screenshots to serve as examples of the scenes I refer to. OK, I’ll have to admit I didn’t really notice that much depth or pop in terms of 3D until the first daytime exterior scene very early on in the film and then it totally hit me. Things were impressive as “Norman” walks out of his house and down the street. When the camera takes a turn and things transition over to finally getting to see the dead people he’s talking to you’ll notice that they seem to be floating in their green aura of sorts which stands out in terms of both depth and pop. The backgrounds behind the characters in the foreground come with a very nice sense of depth to them. Objects closer to the camera stand out very much with a great amount of pop to them. It’s not all bright scenes that hold the impressive 3D though, as 20 minutes in near the end of the school play in a dark scene where Norman is being chased through the woods I could still see a good amount of depth and decent amount pop. The 3D effects here really start to get more intense as the film progresses. There are many instances where things will be flying toward the viewer and this comes with a great amount of pop. This can leave younger viewers perhaps a bit startled but that’s only to build suspense. It’s a bit past the 35 minutes mark when the 3D really starts to get intense much thanks to some ghoulish guests of sorts — zombies to be exact. As the zombies rise from the graveyard you’ll notice a hand of one smash up from the soil near a grave, which stands out perfectly in terms of pop. Objects such as the zombies’ hands grabbing out at Norman and his friends come with an excellent amount of 3D pop and depth as well. At times, depending on the perspective of the camera, you’ll perhaps feel like the zombies are coming right at you. This is just a taste of how intense the 3D quality can be on this stop-motion animated film. It gets even more intense in the latter portions of the film.
I won’t go into too much further detail to avoid dishing out any “spoilers” about the latter part of the film, namely last 20 minutes or so, but I will say that it proves to have some of the most impressive 3D. This really is fun to experience in 3D for most all ages and offers up some pretty impressive effects. This earns itself a “4.5 Star Rating” for overall 3D quality. This is one of the more impressive stop-motion animated films I’ve seen in 3D.
Video Quality on this release is in full 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a BD-50 (50 gigabyte dual-layered Blu-ray Disc) in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. According to technical specifications on IMDb this stop-motion animated film was shot digitally in 5K resolution using the Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera. This comes with a perfectly solid black level and one vibrant color palette much thanks to the characters, costumes, sets and whatnot of the stop-motion animation. Speaking of which, these stop-motion armatures really have a great amount of detail to them that stands out in Hi-Def. The painstaking efforts the folks at Laika went to totally pay off here visually in either 3D or 2D in terms of video quality. Every character has an immense amount of detail to them and so do the backgrounds and other set pieces. This looks downright awesome. The visuals get a tad bit of 2D hand drawn animation and CG animation blended in with the traditional stop-motion (“stop-frame”) animation near the end of the film which makes for some downright spectacular “eye candy” of a slight disturbing nature. There’s nothing at all to complain about here, just lots to look at in “awe” of and with that being said it should be very little surprise that this earns a perfect “5 Star Rating” for overall video quality. This does this film’s very odd shapes and unique style complete justice.
Audio Quality on this release is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. This starts out with a spoof of an old horror film, complete with the B-movie style music and everything. All of the original music here by Jon Brion sounds great and gets a nice delivery through primarily the front left & right channel speakers with a great amount of rear channel presence and LFE (bass) throughout the film. Dialogue from the voice actors is distinctly driven from the center channel speaker, without ever being overpowered by the film’s music or sound effects. There are some occasions where unintelligible dialogue such as chatter or moans from zombies make use of the rear channels. One of the first examples of that is around 20 minutes in after the school play when the chatter of the audience’s reaction fills up the rears quite nicely. Sound effects here can be quite impressive and get some nice use of the rear channels and LFE as well. At the 24 minutes mark or so you’ll start to notice the sound effects, as well as the music, get more intense. Around 35 minutes in the audio mix really starts to come across awesome with the music becoming more intense, to help build suspense and the sound effects getting a tad bit more extreme as well. It’s by the 46 minutes mark when the “storm cloud” (of sorts) and thunder that comes with it has a very nice amount of rear channel and LFE presence. By this point the music has really started to become pretty extraordinary and sets the mood of the film perfectly, as well as makes great use of the 5.1 lossless mix. As mentioned earlier there will be times when the moans of the zombies approaching come through the rear channels, which can be pretty spooky for younger audiences. The climatic end of the film holds some really excellent material in both terms of sound effects and music and is by far the true highlight of the mix. This delivers one impressive presentation in terms of sound that is well worthy of a “4.5 Star Rating” for overall audio quality.
Bonus Materials on this release are ALL presented in full 1080p Hi-Def (HD) video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo @192kbps sound.
- “Preliminary Animatic Sequences” (9:09 – HD) includes three total with Optional Audio Commentary from Director Sam Fell and Writer/Director Chris Butler. These give you a great idea of how they basically storyboarded these three scenes out and then went about trying to translate that into stop-motion animation in a very tedious manner frame-by-frame.
- “Peering Through the Veil: Behind the Scenes of ParaNorman” (40:49 – HD) is split up into nine chapters total but there is a “play all” function available. Here you’ll get lots of behind-the-scenes glimpses at how the armature stop-motion figurines are made, how they frame-by-frame animate this, the scale of the sets, glimpses at recording booth sessions of vocals from the actors and interviews. Those interviewed here include: Chris Butler (Writer & Director), Sam Fell (Director), Travis Knight (Producer, Lead Animator), Nelson Lowry (Production Designer), Robert DeSue (Assistant Art Director/Head of Set Dressing), Kodi Smit-McPhee (voice of “Norman“), Anna Kendrick (voice of “Courtney“), Tucker Albrizzi (voice of “Neil“), Casey Affleck (voice of “Mitch), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (voice of “Alvin“), Leslie Mann (voice of “Sandra“), Alex Borstein (voice of “Mrs. Henscher“), Georgina Hayns (Character Fabrication Supervisor), Jeremy Spake (Armature Designer), Jeanne R. McIvor (Head of Armature), Jill Penney (Lead Hair & Fur Fabrication), Jessica Lynn (Head of Hair & Fur Fabrication), Deborah Cook (Costume Design Supervisor), Kingman Gallagher (Fabrication Design Lead), Morgan Hay (Fabrication Performance Lead), Brian McLean (Replacement Animation & Engineering), Oliver Jones (Animation Rigging Supervisor), Brian Addison Elliot (Lead Animation Rigger), Jason Stalman (Animator), Brad Schiff (Animation Supervisor), Justin Rasch (Animator), Susanna Luck (2D Effects Animator), Brian Van’t Hul (Visual Effects Supervisor), Ean McNamara (Production Illustrator) and David Vandervoort (2D Facial Animator).
- “Featurettes” (14:53 – HD) includes a total of seven short EPK (electronic press kit) promo pieces but there is a “play all” function available. These focus on what it’s like working at Laika, the making of the armature figurine for “Norman“, how a desk lamp set piece was made, discussion of ghosts and zombies. This includes interviews with the following people: Jill Penney (Lead Hair Fabricator), Mattzilla Duron (Mold Maker), Chris Butler (Writer & Director), Georgina Hayns (Creative Supervisor, Puppet Fab), Travis Knight (Producer & Lead Animator), Sam Fell (Director), Laura Merton (Assistant to the Producer), Tempestt Bledsoe (voice of “Sheriff Hooper“), Jason Stalman (Animator), Leslie Mann (voice of “Sandra“), Robert DeSue (Head of Set Dressing), Alicia Cortes (Puppet Wrangler), Anna Kendrick (voice of “Courtney“), Deborah Cook (Costume Designer), Jeff Garlin (voice of “Perry“), Tristan Oliver (Director of Photography), Alex Borstein (voice of “Mrs. Henscher“) and Morgan Hay & Kingman Gallagher (Rapid Prototyping Leads). Below you’ll find one of these featurettes “Making Norman” via YouTube.
- Audio Commentary with Director Sam Fell and Writer/Director Chris Butler
Other bonus materials:
- A DVD of the film in Standard Definition with Dolby Digital 5.1 @448kbps sound is also included in this “combo pack” release.
- A Digital Copy of the film is included via a paper insert with URL and redemption code. This is compatible with both Mac and PC as well as iTunes portable media devices.
- An UltraViolet digital copy of the film is included via the paper insert (mentioned above) with a URL and redemption code.
- D-BOX motion code is included on this release for those with the proper equipment to decode and experience it.
Overall the bonus materials here prove to be very informative and worthwhile as well as somewhat lengthy at just over an hour in runtime. Plus you get an audio commentary track from the two directors. There’s physical and digital bonus materials like a DVD, Digital Copy and UltraViolet digital copy of the film included as well as D-BOX motion code for those who can take advantage of that. It’s a nice set of supplemental material that is sure to leave audiences somewhat pleased after they’ve watched the film.
Blu-ray Disc packaging:
NOTE: The full-sized 1920×1080 files are in a .PNG file format and uncompressed. Please be patient with the slow loading times, keep in mind these files are at least 1MB (1 megabyte) in size each.