Comic Con 2012 in Hall H has PARANORMAN
Mod: Dave Karger
Mod: Good morning and happy Friday the 13th. I can’t think of a better way to start the day than seeing the trailer. Here are six members of the cast and crew. The producer is Travis Knight, two directors of the movie Sam Fell and Chris Butler. Let bring out Normal himself, Kodi Smith-McPhee. As the voice of Norman’s bratty big sister Courtney, Anna Kendrick. Finally, as the school bully Alvin Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
Chris lets begin with you. Besides being the director you wrote it as well. How long in the making was PARANORMAN.
Chris: It’s been about sixteen years. Not every day all day long because that would be sad. I get into it every now and then. We started on it proper about three years ago.
Mod: What started it?
Chris: It was influenced by THE GOONIES, GHOSTBUSTERS and such. The original came from an idea from John Carpenter and John Hughes.
Mod: Travis, what is the trigger saying you wanted to take it on?
Travis: We were half way through CORALINE when Chris presented this idea. Stop motion and zombies are two great tastes that taste great together. It became a gumbo of our collective childhoods. It’s an adventure story with stop motion on bath salts. Beyond all that it’s a story that has something meaningful to say and a poignant story. You will also be deeply moved by what it has to say.
Mod: What do you think about both of you being English?
Sam: The real dominant cool stuff in pop culture in England was America like with POLTERGEIST and we are fans of that time. Even like character stuff like STAND BY ME and the other thing that this project hits is that is a bit of humor and scary. There is a kind of dark hue.
Mod: Kodi, you’ve done one animated film before in Australia. What went through you about doing NORMAN?
Kodi: I like doing the American accent and half way through my voice started dropping and now in the movie it doesn’t even sound like me. That kid voice will always be there.
Mod: Even if you wanted to try to mimic Norman now you couldn’t?
Kodi: Yes, I mean if someone wanted me to do Norman now I couldn’t.
Mod: This is your first animation Anna?
Anna: I always wanted to voice an animated character. I thought this was going to be a challenge. But it was really liberating and pure to be able to use your whole body and not be thinking ‘how does my face look right now’. I was assured the video was only going to be seen by animators.
Mod: If we were to see the video what would we see?
Anna: My first session with Casey because he would say I’m missing all the knee action and a lot of body language. I don’t know if my knees are in there but it was cool that my insane physical stuff came out of this young woman.
Mod: Chris, this must be out of type because the animator is big and you are not?
CMP: Yea, it’s like seeing just this huge guy and it isn’t me.
Mod: One thing I thought of, what can people in this hall do if they want to work at Lyca?
Travis: Artists in general and stop motion animators are strange people in general. We weren’t captains of the football team, we were the ones shoved into lockers. For people that are crafty and good with their hands and must create are what we like for our company.
Sam: Shoot stuff on your iphone and do some stuff. That’s where I began.
Mod: What are some of the things in this movie that are barriers you wanted to break for the film?
Sam: We wanted the macro and micro to be very fine. The technology has allowed us to bring out the characters. One of the most exciting things we’ve developed is more naturalism into the characters. When we first sat down with this we wondered how we could push it further. We got excited in the room when all things are possible. You just create enormous problems for yourself but you hire great people to fix it.
Mod: For Kodi, Anna and Chris you got to visit the Lyca studios, what impressed you?
Kodi: It impressed us that there are in this little room all day shooting 50 scenes at once.
CMP: They were so happy to see us too.
Anna: I was so impressed with the amount of detail. I think there are things in it that you never even see. One of the favorite pictures on my phone now is of Neil’s locker and he’s got this sign with his dead dogs paw print and it’s so detailed. I got to go and stomp around the set later like Godzilla.
Sam: That’s probably one of the most intense scenes in the movie. We temper that with the next scene that’s funny.
Mod: This is a good time to ask a question from PARANORMAN’s Facebook page? When you began, did you have the whole story mapped out?
Chris: I’ve worked on a bunch of animated movies in the story department. The common thread is that everyone starts these things and no one knows how they end. So I was pretty adamant that it had a strong ending. I started writing it knowing how the ending would be and worked backwards. From a story background I knew what would work and it was pretty solid.
Mod: How did you come up with how the zombies would look?
Sam: It’s the comic thing where we wanted them to look a little goofy as well. We had to work on them all together and make sure one had a left arm, another a right arm. It is a balance of body parts.
Mod: For Chris, Anna and Kodi when you’re putting yourself on tape for the first time have you seen any puppets or anything?
Kodi: When I went in there, there was a cut out of Kodi and sketches. Before that it was just little puppet stuff.
Mod: Is there anything in the movie that is part of your actual personality?
CMP: Throwing my arms out made it in, your welcome your eyes.
Mod: Anna, are you wearing a pink juicy couture?
Anna: Yes, at all times.
CMP: Your voice is incredible Kodi in the movie. It’s so masculine now.
Kodi: It doesn’t match my body.
Mod: Tempest Bledsoe and Casey Affleck are also in the film.
Chris: When I use to watch SCOOBY DOO when I was a kid I thought ‘it doesn’t make sense why these people are friends’. So we put the kids in the van and its part of the fun. BREAKFAST CLUB meets THE FOG I think.
Sam: It’s all about naturalism and doing it in a way that hasn’t been done before. Its very theatrical and a little cartoon-y with a live action feel to it.
Mod: Apparently, with all the different facial features, a character like Norman has over half a million facial expressions, how is that possible?
Sam: It’s done with computers and many combinations.
Travis: It’s a crazy bit of technology, it shouldn’t even exist. The 3D printers print them out. As some point we should be able to clone humans, its very scary. There is more expressions and nuances than there has been before.
Mod: You all can begin lining up with Q/A. One thing I noticed in the film is that you have a lot of spoken lines but you also have a lot of sounds. A lot of grunts and stuff, if you had to think of one sound that goes with your character, what sound would that be?
CMP: The high pitch stuff they ate up.
Sam: You did some singing too.
CMP: You guys did not put that in.
Mod: What did you sing Chris?
CMP: “Season of the Witch”.
Mod: In PARANORMAN 2 I think he should do that. What is your sound Anna?
Anna: Arrrghhhh!! Casey and I had never done animation before and before the end of the day we got competitive. I did the full King Kong screams.
Mod: Kodi, do you want to finish us off?
Kodi: When he’s sitting on the toilet and he has to make a shaking noise. I got a chair and sat on it and made the noise.
Anna: Like a shake-quake?
CMP: With a huge smile on his face too.
Anna: This is a minor, keep it classy!
Mod: On that note, there must be questions.
Q: What’s the next idea for Lyca?
Travis: It’s a great question but I don’t have the answer. We have a number different things and probably be announcing our next project in a couple of months.
Kodi: Now that my voice is different I’ll be in that one too right?
Q: Why were the monsters so scary? (very little girl)
CMP: Yea, why, you are scaring her!
Sam: In the end they are not so scary. In that scene showed that but in the end they are sad. Kids seven and eight would be fine. Really, it’s not scary enough. I think every parent knows where there at and what they can take.
Q: Ben, you were in LET ME IN, from that to PARANORMAN how is that different?
Kodi: I love animation and its so much fun to just chill. Its very different and different worlds and I love horror.
Sam: He does have comedic talent that must be said.
Q: Did you guys put a part of yourself into the characters, something person you do that we will see?
CMP: I always wanted to beat the crap out of Kodi <laughing>
Kodi: One thing I put into it was being skinny. The character was originally fat and we swapped it.
Anna: I thought they offered me the job because of TWILIGHT and I asked them that. They said ‘no we haven’t seen those, we jus listened to your voice in interviews”.
Q: How did you guys decide which actors to choose?
Sam: It’s so much about the voice. We didn’t really feel we needed big name comic performances.
Anna: Then you reconsidered.
Sam: Yea, we knew we needed good actors with a big range. We got all the characters lined up and placed voices next to them. Chris and Anna’s voice just popped.
Kodi: I tried to impress them with a tape.
Mod: didn’t you use the same casting director as FREAKS AND GEEKS?
Chris: Yes, it was the right vibe. We often looked at them for physical performances that those kids did.
Q: What can you tell us about KICK ASS 2?
CMP: I’m in; it’s looking pretty close like it’s going to happen. We are hopefully going to start shooting in September. Now the word is out and I’m going to get my butt kicked.
Q: for Anna, since this is your first animated film did you call George Clooney to talk to him about THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX?
Anna: I like to bother George as much as possible. That is a great idea. That’s what’s missing in my performance. Where were you a year ago?
Q: Since animation is a dying breed, what made you decide to work so hard on that?
Travis: Stop motion hasn’t been dominant but more like the red headed step child. The reason we do it is because we love it. It’s painstaking work on concrete for 10 to 14 hours a date and bleeding from wire and stuck together with glue. But, it has a beauty and see the artist’s hands at work that you can’t get from any other filmmaking.
Sam: I think CORALINE started it and given it another dimension. You want to reach in and touch it even more. We can do several passes with camera and getting a little more sophisticated. I think maybe people are use to CG and its less novel. We get the best of both worlds with the effects. The amazing thing about it is a one time thing, its lightening caught in a bottle. There is a simple magic to bringing simple objects to life.
Chris: I story boarded and I like to think about it. You have to know what you want to achieve with it. One of the first reasons I started writing with is because the skeleton scene in JASON AND THE ARGONAUT you have to say why would you do it any other way.
Mod: We are going to end with another question from TWITTER, which character was the most challenging to create and which to animate?
Sam: Norman is probably he most transit. He’s the hero and has so many dimensions and we spent the longest with him.
Chris: Writing him was easy because I based it on me and I was a sad child (bringing ‘awwwww’ from audience). I liked writing the dialog and getting in touch with my 15 year old cheerleader.
Mod: What’s Norman’s hair really made out of?
Sam: His techniques are available to anyone.
Mod: I’m going to take what you said Travis and take it out of context which will be the most entertaining! Thanks for joining us everybody.