Review: The Art and Making of ParaNorman / Author: Jed Alger / Publisher: Chronicle Books / Release Date: Out Now
The best ‘making of’ books are the ones that get personal, the ones that tell you a little bit about the inspiration, the dreams and the hopes of the people involved. The Art and Making of Paranorman is a book that does just this; it also gets inside stop-motion production house Laika and presents you with a fascinating world.
Paranorman is the new stop-motion animated feature that revolves around Norman, a young outcast who can talk to the dead and must save his town when a zombie invasion begins. After Coraline, Paranorman is Laika’s most ambitious project and took two and a half years to make what is essentially an hour and twenty minutes of film. What is surprising about this title, is that unlike a book about Pixar for example, where the office is presented as a bright, colourful and fun place to hang out, the writers make no bones about it - Laika is a non-descript, drab building filled with sweaty craftsmen under hot lights working endless hours on details to bring the stop-motion puppets to life.
The inspiration behind the film’s story is touched upon and you get a good idea of the genesis for the story, all of the artists that are the main players in the production are given a bit of a background and it seems they are all outcasts of a sort, devoted to their craft from an early age. A bit more about the genesis of the idea wouldn’t have gone a miss, especially since it’s something that horror film geeks are set to love but this isn’t that kind of book unfortunately. Instead, the book goes through character design, costume design, set design and special effects and there are endless wonderful behind the scenes pictures which back up the early unglamorous studio description.
Every aspect of animating these stop-motion creations is gone over in great detail without ever feeling alien to non-tech heads. There are some surprising things that come into play as well, for instance, we had no idea that the time of year of the story or the reasons behind why certain houses are painted the same colour would ever be considered during production on a stop-motion animated feature. The final pages of the book go into the rigours of actually animating a film using rod puppets and the patience and personalities involved in the painstaking process. From all accounts Paranorman is perhaps more ambitious than most. It’s the level of detail that makes this book essential for fans of animated cinema in any of its forms; it’s an eye-opening journey for a film that is easily one of the year’s best.