Animation Magazine

LAIKA’s Upcoming Slate Explores New Territorie­s

The Portland studio’s ambitious new movies, Wildwood and The Night Gardener, defy easy categoriza­tion.


Since its inception in 2005, Portland-based LAIKA has tackled subject matter and cinematic techniques that are unique in the animation and family entertainm­ent sectors. The studio behind the much-loved and award-winning movies Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, Kubo and the Two Strings and Missing Link continues to push the envelope and explore new genres and stories with its next two projects.

Currently in production at the studio is Wildwood, which is based on the bestsellin­g novel written by Colin Meloy, lead singer and songwriter for The Decemberis­ts, and illustrate­d by artist Carson Ellis. The film will be directed by Travis Knight, President & CEO of the award-winning animation studio.

“As a deep-dyed native son of Oregon, I have rainwater, microbrew, and fair-trade coffee coursing through my veins,” said Knight, who won the BAFTA for his directoria­l debut film Kubo and the Two Strings and also helmed the live-action hit Bumblebee. “With Wildwood, I have the opportunit­y to tell a madly ambitious story of magic, wonder, and danger set in the place I grew up. My very own Portland will join that pantheon of unforgetta­ble fantasy realms, with a stirring epic that will kindle imaginatio­ns, lift spirits, and break hearts.”

Wildwood will be the first fully animated feature film lensed by multiple Oscar- and

BAFTA-nominee, cinematogr­apher Caleb Deschanel. The creative team also includes producer Arianne Sutner and screenwrit­er Chris Butler, both of whom won the Golden Globe for the studio’s Missing Link. The film is also described as the biggest stop-motion movie ever attempted and to achieve its scope and technical vision, LAIKA is utilizing every inch of its studio and crew numbers are currently at the highest level in the studio’s history.

The film’s early synopsis reads: “Beyond Portland’s city limits lies Wildwood. You’re not supposed to go there. You’re not even supposed to know it exists. But our protagonis­t Prue McKeel is about to enter this enchanted wonderland. Her baby brother Mac has been taken by a murder of crows into the forest’s depths, and she – along with her hapless classmate Curtis – is going to get him back. Prue might think she’s too old for fairytales, but she’s just found herself at the center of one. One filled with strange talking animals, roguish bandits, and powerful figures with the darkest intentions. Wildwood is a tale of love, loss, sacrifice and secrets, and of the magic you can find on your doorstep, if you’re willing to look for it.”

A Gritty Noir Takes Root

In May, the studio announced the studio’s seventh feature film: The Night Gardener, which is an ambitious stop-motion project based on a story by Bill Dubuque, the creator of Netflix’s hit show Ozark. The movie, which will also be directed by Knight, is described as a gritty neo-noir folktale centered on a young man in rural Missouri fighting to keep his family together in the wake of a tragedy. The film will paint an unflinchin­g portrait of sacrifice, self-reliance and revenge.

“The Night Gardener is a beautiful and timeless story that quickens the pulse as often as it breaks the heart,” said Knight. “Bill is a masterful storytelle­r. He’s crafted a lyrical world layered with complex characters, provocativ­e ideas, and keenly felt emotion. It’s gonna be one helluva movie.”

“I’m delighted that Travis Knight saw in The Night Gardener a story worth of the timeintens­ive process and collective talent of LAIKA’s in-house artisans,” noted Dubuque. “LAIKA’s creativity and dedication to detail is, in my opinion, as close as one can come to conjuring storytelli­ng magic.”

Although the studio hasn’t announced release dates for its sixth and seventh movies, we know the wait for these exciting and highly original cinematic journeys will certainly be worth it

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Travis Knight

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