Wednesday, 15 May 2013

ParaNorman 5*

"Leave me alone." "Sad and lonely and had no-one to turn to."
"Just like them, you're a bully."
"Stupid people who did something unforgivable because they were scared. Just like you."

Preview Vivid reds and blues pop from spooky ghost green goo. Country-western twangs amid plaintive sweet strings. Halloween fright is really about injustice, forgiveness, change, unexpected support.

NOT just a silly cartoon, rather a hopeful message lies beneath for people, especially children, who may feel they do not belong in this "real" world. Shock plot twist is a spoiler to tell. Also in the "Extras:", we learn that heroes can grow up from unusual "Norman"-style childhood.

Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee), age 11, has more friends who shimmer corpse green than ball-caps on red-necks in small tourist town Blithe Holow ("a great place to hang"), even a dog. Ghostly Gramma (Elaine Stritch) says spirits "still have stuff to figure out or died in sudden or weird way". Killed as a witch by early puritan founders three centuries before, ancestor Agatha (Jodelle Ferland) cursed everyone forever.

Bubbly teen sister cheerleader Courtney (Anna Kendrick) bounces perky blonde ponytail. Flks Brenda (Leslie Mann) and Perry (Jeff Garlin) criticize. Uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman), insane "stinky old bum", expires wheezing "The witches' curse is real, and you're the one who has to stop it.", before the sun sets tonight, by reading from "the book".

His deceased grandmother (Elaine Stritch) hangs (out) on the couch. Portly classmate Neil (Tucker Albrizzi- real freckled red-hair tubby) extends a hand.

Norm: I like to be alone.
Neil: So do I. Let's do it together.
You can't stop bullying. It's part of human nature .. survival of the thickest.
"You never listen. No-one ever listens. I'm scared, too, but I've still got to do this."

Neil's deltoid-heavy jock brother Mitch (Casey Affleck), oldest "not mentally", Courtney's crush, drives van for the unlikely team to flee zombies. Bully Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Fishlegs), aspiring hip-hopper, tags along at the crucial moment. "Now the geeks are in charge".


Roaring storm. Zombies. Chase. Crash.
Zombies like drunken casino and modern TV.
Battle. "The most fun night ever."
"Happy endings .. there's always someone out there for you somewhere." "How does it end?" "I think that's up to you." Sad. Sweet. Hopeful. Soft strings. Surprise, Mitch to Courtney: "You're going to love my boyfriend" ----------

Questions: 1 Why are Norman's blue eyes octagonal?


1.0 Preliminary Animatic Sequences 3

- sketch sequences and dialog, cut for time? 1 Walking with ghosts 4'
2 Bromance 2'
3 Missing ghosts 2'

2.0 Peering through the Veil: Behind scenes 5*

1 That's ParaNorman - "the most ambitious stop-motion ever"
2 Creating a world - "cross between Concord and Salem... kitsch tourism .. some age" "crusty bits", characters "well-observed yet radical, slightly unhinged, messy, yet brutally honest" "beautiful and ugly like real people", "no straight line .. all askew", "insane detail" makes me want to go through again, scene by scene, "signature feel"
3 Voicing ParaNorman - "dream cast", improvised ad-lib, "one of the most times", got together in one booth, one page moan, scream, ah, pfft!
4 Building characters - physical puppets, tiny metal armature skeleton, guitar stringer belly mover for Neil, hair by hair, curl by curl, 275 spikes per Norman wig
5 Making faces - color print every expression onto mask, layer 7x thinner than human hair, baked surface reflects light like human skin, ears transparent like real

6 Rigging the game - 24 frames per second, in house rigs hold puppet up during pause, strings painted out later, toilet paper zombies took 1 person 1 year, tiny flying zombie snot and drool real rather than computerized = "live performance"
7 Bringing the undead to life - "performance art at the speed of a glacier", physically demanding, high, hot, sharp, still, "takes you somewhere else in your head", "a part of you has to do it", "promise to touch the world, to tell bold, distinctive and enduring stories"
8 Angry Aggie - rare cooperation, hand-drawn bridges stop-motion and computer, every department, fractured CDs, frenetic anger and innocence, silicon center, volatile "made of lightning bolts"
9 Wierd and wonderful - "magical place", human hand in every blade of grass, "mole people that play with dolls" "strarry eyed dreamers ..make emotional resonance"

3.0 Featurettes:

1 You don't become a hero by being normal - "artists in general are strange people", Laika as kids, "message behind .. you don't have to fit in", "outsiders .. playing together", "you can be yourself and get by .. and be accepted" #weirdwins
2 A Norman childhood "hated school . didn't fit in", "just get on", "the best years of your life are when you start to do what you want to do .. become who you wanted to be .. when you're a grownup you get to do whatever you like and be whatever you want"
3 Playing as a profession
4 Making Norman - build, paint, clothe, waken
5 This little light - all steps to build one small study lamp model
6 Have you ever seen a ghost? - experiences and beliefs of cast and crew
7 The Zombies of ParaNorman - homage to classic slow movement (On TV InnerSpace, Ajay joked zombies wouldn't invade our Canadian Parliament because they are looking for brains. Tee-hee.)

4.0 Commentary by writer/director Chris Butler, director Sam Fell

first shot grabs, brain missing bite stamped by red stiletto
sneak answer from start = sit down and talk
shot from Norman's eye level - who noticed?
no adult sees eye to eye with Norman
12 weeks for first walk with ghosts, added lens flare

whole back story in school play rehearsal
removed uncle smoking cigarettes and cigar
hat, beaver holds wrench, for crew
slow first act to care about people, contrast later action

many nods to horror movies, uncle behind bush is Michael Myers in Halloween, I'd miss all those inspired by real and horror movies
e.g. teen nudity, unusual, surface wrinkles unlike skin
iconic moments from other films - Jurassic Park, Lord of the Rings, Sam Remy-esque, John Hughes - who? van - Scooby Doo
Selma phoned in own bedroom, useless help, driver

300 yr old Puritans in 21st century would be terrified, mob is character, used "Day of Locusts"
goofy music, silly trombone, lighten mob severe fury
shock of witch being kid needs quiet time to soak in
"I'm Spartacus" (huh?) everyone on screen together

Angry Aggie looks like Norman's relative
deafening silence
emotional climax = time to move on
real reflection of one puppet in another's eyes

everyone sees as Norman does, zombies turn into Puritans and vanish
wrap up all loose ends
return to beginning, Gran on couch with Perry making awkward effort
end credits like old horror film posters
2 1/2 years work

Previews: Coraline 3D
Setup: Spoken - English, Espanol, Francais
Subtitles - English, Espanol, Francais

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