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Laika Showcases Behind-the-Scenes Magic in New Exhibit

by | Dec 4, 2017


Good friend of Animation Mentor Malana McFarlen visited the Portland Art Museum last week to see an exhibit on the work of stop-motion animation studio Laika! Luckily she was able to snap some photos and tell us a little about the experience—in case you can’t make it out to Portland. If you can, seems like it’s definitely worth a visit! Here are some highlights.

The Portland Art Museum is featuring the work of Laika called ”Animating Life” until May 20, 2018. Laika, formerly Will Vinton Studios, is a stop-motion animation studio headquartered in Hillsboro, Oregon (near Portland).

The company makes its movies using an old-fashioned filmmaking technique called stop-motion animation, which requires animators to manipulate miniature puppets frame-by-frame to simulate motion.

Although the puppets are small, they require large, custom-built sets to create the world around the characters. So Laika needs a large soundstage to make its films. The warehouse where all this takes place has recently been expanded to 250,000 square feet.

ParaNorman House

House from ParaNorman (2012)

Pieces of those sound stages, and sets, as well as artboards and puppets are showcased at the exhibit.


A scene from The Boxtrolls (2014)

The two photos below are examples of Look Development. Every Laika film strives for a unique look and LookDev is where designers, model makers and painters explore materials and ideas for the film.



Laika uses 3D printing to create the facial expressions of their characters. Pictured below is a wall of faces that shows the transformation between expressions.


Puppets from the films show the incredible detail required in fabricating the clothing, textiles and accessories that bring a character’s personality into being.


At the exhibit you’ll also see the world’s largest animation puppet created for the fight scenes in the film, Kubo and the Two Strings”(2016). You’ll also see how the filmmakers created a mechanical ocean and swimming monsters for the film.



This exhibit continues until May so if you’re in Portland, be sure to check it out! Here’s more information on visiting the museum.

Want to learn more about stop-motion animation? Check out our in-depth Q&A with Laika Animator Jeff Riley about his work on Kubo and the Two Strings!

Want to learn from professional animators?

Start your journey by learning with professional animators from a variety of major studios and career paths! Get more information about Animation Mentor’s Character Animation Courses.

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