LAIKA, the stop-motion animation studio behind the Academy Award-nominated Kubo and the Two Strings, The Boxtrolls, ParaNorman, and Coraline, has announced its fifth film. The feature, which is currently being referred to as simply “Film Five,” is in production at the studio and will be released in the U.S. by Annapurna Pictures. The announcement was made today by LAIKA President & CEO Travis Knight and Megan Ellison, Founder and CEO of Annapurna Pictures.
Though it doesn’t yet have a title, the presumably original story for “Film Five” is described briefly as follows: “Bursting with humor, heart, and a profound message of acceptance and finding one’s place, the animation team at LAIKA is thrilled to be bringing this globetrotting comedy-adventure to life.” Chris Butler (ParaNorman) directs a voice cast led by Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana and Zach Galifianakis. The film was previously announced as having a May 18, 2018 release date, but no follow-up date has been announced just yet.
Here’s what Knight had to say about the future for LAIKA and “Film Five”:
“Our next film represents an evolutionary shift for LAIKA. It’s an exciting bridge to our future. Director Chris Butler and the wizards at LAIKA have crafted a moving work of art, layered with wit and imagination and soul. Plus it’s really, really funny. It’s a privilege to partner with Megan and her exceptional team at Annapurna to bring this beautiful original story to the world.”
Ellison followed up, saying:
“We’re excited for the opportunity to collaborate with Travis and the amazing team at LAIKA. We appreciate their trust and look forward to having some fun together.”
The switch over to Annapurna Pictures from Focus Features, which has released all of the studio’s films to date, is an interesting one. It might not be just the technological evolution that is shifting at LAIKA but also their distribution model. The studio, niche though it may be thanks to the painstaking, slow, and expensive approach to animation, released its best box-office performer almost ten years ago with its first film, Coraline. The feature films, be they originals or adaptations, have had decreasing performances at the domestic box office each time, even as the critical acclaim and awards nominations pile up and technological achievements make a LAIKA stop-motion film more and more difficult to distinguish from straight computer-generated animation. Their craft is incredible; I only wish the payday would reflect that.
Maybe that’ll change under Annapurna’s approach. Still a relatively small distributor with relatively few solo releases and more co-distributions, Annapurna is pumping up its own distribution game with more than a dozen titles to come in the years ahead. Here’s hoping the partnership between LAIKA and Annapurna is a lucrative one for both parties that keeps the stop-motion animated gems coming for years ahead. Bringing Butler back into the fold at the director’s chair and landing that stellar core cast with international appeal certainly goes a long, long way.