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First Four Laika Releases Get Special Edition Blu-rays

I’ll take any chance to sing the praises of Laika, one of the most creatively vibrant studios of the modern era. They don’t have the history of Pixar, Studio Ghibli, or even Aardman, and so they don’t seem to get the same degree of critical or commercial attention, but history will be incredibly kind to the output of these stop-motion geniuses, a group that has yet to falter and has delivered at least three of the best animated films of the new millennium (and I would accept arguments that insist that total is four and maybe even five). What elevates Laika? It’s a marriage of visuals and storytelling. Their films are captivating works of art, but they never forget to wed their striking imagery to creative, vibrant characters and plots. They remind me of the creative voices who fueled my youth, and children are lucky to have them active (although they’ve been less-so lately, including working on their first live-action film the upcoming “Seventeen.” Don’t worry, a sixth stop-motion work called “Wildwood” is also in production.)

So why talk about Laika again? Shout Factory has released their first four films in gorgeous new Blu-ray special editions. Sampling bits and pieces of the films I know by heart reveals stronger HD transfers—I even compared “Coraline” on this edition to the last Blu-ray and the colors appear richer with the shadows more subtle. Each release also includes new and old special features, listed below, along with a quote from our review of each film, and a link to buy the release. Get all four. (And then go pick up “Missing Link” and count the days till “Wildwood.” I know I am.)

“Coraline”

“I admire the film mostly because it is good to look at. Selick is as unconventional in his imagery as Gaiman is in his writing, and this is a movie for people who know and care about drawing, caricature, grotesquerie and the far shores of storytelling. In short, you might care little about a fantasy, little indeed about this story, and still admire the artistry of it all, including an insidious score by Bruno Coulais, which doesn't pound at us like many horror scores, but gets under our psychic fingernails.”—Roger Ebert

Buy it here 

Special Features

NEW Never-Before-Seen Coraline Animation Test Footage
NEW "Inside LAIKA Featurette"
NEW Foreword by Peter Debruge, Chief Film Critic for Variety
Audio Commentary with Director Henry Selick and Composer Bruno Coulais
The Making Of Coraline
Original Featurettes
Deleted Scenes
Feature-Length Storyboards 

“Paranorman”

Sadly, Roger Ebert never published a review of “Paranorman,” so I’ll quote my review from a previous outlet, HollywoodChicago.com: “Conceived as 'John Hughes meets John Carpenter,' "ParaNorman" has definite echoes of ‘80s action/horror films like "The Goonies" and "Gremlins." It has a spirit of adventure that has simply been too-often supplanted by pop culture references and bodily humor in modern animation. Writer/directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell understand so many important elements of their art that other, more consumer-oriented filmmakers miss. Most importantly, they don’t play down to their audience, realizing that quality children’s entertainment doesn’t placate young ones but sparks their imaginations. Animation too often becomes a placeholder, an electronic babysitter for a few hours. "ParaNorman” never gives one the feeling that it was created out of anything less than passion for the form of storytelling.”—Brian Tallerico

Buy it here 

Special Features

NEW Feature-Length Storyboards
NEW Inside LAIKA Featurette
NEW Never-Before-Seen ParaNorman Animation Test Footage
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Chris Butler and Co-Director Sam Fell
"Peering Through the Veil"
Original Featurettes 

The Boxtrolls

“'The Boxtrolls' is a beautiful example of the potential in LAIKA's stop-motion approach, and the images onscreen are tactile and layered. But, as always, it's the story that really matters, and the story told here is funny, ugly, poignant and true.”—Sheila O’Malley

Buy it here 

Special Features

NEW Never-Before-Seen The Boxtrolls Animation Test Footage
NEW "Inside LAIKA' Featurette
NEW Feature-Length Storyboards
NEW Foreword by Ramin Zahed, the Editor in Chief of Animation Magazine
Audio Commentary with Directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi
The Making of The Boxtrolls
Original Featurettes 

“Kubo and the Two Strings”

“Above all else, 'Kubo and the Two Strings' is fittingly about storytelling and its capacity to transform and connect us. The timelessness of the film gives it an overall feeling of cinematic grace, with obvious nods to greats ranging from Kurosawa and Miyazaki to Spielberg and Lucas. The resonance of the performances from its excellent voice cast gives it an immediate emotional punch.”—Christy Lemire

Buy it here 

Special Features

NEW Feature-Length Storyboards
NEW Inside LAIKA Featurette
NEW Never-Before-Seen Kubo and the Two Strings Animation Test Footage
Audio Commentary with Director/Producer Travis Knight
"Kubo's Journey"
Original Featurettes


Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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