Breckenridge Film Festival presentation offers behind-the-scenes look at ‘The BoxTrolls’ |

Breckenridge Film Festival presentation offers behind-the-scenes look at ‘The BoxTrolls’

A scene from the movie "The BoxTrolls," produced by animation studio Laika. Mark Shapiro will give a behind-the-scenes presentation of the film and its techniques this Thursday and Friday.
©2014 BOXTROLLS , LLC. |

If You Go

What: “The BoxTrolls:” Behind-the-scenes look at stop-motion animation

When: Presentation #1, 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 26

Where: Speakeasy Theater and Grand Vacation Community Center Hopefull Room, 103 S. Harris St., Breckenridge

When: Presentation #2, 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 27

Where: Skyline Cinema 8, 312 Dillon Ridge Rd., Dillon

Cost: Tickets are $5 for children and $10 for adults in advance (purchase them online at, with ticket prices increasing by $2 at the door.

More information: Visit

One good week of work creates about 2 to 3 seconds of movie time at Laika animation studio. That’s the reality of using the stop-motion technique, which has resulted in such films as “Coraline” (2009) and “ParaNorman” (2012) and “The BoxTrolls,” nominated this year for an Oscar for Best Animated Picture.

This week, the Breckenridge Film Festival invited Laika marketing and brand manager Mark Shapiro to come to Breckenridge and give a behind-the-scenes presentation on just how the Laika studio works its magic.


In the increasingly digital world of film production, Laika stands out in its use of stop-motion, which requires sets, costumes and actors to be made by hand, from scratch. However, this is a challenge taken on gleefully.

“It’s an incredible company to be associated with,” Shapiro said. “There’s artists everywhere, in every department; creativity abounds here. There’s a sense of excitement because we’re doing things in a medium that really isn’t done in this capacity anywhere else. And being around that sort of energy, that vibe, is intoxicating.”

Stop-motion animation, according to a Breckenridge Film Festival news release, “is a cinematic process, or technique, used to make static objects appear as if they were moving. It is commonly used in Claymation and puppet-based animation. Much like a picture flipbook, stop-motion animation employs objects that are moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence.”

This means, for instance, that the puppet “actors” each have an array of faces in different poses that are switched in and out as the puppet talks and reacts emotionally.

“When characters speak, we change faces for every vowel,” Shapiro said. He estimated that 1 second of dialogue requires around 24 faces. All the still elements, such as clothing, fabrics, metals and molds are made by hand and manipulated second by second. Portraying moving effects like smoke, fire and water is when the digital team steps in. The end result is a film that blends historic techniques of puppetry with modern digital technology.

“I think you can see an incredible evolution,” Shapiro said of the films the studio has worked on. “2009 (when ‘Coraline’ came out) is not that long ago, but the technology and what we can do with it has really advanced.”


The presentation is part of the Breckenridge Film Festival’s move to expand beyond the week of the September festival and provide year-round events. The presentation will be held two nights in two different places — at the Speakeasy Theatre in Breckenridge on Thursday, Feb. 26, and at Skyline Cinema 8 in Dillon on Friday, Feb. 27.

Shapiro will bring several props, including some puppets used in the filming of “The BoxTrolls” movie, to demonstrate how the animators work behind the scenes. He also will show some vignettes on screen and talk about the creative process and the various challenges the creators face when making a stop-motion animated movie. People will be able to see the puppets up close, take pictures and ask questions throughout.

“I’m really looking forward to being there and getting feedback,” Shapiro said. “I love hearing from the audience, I love the interaction, talking about the film and bringing this to the audience.”

Anyone of any age will enjoy the performance, he added. Children, students, artists, adults who love art and storytelling — “This is going to be right up their alley.”

And, of course, the audience can expect to be entertained.

“The content that I’m presenting will be very similar in style to the movie itself,” Shapiro said. “So I think it’s entertaining, it’s fun and also interesting. I think people will really like it.”

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