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Theatrical release poster
|Written by||Chris Butler|
|Music by||Jon Brion|
|Edited by||Christopher Murrie|
|Distributed by||Focus Features|
|Box office||$107.1 million|
ParaNorman is a 2012 American stop-motion animated comedy horror film, produced by Laika and distributed by Focus Features. Directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler, from a screenplay by Butler, it stars the voices of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill, Jodelle Ferland, Tempestt Bledsoe, Alex Borstein and John Goodman. It is the first stop-motion film to use a 3D color printer to create character faces, and only the second to be shot in 3D. In the film, Norman, a young boy who can communicate with ghosts, is given the task of ending a 300 year-old witch's curse on his Massachusetts town.
ParaNorman was released on August 17, 2012. It received mainly positive reviews and was a modest box office success, earning $107 million worldwide against its budget of $60 million. The film was nominated for that year's Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film.
In the small town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts, Norman Babcock is an 11-year-old boy who speaks with the dead, including his late grandmother and various ghosts in town. Almost no one believes him and he is isolated emotionally from his family while being ridiculed by his peers. His best friend, Neil Downe, is an overweight boy who is bullied himself and finds in Norman a kindred spirit. After rehearsal of a school play commemorating the town's execution of a witch three centuries ago, the boys are confronted by Norman's estranged and seemingly deranged uncle, Mr. Prenderghast, who tells his nephew that he soon must take up his regular ritual to protect the town. Soon after this encounter, Mr. Prenderghast dies.
During the official performance of the school play, Norman has a vision of the town's past in which he is pursued through the woods by townsfolk on a witch hunt, embarrassing himself and leading to a heated argument with his father Perry, who later grounds him. His mother Sandra tells him that his father's stern manner is because he is afraid for him. The next day, Norman sees Prenderghast's spirit who tells him that the ritual must be performed with a certain book before sundown that day; then making him swear to complete the task, Prenderghast's spirit is set free and crosses over. Norman is at first reluctant to go because he is scared but his grandmother tells him it is all right to be scared as long as he does not let it change who he is. Norman sets off to retrieve the book from Prenderghast's house (having to take it from his corpse).
He then goes to the graves of the five men and two women who were cursed by the witch, but finds that the book is merely a series of fairy tales. Alvin, a school bully, arrives and prevents Norman from reading the story before sundown. Norman attempts to continue reading from the book, to no effect. A ghostly storm resembling the witch appears in the air, summoning the cursed dead to arise as zombies, who chase the boys along with Norman's 17-year-old sister, Courtney; and Neil's older brother Mitch, down the hill and into town. Having realized that the witch was not buried in the graveyard, Norman contacts classmate Salma (who tells them to access the Town Hall's archives for the location of the witch's unmarked grave) for help. As the kids make their way to the Town Hall, the zombies are attacked by the citizenry. During the riot, Norman and his companions break into the archives but cannot find the information they need. As the mob moves to attack Town Hall, the witch storm appears over the crowd. Norman climbs the Hall's tower to read the book, in a last-ditch effort to finish the ritual, but the witch strikes the book with lightning, hurling Norman from the tower and deep into the archives.
Unconscious, Norman has a dream where he learns that the witch was Agatha "Aggie" Prenderghast, a little girl of his age who was also a medium. Norman realizes that Aggie was wrongfully convicted by the town council when they mistook her powers for witchcraft. After awakening, Norman encounters the zombies and recognizes them as the town council who convicted Aggie. The zombies and their leader, the late Judge Hopkins admit that they only wanted to speak with him to ensure that he would take up the ritual, to minimize the damage of the mistake they made so long ago. Norman attempts to help the zombies slip away so they can guide him to Aggie's grave, but is cornered by the mob. Courtney, Mitch, Neil, and Alvin rally to Norman's side and confront the crowd, arguing that their rage, fear, and misunderstanding make them no different than the cursed townsfolk from long ago. Although the mob calms down, the witch unleashes her powers to create greater havoc throughout the town.
Judge Hopkins guides Norman's family to the grave in a forest. Before the grave is reached, Aggie's magical powers separate Norman from the others. Norman finds the grave and interacts with Aggie's vengeful spirit, determined to stop the cataclysmic tantrum she has been having over the years. Though she attempts to push him away Norman holds his ground, telling her that he understands how she feels as an outcast, that her vengeance has only made her like the ones who wronged her, and eventually forcing her to remember happier days. Having finally encountered someone who understands her plight and by remembering her caring mother, Aggie is able to find a measure of peace and cross over to the afterlife (having the opportunity to be reunited with her mother). The storm dissipates, and she, the zombies and even the Judge all fade away. The town cleans up and regards Norman as a hero. In the end, Norman watches a horror film with the ghost of his grandmother and his family, who have grown to accept Norman for who he is.
The idea of the film came from Chris Butler, who, realizing that zombie films often contained a degree of social commentary, thought making such a movie for kids could help express the challenges kids face growing up.
Production of the stop-motion animation feature took place at Laika's studio in Hillsboro, Oregon. The film was in production for three years, with the animating stage of production lasting about two years and beginning in late 2009. Rather than using traditional 3D format cameras, the studio had sixty Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR cameras film the movie. Advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy created the campaign for the film. ParaNorman is the first ever stop motion film to use full-color 3D printers for replacement animation. Laika's previous film Coraline had pioneered and popularized the use of black and white 3D printers, which sped up puppet production considerably and allowed the team to make the large number of puppet faces required for the film. "Quite often it’s the stop-motion movies that are more out there," co-director Fell told The New York Times. "They're a little quirkier, they're a little harder to pin down."
Jon Brion composed the film's score, and an accompanying soundtrack album was released on August 14, 2012. Bits of other music appear in the film, including the theme music from Halloween, the Donovan song "Season of the Witch" (sung by the school play cast) and "Fix Up, Look Sharp" by British rapper Dizzee Rascal. "Little Ghost", a White Stripes song from their 2005 album Get Behind Me Satan, plays at the end, over character cards identifying the main cast. However, one track in the film, an updated version of "Aggie Fights", was not included in the soundtrack.
ParaNorman received largely positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 88% of critics have given the film positive reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10 based on 176 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Beautifully animated and solidly scripted, ParaNorman will entertain (and frighten) older children while providing surprisingly thoughtful fare for their parents." Review aggregator Metacritic calculated a score of 72, based on 33 reviews, or "generally favorable reviews." Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B+.
Justin Chang of Variety wrote in his review, "Few movies so taken with death have felt so rudely alive as ParaNorman, the latest handcrafted marvel from the stop-motion artists at Laika." Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter said, "It has its entertaining moments, but this paranormal stop-motion animated comedy-chiller cries out for more activity."
ParaNorman earned $56 million in North America, and $51.1 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $107.1 million. The film premiered in Mexico on August 3, 2012, opening in second place with box office receipts of $2.2 million, behind The Dark Knight Rises. For its opening weekend in North America, the film placed third, with receipts of $14 million, behind The Expendables 2 and The Bourne Legacy. Travis Knight, head of the studio that produced the film, believed the box office total was fine, but did not live up to his expectations.
The film has drawn attention for the revelation in its final scenes that supporting character Mitch is gay, making him the first openly gay character in a mainstream animated film. Nancy French of National Review Online suggested that the film could lead parents "to answer unwanted questions about sex and homosexuality on the way home from the movie theater." Conversely, Mike Ryan of The Huffington Post cited Mitch's inclusion as one of the reasons why ParaNorman is "remarkable." Co-director Chris Butler said that the character was explicitly connected with the film's message: "If we're saying to anyone that watches this movie don't judge other people, then we've got to have the strength of our convictions." In 2013, ParaNorman was the first-ever PG-rated movie nominated by GLAAD in its annual GLAAD Media Awards.
|Academy Awards||Best Animated Feature||Sam Fell, Chris Butler||Nominated|
|Alliance of Women Film Journalists||Best Animated Film||Won|
|Annie Awards||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Directing in an Animated Feature Production||Sam Fell, Chris Butler||Nominated|
|Animated Effects in an Animated Production||Andrew Nawrot, Joe Gorski, Grant Lake||Nominated|
|Character Animation in a Feature Production||Travis Knight||Won|
|Character Design in an Animated Feature Production||Heidi Smith||Won|
|Production Design in an Animated Feature Production||Nelson Lowry, Ross Stewart, Pete Oswald, Ean McNamara, Trevor Dalmer||Nominated|
|Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production||Emmanuela Cozzi||Nominated|
|Writing in an Animated Feature Production||Chris Butler||Nominated|
|BAFTA Awards||Best Animated Film||Nominated|
|Chicago Film Critics Association||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|Critics Choice Awards||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association||Best Animated Film||Won|
|Denver Film Critics Society||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|GLAAD Media Awards||Outstanding Film - Wide Release||Nominated|
|Houston Film Critics Society||Best Animated Film||Nominated|
|Indiana Film Critics Association||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Las Vegas Film Critics Society||Best Animated Film||Won|
|New York Film Critics Circle Awards||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Online Film Critics Society||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|Phoenix Film Critics Society||Best Animated Film||Nominated|
|Producers Guild of America||Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures||Travis Knight, Arianne Sutner||Nominated|
|San Diego Film Critics Society||Best Animated Film||Won|
|San Francisco Film Critics Circle||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|Satellite Awards||Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media||Nominated|
|Saturn Awards||Best Animated Film||Sam Fell and Chris Butler||Nominated|
|Southeastern Film Critics Association||Best Animated Film||Won|
|St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association||Best Animated Film||Nominated|
|Toronto Film Critics Association Awards||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|Utah Film Critics Association||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|Visual Effects Society||Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture||Chris Butler, Sam Fell, Travis Knight, Brad Schiff||Nominated|
|Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature Motion Picture||Graveyard: Phil Brotherton, Robert Desue, Oliver Jones, Nick Mariana||Nominated|
|Main Street: Alice Bird, Matt Delue, Caitlin Pashalek||Nominated|
|Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture||Practical Volumetrics: Aidan Fraser, Joe Gorski, Eric Kuehne, Andrew Nawrot||Nominated|
|Angry Aggie Ink-Blot Electricity: Michael Cordova, Grant Laker, Susanna Luck, Peter Vickery||Nominated|
|Washington D. C. Area Film Critics Association||Best Animated Feature||Won|
Norman Babcock is an 11-year-old branded a freak because he can speak to the dead.
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