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Paranorman: Stopmotion at its finest

By Patrick Phillips
On August 30, 2012

We live in an age where computer generated imagery (CGI)
rules the cinema. Hand-drawn movies have been shipped out, and digitally animated films seem to have taken their place. However, the same is not true for stop-motion films such as Nightmare Before Christmas and Fantastic Mr. Fox. So
what is it about stop-motion films that continue to intrigue us? I set off to answer this very question, popcorn in hand, as
I bought my ticket for Chris Butler's new stop-motion film,
ParaNorman. Norman, the main character, is an outcast both in his family and at school because he can communicate with the dead. Respected by the deceased yet dubbed a "freak" by the living, Norman is conflicted about whether he should view his ability as a blessing or a curse. The plot centers around the eve of the evil Witch's execution. Norman must use his ability to stop the 300-year-old Witch from raising
the dead back to life. What may sound like a bland, mediocre story actually leads to a roller coaster of laughs, chills and discovery thanks to its medium (no pun intended) and script.
At its core, stop-motion is artistically appealing. ParaNorman is hands-down one of the most visually beautiful films I have seen (minus the whole decaying-people-walking-around thing). From the detailed, miniature clothing on the characters to the vast, handcrafted environments, I could not take my eyes off the screen. There were multiple times throughout
the film when I had to remind myself that everything was made by hand. In addition, the film pays great homage to horror films from the late-80s and early 90s. For instance, Norman's ringtone is the theme to Halloween a major win for this horror-movie junkie. ParaNorman's story screamed for the medium of a stop-motion animation. ParaNorman's script
required such a hands-on intimacy to delve into the psyche of Norman. The film is about his self-discovery and acceptance, and one could feel every moment of uncertainty, struggle and strength in his silicone eyes. Every shot of film was meticulously molded and analyzed, fully bringing Norman's growth to life. It's this liveliness of ParaNorman that connects the audience to the filmmakers, making ParaNorman a unique and touching film- which is ironic, since it's about zombies. The strengths of ParaNorman are most accentuated through stop-motion, making it the perfect example of the technique. Each film calls for its own foundation of force. For films like ParaNorman, stop-motion animation is that foundation.  


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