You shouldn’t judge this troll by its box because The Boxtrolls is one of the best animated films of the year!
The Film ✮✮✮✮
The Boxtrolls tells the story of a society of creatures who live underneath the city Cheesebridge. They are called Boxtrolls because they, simply, are trolls that wear boxes. They lurk in the shadows and come to the surface at night to ransack garbage bins, looking for gadgets and gizmos to take back to their home. One day, the Boxtrolls steal a young boy and proceed to raise him as their own. As a result of this treacherous deed, the city’s leaders, known as White Hats because of the large pompous hats with with they ornate themselves, call upon a man named Snatcher to exterminate them. Snatcher covets the White Hat and agrees to exterminate every last Boxtroll in the city, in exchange for a prestigious hat. Getting rid of the Boxtrolls takes a few years though and we see the little boy, now named Eggs, grow up. But as his Boxtroll family disappears one by one, he realizes that it’s up to him to head up to the human world to save them himself.
The characters, especially the grunting Boxtrolls, are surprisingly enjoyable. Despite not being able to talk, the Boxtrolls each have distinct personalities and character arcs. One way LAIKA was able to do this was to differentiate them not only by size and stature, but also my the boxes they wear. One wears a box with a picture of a fish, so his name is Fish. Another wears a box of an oil can, so his name is Can. In a movie filled with a variety of characters, this simple way to distinguish and remember them. Another favorite was the bossy Winnie, who stole to show in all her scenes.
The story may have a few flaws here and there, but what really makes The Boxtrolls stand out is how it pushes forward the medium of stop motion. Never before has there been a stop-motion film done one quite this expansive scale. In some scenes there are hundreds of characters and props that it’s almost mind boggling how LAIKA was able to achieve it. The animation is top notch and sets the standard for what to expect in a stop-motion animated film.
Bonus Features ✮✮✮✮ 1/2
If you’re like most stop-motion fans, then you’re probably fascinated about the process of creating an stop-motion animated film. LAIKA knows this and, as a result, created some robust and incredible bonus features for The Boxtrolls Blu-ray.
First up are some Preliminary Animatic Sequences, which are moving storyboards from various unused or exploratory scenes from the film. The Boxtrolls directors Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable provide an insightful and delightful commentary, helping the viewer further understand how the story evolved into the final product.
Next up are the Dare To Be Square: Behind The Scenes of The Boxtrolls featurettes, which are a series of behind-the-scenes videos explaining the process of making this extraordinary film. The various sections focus on voice acting, designing the Boxtrolls unique boxes, animating Snatcher’s peculiar food allergy, deconstructing the ball room scene and the design of the Mecha Drill. What I loved most about these bonus features were how in depth they went into the process and how on pointe the topics were. For example, I remember watching the ballroom scene thinking, “How on earth do they animate that?” It’s as if LAIKA took the frequently asked questions about the film and turned them into featurettes for everyone to see.
Next up are five mini Featurettes that further dive into the world of the Boxtrolls and the LAIKA’s stop-motion process. These focus on replicating natural elements such as plants and fire, the Boxtrolls’ unique language, the difficulties animating Snatcher’s face, the intricacies of the ballroom scene’s clothing, and the design of the Mecha Drill. There is some overlap in the content between these featurettes and the behind-the-scenes ones, but there is enough of a difference to keep them interesting. That being said, I wish these could have been a bit more diverse in their subject matter.
Lastly is a Feature Commentary with Directors Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable. Anyone who is a fan of director’s commentaries will fall in love with this one. Yet again, the directors take this as an opportunity to divulge the secrets of stop-motion animation and all the work arounds they had to do to achieve certain shots. In addition to talking about the film’s design and story, they also call out the talents of those involved in certain scenes, which is always welcome for those interested in the people behind the puppets.
The Boxtrolls is like a fine cheese: it gets better with age. Although I was thoroughly enjoyed the movie the first time I saw it, this time I really realized how much I truly loved this film and the stop-motion esthetic.The stop-motion animation is intricate, the character design is grungy yet appealing, and the plot is tight and expertly executed. If you haven’t given this film a chance, then this home media release is your opportunity. Buy it, rent it–just support the film. Like with all LAIKA films, you won’t be disappointed. The Boxtrolls is yet another LAIKA masterpiece.
Read our full movie review of the The Boxtrolls here.