LAIKA has become renowned in the past few years for being one of the few studios to create successful animated features within the niche medium of stop motion. They’re even more notable for being among one of the smaller animation companies to achieve success and name recognition in what is becoming an increasingly crowded space for feature animation. Coming off their biggest box-office debut ever for the company with The Boxtrolls, it’s no wonder that a certain company would want them to stay under their tent for little while longer.
Collider has reported that LAIKA and their distribution partner, Focus Features, have officially signed off on a deal that will extend their partnership for three more films. As always, Focus will distribute their films domestically, while their parent company Universal Pictures will continue serving as the international distributor.
It’s currently unknown at this point as to what project may be next from LAIKA, but we do know of at least two possible projects that could be on the way.
Wildwood is an adaptation of the children’s fantasy novel written by Colin Meloy (singer-songwriter and frontman for The Decemberists) with illustrations by his wife, Carson Ellis. The novel details the story of Prue and Curtis, two seventh-graders who venture into a hidden, magical forest while trying to rescue Prue’s baby brother, who’s been kidnapped by crows. Along the way, they are entwined in an epic and violent power struggle involving the land’s inhabitants.
The first in a trilogy of novels, Wildwood would signal a drastic tone-shift away from the usual goth-horror trappings that characterized their first three films. It’s fantasy world has more in common with the works of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, but deeply engrossed within the geography and folklore of its Portland, Oregon setting (where LAIKA operates). It would definitely be a unique undertaking, as straight-up fantasy doesn’t get explored much in animation, even in the smaller world of stop-motion.
The novel was optioned by LAIKA in 2011 (the same year it was published). Travis Knight, LAIKA’s CEO, had even expressed interest in adapting the other two novels in the trilogy (Under Wildwood and Wildwood Imperium). Should the film ever happen and prove successful, that could result in LAIKA’s first franchise.
The other project is an adaptation of Phillip Reeve’s novel Goblins. The plot revolves around Skarper, a young goblin who lives with his brethren in an ancient castle. He is stirred to action when an ancient evil threatens to spark a magical conflict among all manner of monsters and mythical creatures.
Optioned in 2012, Mark Gustafson (who was an animation director for Fantastic Mr. Fox) is set to direct the project. Also different from LAIKA’s current output, the book appears to be more of a satire/subversion of fantasy tropes (not all goblins being evil, for example). Another interesting project that could be different from their norm.
As of right now, either one of these two projects could be next in line. The fact that they are signed on for three films also means that they have an original project in the works as well, but again, until the official word comes out, it’s anyone’s guess as to what LAIKA’s on to next.
“Focus and Laika are kindred spirits,” said Travis Knight, speaking to Variety. “Over eight years and three films we’ve forged an incredible bond over a shared love for, and commitment to, bold, distinctive, and enduring stories. Peter and his superlative team have created a welcoming home for original voices and enriching, challenging filmmaking. They’re the bravest studio in the world.”