John Hughes never made a movie about zombies, but the directors of “ParaNorman” told a Comic-Con audience on Friday that those two disparate genres served as the inspiration for Focus Features’ new stop-motion animated film.
The film chronicles a kid, voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee, who can speak with the dead and must save his town from a raging troupe of zombies.
“It was very much influenced by the kinds of stuff I grew up watching – ‘Ghostbusters,’ ‘The Goonies,'” writer and co-director Chris Butler said to the delight of the crowd. “Also, a lot of horror movies I shouldn’t have watched when I was a kid. The central concept was John Carpenter meets John Hughes.”
Butler and co-director Sam Fell have been working in earnest on the film for three years, though Butler said the idea has been germinating for more than a decade.
They described it as the most ambitious stop-motion film ever because they tried to push it beyond the traditional boundaries, much like they did with “Coraline."
“Everything you shouldn’t do in stop-motion we did,” Fell said. “I don’t know if it’s brave or stupid.”
Clips screened for the audience featured massive crowds, a car chase and explosions — all no-nos in the world of stop-motion. So are large people, and this film has an especially robust bully, voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
“He’s like the fat version of me, exactly like me if I was just super-large,” the “Superbad” actor joked. “If I ate an In-N-Out four-by-four every day.” (For those not on the west coast, that’s a burger with four patties and four pieces of cheese).
Mintz-Plasse took great pleasure in joking with Smit-McPhee, an Aussie teen whose voiced dropped during the shoot. He can no longer perform his character’s voice, but he tried briefly with much urging from his co-star.
Also read: Remembering John Hughes
"Now when you hear the movie, it doesn't even sound like me," Smit-McPhee said. "That voice will always be there, and I can't get it back."
The maturation of Smit-McPhee on set served as an ideal supplement to the coming-of-age theme reiterated by not just the directors but Travis Knight.
Knight is the president of stop-motion studio Laika and the lead animator of the film.
Though Ferris Bueller never had to combat zombies in Chicago, Knight called the film “a gumbo of our collective childhood loves and obsessions,” adding Amblin movies (“E.T.”) and George Romero horror films to the Hughes-and-zombie mix.
So guys, what’s the okra?