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Animating Life and the Storytelling of LAIKA

- adventures / culture / events

“We believe storytelling is an important part of who we are. LAIKA embraces our great privilege to tell stories by creating films that bring people together, kindle imaginations and inspire people to dream”

– Travis Knight, President & CEO of LAIKA

Portland has a long, relatively unheard history of stop-motion animation. As early as 1925, Portland local newsreel maker Lew Cook made a 35mm nitrate film titled The Little Baker which featured a clay puppet. In 1975, Will Vinton and Bob Gardiner were presented with an Oscar for their animated short, Closed Mondays. Vinton went on to found Will Vinton Studios which produced several iconic television commercials including the California Raisins. Launched in 2005, LAIKA quickly defined their unique position in American Cinema with their first film, Coraline (2009). LAIKA’s attentiveness to storytelling, scrutiny to detail, and passion for the human fascination with the illusion of movement has led to 3 more award-winning feature films. Now at the Portland Art Museum, you can observe their creative process through behind-the-scenes photography, video clips, and physical artwork from their films.

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It’s been a sort of tradition for 100seven to visit each new exhibit at the Portland Art Museum. As brand storytellers, we absolutely understand the impact that minor details have to support a larger purpose, but the amount of detail that LAIKA puts into every aspect of their films took us by surprise. As you first enter the exhibit you’re immediately drawn toward a vast wall of faces. Hundreds of faces. And as you walk along the wall, each face slowly changes and shifts, revealing the range of emotions and facial expressions that LAIKA expresses in their storytelling. Despite its size, this wall only represents a small fraction of the thousands of faces produced for the hundreds of puppets used in LAIKA’s films.

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LAIKA reminds us that in animation, one doesn’t choose a location but rather one creates a location. Everything you see in a LAIKA film is either handmade or has its roots in handmade reference. As you experience the rest of the exhibit, you explore the visual beauty of their production design, sets, costume design, props, puppets, and the overall mise en scène that LAIKA is recognized for. Not only will you see the massive garden set from their first film, Coraline, but you’ll see sets from ParaNorman (2012), props used in The Boxtrolls (2014), and the immaculate costume design from Kubo and the Two Strings (2016).

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“LAIKA at its core is an artistic endeavor that embraces the past and infuses it with a 21st-century vision. LAIKA’s aesthetic vocabulary continues to be shaped by the people and uniqueness of this special state.” – Brian Ferriso, Director Portland Art Museum

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It’s truly a wonder to get a close look at the visionary artistry and technology used by LAIKA. Animating Life: The Art, Science, and Wonder of LAIKA is being exhibited at the Portland Art Museum through May 20, 2018. Witnessing the work of a local, groundbreaking, globally renowned animation studio that reflects Portland’s ‘maker’ spirit, is something to take pride in.

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