SDCC 2017: LAIKA's Brad Wald Discusses Stop-Motion and the Future of the Studio

SDCC 2017: LAIKA's Brad Wald Discusses Stop-Motion and the Future of the Studio

When it comes to stop-motion animation, nobody is doing it better in Hollywood than LAIKA Studios. They’re the talented group of creatives behind such brilliant films as Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, and most recently Kubo and the Two Strings. All together their films have received five Academy Award nominations and won a BAFTA for “Best Animated Feature” for Kubo.


During Comic-Con in San Diego, they set up a pop-up LAIKA Experience featuring many of the characters and sets from their four films. Seeing these characters move in film is one thing, but to see them up close is beyond amazing. The attention to detail is incredible! While walking around the exhibit, I also had the opportunity to briefly chat with Brad Wald, LAIKA’s CFO and Senior Vice President of Business Operations. He discussed his passion for stop-motion, the studio, and where things are headed in the future.


Shakefire (SF): The studio seems to be getting more and more recognition with every new film you release.

Brad Wald (BW): That’s why we’re here. We’re doing more of this stuff. We’re creating brand experiences for our fans and trying to grow that base. It’s no longer a niche, and we want to be mainstream and true to our art.


SF: People see your films and they don’t believe it’s stop-motion; it’s that good.

BW: Yeah, and that’s why we’re doing this. When I came up for my first interview at LAIKA, I knew of LAIKA because I used to work for NBCU and we distributed its films, I had no idea until I went behind the curtain that these were physical puppets and sets that were so beautifully detailed. I was like, “I want this job! This is an amazing company.” I love it.


SF: How have you seen the studio develop since Coraline up until now?

BW: Well it’s developed in different ways. Our technology has changed. Rapid prototyping, that facial replacement, allows for much more expression in characters. Since Coraline to Kubo, Kubo had millions more expressions actually. With 3D printing technology now we can print in color. Whereas with Coraline you’ll see that with her faces they had to be hand-painted, even her little freckles. So that’s an example of technology and how we’ve advanced. And if you look at Kubo, you can see why we got the VFX nomination. Like the water scenes. They amazingly represent the brilliance of the VFX guys.


SF: Where do you see LAIKA heading in the future? I know you opened up more space at the studio and are now working on two films at the same time.

BW: We’ve expanded our studio in Portland. We’ve made that bigger. That gives us more sound stages because eventually we will have overlapping production on our films to ultimately release one film a year. That’s our goal. We’re still working toward that. We heavy into production into our next film and into pre-production on the film after that and then a slate of development. And then we have other things up our sleeve. We’re looking into how we can adapt our films into television. That’s an active dialogue we’re having. We’re going to do more of these traveling exhibits. We’re doing a Portland art museum, almost 10,000 square feet of installation for eight months. We’re going to have all sorts of events. It’s going to be this but in a bigger scale. It’s going to feel more permanent.


Check out the full gallery of our trip through the LAIKA Experience!

Matt Rodriguez
Interview by Matt Rodriguez
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