Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, Zach Galifianakis, to star in Hillsboro studio's newest film.

COURTESY PHOTO: LAIKA - Travis Knight, president of Hillsboro's LAIKA studios, works on 'Kubo and the Two Strings' in 2016. For years Laika, the Academy Award-nominated Hillsboro animation studio, has been tight-lipped about its next film, which animators have been working on since 2015.

This week, the studio opened up about it, if only slightly.

The film — known only as "Film Five" — is set to open sometime this year, but on Wednesday, April 25, the company announced its main cast, including the voices of Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana and Zach Galifianakis.

"Film Five" has been in production since the studio wrapped up "Kubo and the Two Strings" two years ago. Little has been released about the film, but the studio described it as a globetrotting comedy adventure "bursting with humor, heart and a profound message of acceptance and findings one's place."

While the studio has been silent about specifics, Laika has optioned the film rights to two children's fantasy novels for future films, Colin Meloy's "WildWood" and Philip Reeve's book "Goblins."

"Our next film represents an evolutionary shift for LAIKA," Laika's CEO and President Travis Knight said Wednesday. "It's an exciting bridge to our future.  Director Chris Butler and the wizards at LAIKA have crafted a moving work of art, layered with wit and imagination and soul. Plus it's really, really funny. It's a privilege to partner with Megan and her exceptional team at Annapurna to bring this beautiful original story to the world."

The Hillsboro studio employs about 500 people in a quiet business park in Hillsboro. Owned by Knight's father, Nike co-founder Phil Knight, Laika blends stop-motion animation with computer generated effects to create its animated films.

Stop-motion films take years to make. Animators use puppets which they photograph moving a fraction of an inch at a time. From start to finish, producers estimated it took five years to make "Kubo and the Two Strings." In 2016, the company doubled its soundstage space, which producers say will allow the studio to work on multiple films at once, allowing them to release films more quickly.

Laika has so far released four films. "Kubo and the Two Strings" was preceded by "The Boxtrolls" in 2014, "ParaNorman" in 2012 and 2009's "Coraline."

Each of the company's films have been critically praised and received numerous award nominations. The company won a Scientific and Technology Oscar in 2016 for its work with 3-D printers.

Travis Knight is currently directing the soon-to-be-released Transformers sequel, "Bumblebee" planned for

"Film Five" will be released by Annapurna Pictures, the production company behind "American Hustle" "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Her."

Distributors are a major part of a film's release. The production company will organize which theaters play the film, and help market the film.

"We're excited for the opportunity to collaborate with Travis and the amazing team at LAIKA," said Annapurna Pictures founder Megan Ellison. "We appreciate their trust and look forward to having some fun together."

By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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