Hillsboro studio head calls globetrotting comedy 'the most striking thing we've ever done.'

COURTESY PHOTO - Laika animation studio released the first teaser image of its new film The Missing Link on Monday. The film will be released next year.Hillsboro animation studio Laika has finally released the name and plot of its next film.

"Missing Link" is expected to be released next spring, three years after the release of the Hillsboro studio's last film, "Kubo and the Two Strings."

Laika President Travis Knight announced on Monday the film's title, cast and a brief plot description, saying 'Missing Link' attempts something the studio has never tried before.

"(It's) a raucous comedy entwined with a swashbuckling epic, underscoring the universal need to find belonging," Knight said in a statement. "Commingling keenly felt emotion, madcap humor, and retina-bursting visuals, 'Missing Link' is a kaleidoscopic cinematic experience unlike any other. It's the most striking thing we've ever done."

Last month, the company began releasing bits and pieces about the film, including its main cast, which includes Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana and Zack Galifianakis.

According to Laika, Jackman will play Sir Lionel Frost, the world's foremost investigator of myths and monsters. "The trouble is none of his small-minded high-society peers seems to recognize this," Laika said in a statement. The film was written and directed by Chris Butler, who previously worked on Laika's "ParaNorman."

Jackman's character heads to the Pacific Northwest to track The Missing Link, a Bigfoot-esque creature of legendary status.

The creature, played by Galifianakis, is believed to be the last of his kind. The pair set off to find his rumored distant relatives alongside a resourceful adventurer named Adelina, played by Saldana.

The film also stars the voices of Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Timothy Olyphant, Matt Lucas, David Walliams, Ching Valdez-Aran and Amrita Acharia.

"It was a constant source of delight to witness how our game and captivating cast imbued these larger-than-life characters with distinct personality," Butler said. "Hugh lends Sir Lionel a giddy schoolboy enthusiasm bubbling beneath the surface of his suave English gent; Zoe brings an unflappable ardor and a witty playfulness to Adelina, and Zach's performance as Link is not only laugh-out-loud funny, but a beautifully nuanced balance of innocence and vulnerability. It was a treat to be able to join this eclectic gang of adventurers on their journey across the world."

Studio executives have described the film as a globetrotting comedy adventure "bursting with humor, heart and a profound message of acceptance and findings one's place."

The film, known only as "Film Five" by the studio until Monday's announcement, has been in the works at Laika for years, since animators wrapped up on "Kubo and the Two Strings" two years ago.

COURTESY PHOTO - Laika puppeteers put the finishing touches on a 'ParaNorman' puppet in 2012.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.

"It's only now with our fifth film that as a team we have the experience, the know-how and the collaborative confidence to even attempt a movie of this size and scope," said producer Arianne Sutner. "We created 110 sets with 65 unique locations to achieve the film's scale, majesty and geographic beauty. I couldn't be more in awe of our LAIKA crew members. Their endless reserves of imagination were pushed to the limit during the production of this ambitious movie, and we ended up soaring past those limits."

Laika has so far released four films. The 2016 film "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.

The studio isn't resting on its laurels. The studio is already working on "Film Six," though no release date has been made for that film.

By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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