Classic Film Kid: LAIKA Ranked
Today I will be ranking all five films by stop-motion animation studio LAIKA, but some of you might be wondering – aren’t there six? In that case, you’ll probably be thinking of 2005’s Corpse Bride, a gothic musical comedy-drama directed by Tim Burton. Now while some members of LAIKA were student animators on it, it was only contract work for them to get the company up and running, so I won’t be counting that in today’s list, and saying that their first full-length animated feature as a company was Coraline. Just a quick heads up, before I step into the ranking. Hope you find it interesting, and do let me know how you would rank these films. After all, we all have different opinions. Enjoy!
Hi everyone at Geek Show, I am the Classic Film Kid, back with one of the most difficult articles I’ve written thus far. Why? Because I had to rank all five films by my favourite animation studio of all time, LAIKA LLC. Based in Canada, they have been on the scene since 2005, building and honing their craft for stop-motion animation, constantly pushing the boundaries and challenging themselves with new technological horizons with every film their make, and today, we will rank all five of their fantastic feature films, from 2009’s dark fantasy horror Coraline to their new more comedic adventure with Missing Link. Every one of their films brims with eccentric imagination and expertly blends computer-generated visuals into a stop-motion landscape, and they have meant so much to me in building my passion for film, particularly animation, so I found out really hard to figure out which one of their films I liked the least.
But I think that, for now at least, this is my definitive ranking of all 5 feature films by the stop-motion gods LAIKA. So, without any further ado, here we go!
#5: Paranorman (2012) – Directed by Sam Fell & Chris Butler
It does pain me to put something at the bottom of this list, because I do like ParaNorman a lot. I remember seeing the film at the cinema when I was 7 or 8 and I really enjoyed it, and most of it I still do. But the big detractor for me with this is the supporting characters. I just can’t stand them half the time. They feel very clichéd, obnoxious and they only seem there to either cower in fear or act like a total whiny brat (especially Courtney, oh dear God.) That’s why I love it when it gets into the scary fantastical stuff – it’s what LAIKA do best. It’s highly imaginative, it’s really scary and the actual backstory regarding the young girl Agatha is beautifully haunting. If it didn’t have such a mediocre supporting cast, then I’d love it, but sadly they do affect my decision of what to watch if I want to kick back with a LAIKA film. That’s why, regretfully, ParaNorman takes the bottom spot.
I’m still keeping that profile picture. That ain’t going nowhere.
#4: Missing Link (2019) – Directed by Chris Butler
LAIKA’s new release takes the no. 4 slot. While I have only seen it the once, I did really enjoy the studio’s detour into a more light-hearted, quest like film, and I found it consistently entertaining. I want to make this one short considering I have done a review of this one, but to quickly sum it up, it contains some of the best animation the company has crafted yet, the jokes mostly deliver a good chuckle, and the characters, especially Sasquatch/Susan, are really lovable and enjoyable to watch. It doesn’t develop its world and its characters as much as I think it should, and sometimes it can feel unoriginal, but I still had a good time with it and it showed me that LAIKA still know how to please their more mature fans even when making a more friendly feature.
#3: Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) – Directed by Travis Knight
Now we get from the good stuff to the REALLY good stuff, and Kubo especially was critically acclaimed at the time, people saying it matches Coraline as the studio’s best work. While I don’t quite agree with that statement, it is a masterfully-crafted film once again, with stop-motion creations like the skeleton that prove LAIKA are the best in the business. The Japanese setting is really original, Kubo is an amazing protagonist, and I think this contains the best group of main characters in any film by the company. Thinking objectively, this is probably LAIKA’s best film. Only, that’s not my opinion. To me, sometimes the pacing drags just a little, the revelations on first viewings feel a bit jarring, and I don’t feel we saw the Moon King quite enough to get him as a villain. Yes, we are told his villainous backstory, but he’s really only in one dream sequence and the climax. At least it gave us theorisers and LAIKA fans enough to prove Kubo and Coraline are connected – and that’s the most important thing.
#2: The Boxtrolls (2014) – Directed by Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable
This one isn’t terribly popular with the LAIKA community, and I really don’t get why. Based on the children’s book, Here Be Monsters, the studio still manage to make this world their own. Cheesebridge, a small quaint town that lies on a hill, is beautifully realised with LAIKA’s classic stop-motion sheen, Archibald Snatcher is a terrifyingly over dramatic villain and one of LAIKA’s best, the Box Trolls themselves are a fascinating race, and, for all of its fantastical whimsy, it can get genuinely intense with Snatcher’s malicious schemes to rid Cheesebridge of the Box Trolls getting more dangerous and twisted every time. Now admittedly, the film can sometimes get a little too weird and overdramatic for its own good, but for me, it’s a firm favourite and delivers everything I want from a LAIKA film – imagination, whimsy, scariness, comedy. But it also gives me something else – the most beautifully disgusting and surreal death to a villain ever in an animated movie.
But of course, it’s not my favourite. And the No. 1 animated film by LAIKA without any surprise or unpredictability at all is…
#1: Coraline (2009) – Directed by Henry Selick
Well, it wasn’t going to be anything else was it? If my obsession with film and animation has taught me anything for the past five years, it’s that Coraline is my favourite LAIKA film and it always will be. You guys should know because of the glowing review I gave it a while back (that even got noticed by a LAIKA employee, I fell head over heels with it that much), and my opinion has not changed one bit. The story is beautifully creative and deeply unsettling. The small cast of characters are so utterly unique and layered. The Other Mother is a beast from the deep layers of hell, see picture above. The animation, while there would be better by LAIKA to come, is top-notch and the Other World in its enchanting friendly state still remains my favourite LAIKA visual. It’s a film that has been praised as one of the greats for a reason – it’s brilliant. But at least I, for definite, know this: it’s my favourite animated film no question, it has my favourite film soundtrack, the Beldam would easily fit into a list of my top five favourite movie villains, and the film currently stands in my top 10 favourite films of all time, and of course, my favourite film by LAIKA Animation Studios. And it will take a whopper to dethrone it.
That concludes this lengthy look into LAIKA’s filmography. It is really heartwarming to see LAIKA’s journey, and while their new film Missing Link may not be my favourite, it still does show their willingness to grow and experiment as a company. Of course, judging by the last huge paragraph, anything that LAIKA do in the future will need to be perfect for Coraline to get knocked off top spot, but looking at possible upcoming projects is getting me excited, and I can’t wait to see more films by my favourite animation studio. Long live LAIKA, and long live Coraline theories on YouTube. This is the Classic Film Kid, signing off!