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Comic-Con 2012 Movies: ParaNorman

Focus Features took its upcoming animated film ParaNorman to Comic-Con this year. The film focuses on the often-misunderstood Norman, a strange boy who can talk to the dead. When his town is threatened by a potential zombie outbreak, it’s up to Norman to save the day.

The panel kicked off with a trailer that sounds very familiar: Norman is misunderstood by almost everyone, except for the dead, with whom he speaks regularly. Kelly West of Cinema Blend shares my thoughts on expectations for ParaNorman, saying that it “looks funny, charming, and just a little bit spooky.” 

The panel featured directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell – with the former also writing screenplay – along with lead animator Travis Knight and voice actors Kodi Smit-McPhee, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Anna Kendrick.

Butler said that the film will be a mix of horror master John Carpenter and teen-comedy king John Hughes. He also revealed that the film has been roughly in the works for a whopping 16 years. Knight called ParaNorman “a gumbo of our collective childhood loves and obsessions.” Fell then referenced classic films Gremlins and Stand by Me while discussing how England was infiltrated with American pop culture during the '70s and '80s.

Then the stars got the chance to talk. Smit-McPhee’s voice dropped during the making of the film, so he sounds much different there than in real life. Kendrick, an Academy Award nominee for Up in the Air, stated that she was always interested in voice work, though she expressed some hesitations about it. Mintz-Plasse described his character in ParaNorman as himself, but fat.

A making-of featurette then played along with some new footage, primarily an action sequence in which Norman tries to evade zombies. After some words from Kendrick about taking photos while stomping like Godzilla, the panel premiered a 3D clip in which Norman and his friend Alvin witness the rising of the dead at a graveyard.

Butler discussed wanting a strong ending for ParaNorman, and after some more factoids from the cast, a clip that seems to take place right after the graveyard scene debuted. The two friends run into several people, and then a van chase ensues. Following this, Knight discussed how models were made using 3D printers. Smit-McPhee then danced to an impromptu rap from Mintz-Plasse before taking questions.

Fell said that kids ages seven and up should be fine watching ParaNorman, though “every parents knows where their kids are at with what they can take.” Knight stated that Laika would probably announce its next project in the next few months. McPhee, Kendrick, and Mintz-Plasse discussed getting into character, while it was revealed that the casting director of television’s Freaks and Geeks took up the same duties for ParaNorman.

On an unrelated note, Mintz-Plasse pleased Kick-Ass fans and confirmed that Kick-Ass 2 would start shooting in September.

Butler, Fell, and Knight then discussed the difficulties that come with stop-motion animation, though green-screen techniques and VFX are helping to make things easier and more efficient. Butler closed out the panel by describing how Norman was based on his teenage self. ParaNorman hits theaters on Aug. 17


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