Travis Knight Talks ParaNorman, LAIKA and the Art of Stop-Motion
DS: Was there any time during the production that you sat back and thought, “Jeez, what did we get ourselves into?” and conversely, was there a point where you said to yourself, “We’re going to be OK, this is going to be good.”
TK: I think I thought both those things all the time. The feeling I had at the beginning, when I decided we were going to make ParaNorman, was the same type of feeling I had when I decided to do Coraline. Which was a belief in the material, confidence and belief in the filmmaker behind it, and fear. Fear not in that we were making a mistake, that we were not making the right kind of movie. Fear of how people were going to respond. This is not the easy path. It’s not the safe way to go. Any time you devote that type of time and resources to a project, you have to believe there’s an audience for it. And we certainly do. But it’s not like we have antecedents for it. It’s not like we have reams of data showing that if you make a movie like this it will become hugely successful. The data does not exist.
These sorts of movies are not being made in this medium. So, it always puts me in a state of discomfort. But I also know that if I’m not worrying, I should probably be worried. If I’m not worried, it means we’re doing the safe thing. We’re doing the conventional thing. We’re doing the thing that doesn’t define us as a community and as a company. I’m constantly worried. I’m constantly wondering, why the hell are we doing this, are we really going to do this? I also know we have an exceptional group of artists here who fully throw themselves and their souls into these projects. We’re telling stories that have significance and resonance. And, we’re doing it in a groundbreaking and visually beautiful way. All those things combined, I can’t imagine a better way to spend my day.
DS: Looking at the various roles you have at the studio, is there any one thing you do that gives you the most personal sense of satisfaction?
TK: There’s no shortage of things. By being able to guide this community and this company, to provide a platform for these artists to have their incredible work seen on a global stage, to find those special stories and create an opportunity for those stories to be told to the world, there are a lot of rewarding aspects to my job. In terms of what is deeply the most personally satisfying for me, it goes back to why I got into this business to begin with. It’s bringing something to life. There is still no aspect of my job that is as satisfying as being on a set, with a puppet, a camera and lights, sweating over the details and actually bringing that puppet to life in a way that transcends the doll and becomes human. That people can connect with a 9 ½ inch tall assemblage of steel and silicon as if it were flesh and blood. It was at the beginning and it still remains to me the most rewarding aspect of my job. It’s giving life to something. It’s an extraordinary feeling.
Dan Sarto is editor-in-chief and publisher of Animation World Network.