Through a strange convergence of events, the new stop-motion animated film "ParaNorman" arrives at the crossroads of two topics that are big these days (albeit in different sections of the newspaper): zombies and bullying.
Opening Friday, the film follows a young boy, Norman, who can see and talk to ghosts. When a dreaded curse unleashes zombies upon his town, Norman must save the day, while avoiding the local bully and other unsavory folks.
amNewYork spoke with the film's directors, Chris Butler and Sam Fell.
Where did the idea for "ParaNorman" come from? Chris Butler: I, about 16 years ago, came up with the idea for a zombie movie for kids. The seed of it was John Carpenter meets John Hughes. The best zombie movies have social commentary. They have something else to say. And I thought, "Why not tell a story about fitting in when you're 11 years old? With zombies."
You must have been happy that zombies are at a popularity zenith now. CB: Yeah, although I think they really never went away. Yes, they've attained great heights now, but there's always been something new to say with them, which I think is cool. Sam Fell: And it's good, after spending three years making the film, that they're still en vogue.
Why use stop-motion animation? SF: We both loved Ray Harryhausen monsters, especially the fighting skeletons in a movie called "Jason and the Argonauts." So that kind of tactile, handmade feel to special effects seems to really suit zombies. CB: But apart from that, there's something about the movement of stop motion that just seems perfect for that kind of clunky undead. SF: After all, it is an inanimate object brought to life. That's what a zombie puppet is - animated by some unseen force - so it's perfect really.
What inspired the anti-bullying message in the film? CB: It's actually fundamental to the story. The story, at its heart, is about a kid who doesn't fit in. He's picked on by other kids. It just so happens that it's coming out a time when bullying is current in the news. That's the sad truth about bullying - it's always there and it's never going to go away. This story is about, "whatever makes you weird also makes you wonderful." So it's part of the DNA of the story actually.