|Written by||Chris Butler|
|Edited by||Christopher Murrie|
|Music by||Jon Brion|
|Distributed by||Focus Features (North America)|
Universal Pictures (International)
|Box office||$107.1 million|
ParaNorman is a 2012 American stop-motion animated comedy horror film directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler (the latter's feature directorial debut), and written by Butler. Produced by Laika, the film stars the voices of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jodelle Ferland, Bernard Hill, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Tempestt Bledsoe, Alex Borstein, and John Goodman. It is the first stop-motion film to use a 3-D color printer to create character faces, and only the second to be shot in 3-D. In the film, Norman Babcock, a young boy who can communicate with ghosts, is given the task of ending a 300-year-old witch's curse on his Massachusetts town.
The idea of ParaNorman came from Butler, who thought making such a movie for kids could help express the challenges kids face growing up, after realizing that zombie films often contained a degree of social commentary. Production of the stop-motion animation feature took place at Laika's studio in Hillsboro, Oregon for three years, with the animating stage of production lasting about two years and beginning in late 2009. Instead of using traditional 3-D format cameras, the studio had sixty Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR cameras film the movie. Jon Brion composed the film's musical score.
ParaNorman was officially released on August 17, 2012, by Focus Features. It received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised its animation, script, entertainment value and humor, and was a modest box office success, earning $107 million worldwide against its budget of $60 million. The film was nominated for that year's Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film.
In the small town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts, Norman Babcock is an 11-year-old boy who speaks with the dead, including his late grandmother and various ghosts in town. Almost no one believes him and he is isolated emotionally from his family while being looked down upon by his own peers around the school. Neil Downe, an overweight boy who is also bullied, finds in Norman a kindred spirit. After rehearsing a school play commemorating the town's execution of a witch three centuries ago, the boys are confronted by Norman's estranged and seemingly deranged great-uncle, Mr. Prenderghast, who tells Norman that he soon must take up his regular ritual to protect the town. Soon after this encounter, Mr. Prenderghast dies of a heart attack.
During the official performance of the school play, Norman has a nightmarish vision of the town's past in which he is pursued through the woods by townsfolk on a witch hunt, embarrassing himself and leading to a heated argument with his estranged and paranoid father Perry, who later grounds him. His mother Sandra tells him that his father's manner is stern because he is afraid for him. The next day, Norman sees Prenderghast's spirit who tells him that the ritual must be performed with a certain book before sundown that day; then making him "swear" to complete the task, Prenderghast's spirit is set free and crosses over. Norman is at first reluctant to go because he is scared but his grandmother tells him it is all right to be scared as long as he does not let it change who he is. Norman sets off to retrieve the book from Prenderghast's house (having to take it from his corpse).
He then goes to the graves of the five men and two women who were cursed by the witch, but finds that the book is merely a series of fairy tales. Alvin, a school bully who always picks on Norman, arrives and prevents Norman from reading the story before sundown. Norman attempts to continue reading from the book, to no effect. A ghostly storm resembling the witch appears in the air, summoning the cursed dead to arise as zombies, who chase the boys along with Neil, Norman's 17-year-old sister Courtney, and Neil's older brother Mitch, down the hill and into town. Having realized that the witch was not buried in the graveyard, Norman contacts classmate Salma (who tells them to access the Town Hall's archives for the location of the witch's unmarked grave) for help. As the kids make their way to the Town Hall, the zombies are attacked by the citizenry. During the riot, Norman and his companions break into the archives but cannot find the information they need. As the mob moves to attack Town Hall, the witch storm appears over the crowd. Norman climbs the Hall's tower to read the book, in a last-ditch effort to finish the ritual, but the witch strikes the book with lightning, hurling Norman from the tower and deep into the archives.
Unconscious, Norman has a dream where he learns that the witch was Agatha "Aggie" Prenderghast, a little girl of his age and a distant relative, who was also a medium. Norman realizes that Aggie was wrongfully convicted by the town council when they mistook her powers for witchcraft. After awakening, Norman encounters the zombies and recognizes them as the town council who convicted Aggie. The zombies and their leader Judge Hopkins admit that they only wanted to speak with him to ensure that he would take up the ritual, to minimize the damage of the mistake they made so long ago. Norman attempts to help the zombies slip away so they can guide him to Aggie's grave, but is cornered by the mob. Courtney, Mitch, Neil, and Alvin rally to Norman's side and confront the crowd, arguing that their rage, fear, and misunderstanding make them no different from the cursed townsfolk from long ago. Although the mob realizes the error of their ways, the witch unleashes her powers to create greater havoc throughout the town.
Judge Hopkins guides Norman's family to the grave in a forest. Before the grave is reached, Aggie's magical powers separate Norman from the others. Norman finds the grave and interacts with Aggie's vengeful ghost, determined to stop the cataclysmic tantrum she has been having over the years. Though she attempts to push him away, Norman holds his ground, telling her that he understands how she feels as an outcast, that her vengeance has only made her like the ones who wronged her, causing her to remember happier days. Having finally encountered someone who understands her plight and by remembering her caring mother, Aggie is able to find a measure of peace and cross over to the afterlife. The storm dissipates, and she, the zombies and even the Judge all fade away. The town cleans up and regards Norman as a hero.
In the end, Norman watches a horror film with his family and the ghost of his grandmother, who have grown to accept Norman for who he is.
- Kodi Smit-McPhee as Norman Babcock, an 11-year-old misfit who can speak to the dead
- Tucker Albrizzi as Neil Downe, Norman's 10-year-old overweight best friend
- Anna Kendrick as Courtney Babcock, Norman's 17-year-old sister and a cheerleader
- Casey Affleck as Mitch Downe, Neil's 20-year-old brother and a jock who is the target of Courtney's affections. He later reveals that he has a boyfriend, making him the first openly gay character in an animated film.
- Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Alvin, a 15-year-old school bully
- Leslie Mann as Sandra Babcock (née Prenderghast), Courtney and Norman's sympathetic mother
- Jeff Garlin as Perry Babcock, Courtney and Norman's stern father who is concerned about his son's well-being
- Elaine Stritch as Grandma Babcock, the ghost of Courtney and Norman's deceased grandmother and Perry's mother.
- Bernard Hill as Judge Hopkins, the deceased judge who accused and punished Aggie for witchcraft, and the leader of the cursed zombies
- Jodelle Ferland as Agatha "Aggie" Prenderghast, the ghost of an 11-year-old girl from the 1700s who was accused of witchcraft
- Tempestt Bledsoe as Sheriff Hooper, the sheriff of Blithe Hollow
- Alex Borstein as Mrs. Henscher, Norman and Neil's drama teacher
- John Goodman as Mr. Prenderghast, Sandra's uncle, Courtney and Norman's great uncle and the town's local eccentric
- Austin Dickey as Bully
- Hannah Noyes as Salma, a smart girl from Norman's class
- Ariel Winter as Blithe Hollow Kid
- Jared Dines as Bully
- Bridget Hoffman as Crystal and Parachutist Ghost
- Scott Menville as Deputy Wayne, a deputy who works for Sheriff Hooper
- David Cowgill as Greaser Ghost
- Wendy Hoffman as Gucci Lady
- Jeremy Shada as Pug
- Emily Hahn as Sweet Girl
- Jack Blessing as Civil War Ghost
The idea of the film came from Chris Butler, who, realizing that zombie films often contained a degree of social commentary, thought making such a movie for kids could help express the challenges kids face growing up.
Production of the stop-motion animation feature took place at Laika's studio in Hillsboro, Oregon. The film was in production for three years, with the animating stage of production lasting about two years and beginning in late 2009. Rather than using traditional 3-D format cameras, the studio had sixty Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR cameras film the movie. Advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy created the campaign for the film. ParaNorman is the first ever stop motion film to use full-color 3-D printers for replacement animation. Laika's previous film Coraline had pioneered and popularized the use of black and white 3-D printers, which sped up puppet production considerably and allowed the team to make the large number of puppet faces required for the film. "Quite often it’s the stop-motion movies that are more out there," co-director Fell told The New York Times. "They're a little quirkier, they're a little harder to pin down."
Jon Brion composed the film's score, and an accompanying soundtrack album was released on August 14, 2012. Bits of other music appear in the film, including the theme music from Halloween, the Donovan song "Season of the Witch" (sung by the school play cast) and "Fix Up, Look Sharp" by British rapper Dizzee Rascal. "Little Ghost", a White Stripes song from their 2005 album Get Behind Me Satan, plays at the end, over character cards identifying the main cast. However, one track in the film, an updated version of "Aggie Fights", was not included in the soundtrack.
ParaNorman was released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 27, 2012, by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. A new edition from Shout! Factory under license from Universal was released on Blu-ray on September 14, 2021, and later on Ultra HD Blu-ray on December 13, 2022.
A game called ParaNorman: 2-Bit Bub was made for iPhone.
Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gives ParaNorman an approval rating of 89% based on 190 reviews, and an average score of 7.3/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Beautifully animated and solidly scripted, ParaNorman will entertain (and frighten) older children while providing surprisingly thoughtful fare for their parents." Metacritic gives the film a weighted average score of 72 out of 100 based on 33 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews." Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
Justin Chang of Variety wrote in his review, "Few movies so taken with death have felt so rudely alive as ParaNorman, the latest handcrafted marvel from the stop-motion artists at Laika." Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter said, "It has its entertaining moments, but this paranormal stop-motion animated comedy-chiller cries out for more activity."
ParaNorman earned $56 million in North America, and $51.1 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $107.1 million. The film premiered in Mexico on August 3, 2012, opening in second place with box office receipts of $2.2 million, behind The Dark Knight Rises. For its opening weekend in North America, the film placed third, with receipts of $14 million, behind The Expendables 2 and The Bourne Legacy. Travis Knight, head of the studio that produced the film, believed the box office total was fine, but did not live up to his expectations.
The film has drawn attention for the revelation in its final scenes that supporting character Mitch is gay, making him the first openly gay character in a mainstream animated film. Nancy French of National Review Online suggested that the film could lead parents "to answer unwanted questions about sex and homosexuality on the way home from the movie theater." Conversely, Mike Ryan of The Huffington Post cited Mitch's inclusion as one of the reasons why ParaNorman is "remarkable." Co-director Chris Butler said that the character was explicitly connected with the film's message: "If we're saying to anyone that watches this movie don't judge other people, then we've got to have the strength of our convictions." In 2013, ParaNorman was the first-ever PG-rated movie nominated by GLAAD in its annual GLAAD Media Awards, but lost to The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2015)
|Academy Awards||Best Animated Feature||Sam Fell, Chris Butler||Nominated|
|Alliance of Women Film Journalists||Best Animated Film||Won|
|Annie Awards||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Directing in an Animated Feature Production||Sam Fell, Chris Butler||Nominated|
|Animated Effects in an Animated Production||Andrew Nawrot, Joe Gorski, Grant Lake||Nominated|
|Character Animation in a Feature Production||Travis Knight||Won|
|Character Design in an Animated Feature Production||Heidi Smith||Won|
|Production Design in an Animated Feature Production||Nelson Lowry, Ross Stewart, Pete Oswald, Ean McNamara, Trevor Dalmer||Nominated|
|Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production||Emmanuela Cozzi||Nominated|
|Writing in an Animated Feature Production||Chris Butler||Nominated|
|Foley Mixing in an Animated Feature Production||Richard Duarte||Won|
|BAFTA Awards||Best Animated Film||Nominated|
|Chicago Film Critics Association||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|Critics Choice Awards||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association||Best Animated Film||Won|
|Denver Film Critics Society||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|GLAAD Media Awards||Outstanding Film - Wide Release||Nominated|
|Houston Film Critics Society||Best Animated Film||Nominated|
|Indiana Film Critics Association||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Las Vegas Film Critics Society||Best Animated Film||Won|
|New York Film Critics Circle Awards||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Online Film Critics Society||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|Phoenix Film Critics Society||Best Animated Film||Nominated|
|Producers Guild of America||Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures||Travis Knight, Arianne Sutner||Nominated|
|San Diego Film Critics Society||Best Animated Film||Won|
|San Francisco Film Critics Circle||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|Satellite Awards||Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media||Nominated|
|Saturn Awards||Best Animated Film||Sam Fell and Chris Butler||Nominated|
|Southeastern Film Critics Association||Best Animated Film||Won|
|St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association||Best Animated Film||Nominated|
|Toronto Film Critics Association Awards||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|Utah Film Critics Association||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|Visual Effects Society||Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture||Chris Butler, Sam Fell, Travis Knight, Brad Schiff||Nominated|
|Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature Motion Picture||Graveyard: Phil Brotherton, Robert Desue, Oliver Jones, Nick Mariana||Nominated|
|Main Street: Alice Bird, Matt Delue, Caitlin Pashalek||Nominated|
|Outstanding FX and Simulation Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture||Practical Volumetrics: Aidan Fraser, Joe Gorski, Eric Kuehne, Andrew Nawrot||Nominated|
|Angry Aggie Ink-Blot Electricity: Michael Cordova, Grant Laker, Susanna Luck, Peter Vickery||Nominated|
|Washington D. C. Area Film Critics Association||Best Animated Feature||Won|
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Norman Babcock is an 11-year-old who is dubbed as "a freak" in his school because he can speak to the dead.
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- Official website
- ParaNorman at IMDb
- ParaNorman at The Big Cartoon DataBase
- ParaNorman at AllMovie
- ParaNorman at Rotten Tomatoes
- ParaNorman at Metacritic
- ParaNorman at Box Office Mojo
- ParaNorman DVD & Blu-ray Archived March 15, 2015, at the Wayback Machine at Universal Studios Home Entertainment
- Official novel website Archived September 4, 2019, at the Wayback Machine