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LAIKA Live: An Eye Opening Experience

It's San Diego Comic Con week and LAIKA has returned to the SoCal city with a new exhibition for their studio, LAIKA Live. While smaller than their exhibition at Universal Studios Hollywood, this one has a more intimate feel and provides guests a look at the actual process of creating the puppets and props for LAIKA rather than simply puppets, props, and sets on display. By bringing down studio creatives for the exhibition, visitors are able to connect with the studio on a personal level and really gain an appreciation for LAIKA's dedication to details and stop motion craftsmanship.

The tour is guided with groups of approximately 10-12 people at a time. Groups are first sat on benches in front of a large video display and treated to a fun few rounds of trivia. Answering questions correctly will win you either a Missing Link print or a beach ball emblazoned with the LAIKA logo. On display as well is a Lego set of the Pink Palace Apartments from Coraline which is now up on Lego Ideas for consideration as an actual Lego product. If you would like to see it made, be sure to vote for it here.

The Pink Palace Apartments from LAIKA's Coraline.
Tour groups are then guided to a huge set of the Pink Palace Apartments from Coraline which is celebrating its 10 year anniversary. You're able to get fairly close and photos are greatly encouraged throughout the experience. The guides are extremely knowledgeable about LAIKA and have an enthusiasm for the studio that is contagious. Our guide on Monday, James, did an exceptional job for our tour.

Austin and Nick explain the process of puppet development and care.
The next two exhibits are where the "live" aspect really comes into play. The first is a recreation of the Puppet Hospital where two studio members, Austin and Nick, explain the process of creating puppets and props, walking the group through the process from molding, skeleton building, costuming, and final paint jobs. It's astounding how easily poseable the puppets are and learning that the eyes are positioned using the tip of an Xacto knife was a particularly creepy fun fact. We were allowed to play with different zombie puppet hands from ParaNorman and really got a feel for posing a puppet.

Jason, a LAIKA animator, is introduced to the tour group by guide, James.
The second exhibit is a set from Kubo and the Two Strings consisting of a rig set up for animating a puppet Kubo running. LAIKA animator, Jason, explained how they utilize reference footage to create the movement of the puppets and how long it can take to actually animate a shot. One second of footage takes approximately a day according to Jason. The great thing about the puppets is that it's not just their body that is poseable, but also their clothes and hair as wiring is built in. This allows for more believable motion and we were able to see how position is changed on the puppet before a shot is taken. Each second of footage contains approximately 24 frames, so you can see where it would take a day as that it 24 detailed adjustments required per shot.

The rest of LAIKA live consists of two photo opportunities, one from Missing Link and one from Coraline where the Other Mother's living room has been replicated life size. There are also a multitude of props and puppets to check out as well as a full set from Boxtrolls including posed puppets from the ballroom dance scene.

Happy 10 years, Coraline!
The tour concludes back outside where there is a studio shop full of products from all four LAIKA films, including some exclusives. LAIKA Live is located on 350 Fifth Avenue in San Diego, CA and runs through Sunday, July 22. Be sure to get there early as this exhibition has already proven popular even before Comic Con has kicked off. We waited approximately 45 minutes after opening time on Monday even with arriving 30 minutes early and apparently the line was around the block on Tuesday. Be patient and wear sunblock, if you're a lover of LAIKA stop motion animation then I guarantee this exhibition is worth the wait as it is a truly unique experience! Check out more photos below and if you can't make it to LAIKA Live, CEO Travis Knight will be doing a tour for Facebook Live at 11 AM on Saturday, July 21.

Playing with a zombie hand! Surprisingly easy to pose!

Puppets on display.

Jason displays several different faces for Kubo before
showing how faces are changed to create different

Posed set from The Boxtrolls.

Puppets from Coraline.

Life size set replica of the Other Mother's living room.

It even has the door! Unfortunately did not open.

Would have loved to perused these binders!

One of several prop displays.