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LAIKA Announce New Movie 'Wildwood' From Travis Knight

LAIKA Studios are one of a kind. One of few studios operating today who produce stop-motion features (British studio Aardman being the other best-known ) they have continued to push the medium forward with each film. Now, we finally have confirmation of their sixth film, Wildwood.

Their last film Missing Link was released back in 2019, and despite critical acclaim and numerous awards and nominations, it continued the trend of each LAIKA film taking less than the last. Their first film Coraline- released back in 2009- is still their highest grosser to date. The lack of any new news on the film front was cause for concern, as was the studio cutting more than 50 off its staff in 2020.  Most recently, it was announced they were making their first live-action film. So it's a huge relief to hear them announce their newest stop-motion film was in the works.

Studio CEO Travis Knight is returning to direct for the first time since 2016's Kubo And The Two Strings, while Missing Link's writer/director Chris Butler is writing the script. Wildwood is an adaptation of the children's fantasy book of the same name, originally published in 2013, and followed by Under Wildwood and Wildwood Imperium. 

Here's the synopsis of the original plot from the publisher:

Prue McKeel's life is ordinary. At least until her brother is abducted by a murder of crows and taken to the Impassable Wilderness, a dense, tangled forest on the edge of Portland. No one's ever gone in, or at least returned to tell of it. So begins an adventure that will take Prue and her friend, Curtis, deep into the Impassable Wilderness. There they uncover a secret world in the midst of violent upheaval, a world full of warring creatures, peaceable mystics, and powerful figures with the darkest intentions. And what begins as a rescue mission becomes something much greater, as the two friends find themselves entwined in a struggle for the very freedom of this wilderness. A wilderness the locals call Wildwood.

Globetrotting adventure Missing Link was a departure for the studio, but Wildwood sounds like much more familiar territory for them. Slightly creepy kids' fantasy is their stock and trade. It even takes place in and around Portland, Oregon, so it's basically in their backyard.

The book was written by musician turned author, Decemberists frontman and Portland native Colin Meloy, with illustrations by Carson Ellis. All in all, it seems like perfect LAIKA material.

The film is currently in production but no release date has been announced. Stop-motion takes a long time to make, but if it's been in production for a long time already, it's possible we could see it as soon as next year. However, bear in mind that stop-motion's need for animators to be on physical sets means that it was the one part of the animation industry that was hit by COVID  (hence the jobs cuts). Wildwood is probably still going to be some way off.

"As a deep-dyed native son of Oregon, I have rainwater, microbrew, and fair-trade coffee coursing through my veins," Knight said. "With Wildwood, I have the opportunity to tell a madly ambitious story of magic, wonder, and danger set in the place I grew up. My very own Portland will join that pantheon of unforgettable fantasy realms, with a stirring epic that will kindle imaginations, lift spirits, and break hearts."

As with anything from LAIKA,  you can be sure we'll be keeping a close eye on this one.