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Stefan Mileschin 20th August 2012 07:59

How 3D printing changed the face of 'ParaNorman'
We drive around in circles trying to find the place. There's no signage indicating our destination -- no giant, looming cartoon characters or even a logo, just a faceless building in a maze of industrial parks, about 17 miles outside of Portland. It's a beautiful drive of course, sandwiched on a vaguely winding highway by dense Pacific Northwest foliage, past Nike's global headquarters. Compared to the world-class tracks and fields dotting the shoemaker's campus, Laika's own offices are an exercise in modesty (in spite of financial ties Phil Knight), virtually indistinguishable from the densely packed businesses that surround it. There are, perhaps, certain advantages to such anonymity -- for one thing, it helps the studio avoid random drop-ins by movie fans hoping to chew the ear off of their animation heroes. It also means that our cab driver does a good three passes before finally getting out of the car and asking a smoker standing outside a nearby building where to go. He thinks about it for a moment and indicates a building -- a large, but otherwise indistinguishable space.

The lobby doesn't scream Hollywood either, but it certainly offers some less-than-subtle hints that we've found the place: a wall-sized black and white image of classic film cameras (ancient devices, someone tells me, that were utilized on the company's previous film), and in one corner, a tiny room encased in glass, with Coraline seated at a table in its center. This building is the house that she built -- or at least kept the lights on; "Coraline" was released after its planned successor "Jack & Ben's Animated Adventure" failed to materialize. Inside, the cavernous space in excess of 150,000 square feet has become a bustling small town of creatives, laboring away in its recesses, many having traveled through several time zones to be in its rank, like carnies hopping from town to town. Stop-motion animation, after all, isn't the most prevalent of professions, and while we've arguably entered a sort of golden age for the infamously labor-intensive art form, thanks in large part to the success of projects like "Coraline," the number of studios actually investing in the form can be counted on one hand.

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