LOS ANGELES (AFP) – The “Boxtrolls” hit the United States this weekend, bringing the cute underground garbage creatures which have already taken their native Britain by storm to the other side of the pond.
The 3D animated fantasy, based on best-selling British children’s book “Here Be Monsters” by Alan Snow, tells the story of a boy brought up by gentle monsters, chased mercilessly by the human townsfolk who live above them.
The Boxtrolls symbolise “any community that is the bottom rung of the ladder,” said the film’s producer Travis Knight.
He is also the head of Laika, the studio behind the film, and its predecessors “Coraline” and “Paranorman.”
“They actually look kind of like monsters but… they are actually sweet gentle communities. The real monsters are actually the aristocrats,” added Knight, son of Laika founder and Nike boss Phil Knight.
The Boxtrolls’ obsession with cheese might seem absurd, but “is it more ridiculous than the stupid things we value?” he asked.
The main character, Eggs, is a little boy brought up by Boxtrolls who live underground, wear cardboard boxes for clothes, eat worms and recycle what humans discard, making all sorts of fantastic contraptions.
“Eggs is a plucky 10/11-year-old, like one of the mythological children he has been raised by animals,” said “Game of Thrones” actor Isaac Hempstead Wright, who voices the character.
When the boy braves the world up above, he meets the audacious and insolent little girl Winnie (Elle Fanning), neglected by her father, who is the mayor of Cheesebridge and member of the elite “White Hats” cheese-tasting society.
Ben Kingsley, who plays Boxtroll-hunter Archibald Snatcher, said Eggs is a bit like Mowgli from “The Jungle Book”, or Oliver Twist.
“Snatcher is ambitious. He is vain, addicted to power and socially inept. He is ill equipped for rejection.
“The worst thing you can do to him is tell him he can’t join your club,” said the British actor.
“He would dynamite your daughter for that,” he added. The film was made using stop-motion – an old-fashioned animation technique, used on “Coraline” (2009) and “Paranorman” (2012), but also requiring every scene to be shot twice, for 3D.
The creatures and characters are moved step by step with minute precision through the Boxtrolls’ underground universe and the streets and houses of Cheesebridge.
For the actors, voicing characters is a liberating experience, “You don’t have to worry about the way you look, or your hair,” said Fanning, a rising star in Hollywood at the tender age of 16.
The way a man carries himself is very important,” said Kinsley. “I freed my voice totally… I lay down to make his tone deeper,” added the actor who is currently voicing Bagheera the Lion in a new version of “The Jungle Book”.
The 70-year old, who won an Oscar for “Ghandi” three decades ago in 1983 and also appeared in “Schindler’s List” and “Shuttle Island”, runs his own production company.
He is currently working on a film linked to his Indian origins, about the building of the Taj Mahal.