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Comic-Con 2012: ‘ParaNorman’ Panel Shows Off New Clips, McLovin’ Beatboxes

Comic-Con 2012 'ParaNorman' panel
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Ever since Focus Features teamed up with studio Laika for ‘Caroline,’ we’ve been hoping for another stop-motion based project to come from this partnership. Now we have ‘ParaNorman,’ the story of a boy who can speak with the dead. We’ve seen trailers, posters and behind-the-scenes featurettes, but there’s a lot more to be had at the Comic-Con 2012 panel on Friday in San Diego.

Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Laika CEO Travis Knight, co-directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell are all joining together with moderator Dave Karger from Entertainment Weekly to answer some questions and show off some new footage. (Note: McLovin was rockin’ a cool McMoustache.) Plus, word is there’s a ‘ParaNorman’ ice cream truck roaming around Comic-Con 2012.

Like its previous film, ‘Coraline,’ it is a playful and crafty childlike take on a horror film. It’s about a kid and his ghost friends vs. zombies. In stop motion. Producer Travis Knight called it John Carpenter meets John Hughes, or Ray Harryhausen on bath salts. The trailer had a Donovan song on the soundtrack — now that’s how you win the kids!

Smit-McPhee was quick to point out that his voice dropped since they recorded the voice of the lead character — he is completely unable to mimic the voice and prove that it was him.

We watched a little sizzle reel that didn’t reveal that much of the plot, but had some amazing images. Among the ones that jumped out at me were of a teddy bear with bats coming out of its mouth, toilet paper ghosts attacking Norman as he trembles on the bowl and a gag where Norman’s fat friend wears a Michael Meyer mask.

The footage then turned to some behind-the-scenes material, where we got to meet the weirdos who work at Laika. The herculean, meticulous work of stop motion is given its due. A quick shot of timelapse shows how human arms zip all over the world manipulating the figures.

We also got a look at a completed scene. In the story, Norman has to stop the witches’ curse to stop the zombie invasion. He must read a spell from a spooky book at a graveyard. As he’s about to get going, Mintz-Plasse’s bully appears. (Note: what a wonderful world where Christopher Mints-Plasse plays a bully?) As CM-P starts reading from the book, the clouds start to gather, form a creepy witch-like face and then the DEAD BEGIN TO RIIIIIISE.

The zombies bursting out of the graves are just the perfect mix of being scary, but also a little cute. (This is a kids’ film, remember.)

A second clip is a chase scene in a van including the voices of Casey Affleck and Tempest Bledsoe (!) that has a good visual gag involving a skeleton hand.

The audience Q&A was unusually adorable, like when a 5-year-old girl dressed like a unicorn asked, “Why are the monsters so scary?”

Another gem was when Anna Kendrick said she was offered the role of the bratty sister not because of her roles in ‘Twilight’ (where she plays a bratty teen) but said the directors just “heard her voice in interviews.” Also: McLovin’ did some beatboxing as Kodi Smit-McPhee did some poppin’ and lockin’. Why not?

‘Paranorman’ certainly has a lot of heart — though in this reporter’s opinion it suffered a bit appearing just a day after ‘Frankenweenie.’ It’s impossible to compete with Tim Burton, but fans of stop motion (the entire world?) should delight that we’ve got two fun lookin’ pictures coming down the pike.

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