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Missing Link (2019)

Jake Lipson

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Title: Missing Link ()

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Adventure, Fantasy, Family

Director: Chris Butler

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson, Timothy Olyphant, Matt Lucas, David Walliams, Amrita Acharia, Ching Valdes-Aran, Humphrey Ker, Adam Godley, Neil Dickson, Ian Ruskin, Matthew Wolf

Plot: The charismatic Sir Lionel Frost considers himself to be the world's foremost investigator of myths and monsters. The trouble is none of his small-minded high-society peers seems to recognize this. Sir Lionel's last chance for acceptance by the adventuring elite rests on traveling to America's Pacific Northwest to prove the existence of a legendary creature. A living remnant of Man's primitive ancestry. The Missing Link.

Well, this is a surprise. Laika -- the studio that made Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, and Kubo and the Two Strings and was Oscar-nominated for each in the Animated Feature category (plus a costume design nomination for Kubo) -- has parted ways with Focus Features and set their new film at Annapurna Pictures.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/h...ianakis-starring-animated-film-laika-1105775?

Chris Butler, who directed ParaNorman, is returning as director. No title or synopsis yet, but it's got Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana and Zach Galifianakis starring.

I'm glad to hear that this is happening again. Laika previously had an untitled movie dated for May 18, 2018 through Focus, but that was quietly removed from the schedule some time ago

Looking at the box office for their previous titles, there has been a downward trend since Coraline as seen here: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/franchises/chart/?id=laika.htm. (Box Office Mojo also includes Corpse Bride on the chart since Laika did contract on it, but it was not released with their branding in front of it, so it doesn't fully count as theirs.) Given this downward trajectory, I am not surprised by the move to a different distributor -- but I am kind of surprised that they're going with Annapurna, which, as a distributor, is still an upstart and hasn't had any significant success. Even if this film were to perform identically to Kubo, at $48 million, it would instantly become Annapurna's top grosser, since $16 million for Detroit really doesn't set a high bar.

One of the other things that I have always noted abut Laika is that public awareness of their brand is very low outside of film geeks. The general public who aren't hanging out on boards like this know the Disney, Pixar and Illumination brands really well because they have been firmly established and cultivated. The brand name means something in terms of getting people to think "Oh, they're making another movie, I better go see that because I liked their other one," even if the new film is not a sequel. Coco is a good example of this; its distinct international flavor might have made it a difficult sell for another studio, but because Pixar's name was on it, people expected that it would be good and went to it, and it grossed $209 million. The trailers were really effective, bu I also think the Pixar brand had a lot to do with people being willing to take a chance on a new property like that. I don't happen to like the films that Illumination has made personally, but many people do and the brand certainly is well-known off of the Despicable Me series, and also The Secret Life of Pets and Sing as well.

Laika does not seem to have anywhere near the same level of brand association with the general public. Even though Coraline was considered a hit, with $75 million, for whatever reason, the mainstream audience doesn't seem to tie these films together. So, every time Laika has a new movie out, the distributor always has to start from zero in terms of selling it, as opposed to Disney or Pixar or Illumination where the strength of the brand will help get butts into seats.

I'm not really sure why that is, and it disappoints me, because Laika's work has been nothing short of terrific throughout their run. I love all their films, but Kubo, in particular, is a crowning achievement and really one for the ages. But despite how good it was and how much critics liked it, it topped out at $48 million. I think Laika needs to work on brand association, so that audiences can tell that their films come from a lineage of quality. Of course, it's kind of hard to do that when they don't have a regular release schedule, but it also seems important to me that they take their time and continue to work on any given film until it's ready instead of rushing to meet a particular date. However, this is a conundrum for them for sure. While it makes sense to try a new distributor, that also means Annapurna won't be able to use any footage from the previous Focus-released titles to help promote this one (like how Pixar trailers have occasionally included footage from past films and the title logos from such.)

So -- I sincerely wish Laika luck on this. I can't wait to see it, whatever it is, whenever it comes out. But we'll see how it goes for them with Annapurna.
 

Malcolm R

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I am kind of surprised that they're going with Annapurna, which, as a distributor, is still an upstart and hasn't had any significant success. Even if this film were to perform identically to Kubo, at $48 million, it would instantly become Annapurna's top grosser, since $16 million for Detroit really doesn't set a high bar.
I'm not sure how many choices they would have, so it may have been a "take what we can get" option for Laika. As you noted, their films haven't really generated big returns and most of the majors all have their own animation arms, so there probably aren't many distributors lining up for Laika.

I just got a 3-film Laika 3D set from the UK a while back, but haven't watched them yet. I've only ever seen Coraline and The Corpse Bride.
 

Radioman970

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That 3 film 3d set is a great deal. Boxtrolls, coraline and Paranorman for a little over $20.

I hope they can find a big hit to ride. BOxtrolls and Coraline are both so unique. Maybe a change in name. Laika is endlessly sad.
 

Jake Lipson

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I'm not sure how many choices they would have, so it may have been a "take what we can get" option for Laika. As you noted, their films haven't really generated big returns and most of the majors all have their own animation arms, so there probably aren't many distributors lining up for Laika.

I hadn't thought about it like that, but you are probably correct. Annapurna has a pretty good reputation for making good movies, although most of their hits (American Hustle, off the top of my head) were actually released by other studios when they were only financing, not distributing. Hopefully this works out to be mutually beneficial.

Maybe a change in name. Laika is endlessly sad.

I think a change in name would actually hurt, because it would fracture what brand awareness they have actually managed to build up, which isn't much.

It would help if they would actually get to win one of those Oscars at some point. Zootopia is fantastic, but I would have given Kubo Animated Feature that year, personally, without question. ParaNorman was also significantly better than Brave the year that lost.
 

Radioman970

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Ever since seeing My Life as a Dog *tears tears tears* I had a listener when I worked on AM who would call each year I did that day in history years back. I know he was like many young fans who were shocked and depressed about Laika. To go from amazed of a hero dog cosmonaut in space to the truth... hate that. I think it does bring their movies down for those who know. It's like if Pixar was called 911 Films.

I have but haven't yet watched Zoo and Brave 3Ds but I don't have Kubo. I'll get it though. Nice heads up!
 
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Jake Lipson

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Missing Link.jpg

Laika has announced the title and plot for this film, Missing Link. It will be released in spring 2019.

https://www.laika.com/news/missing-link

Laika said:
Missing Link is an artistic and technical wonder,” said Mr. Knight. “Led by our visionary director Chris Butler, LAIKA has once again blended fine art, craftsmanship, and cutting-edge technology to achieve something we’ve never tried before: a raucous comedy entwined with a swashbuckling epic, underscoring the universal need to find belonging. Commingling keenly felt emotion, madcap humor, and retina-bursting visuals, Missing Link is a kaleidoscopic cinematic experience unlike any other. It’s the most striking thing we’ve ever done.”

The charismatic Sir Lionel Frost (voiced by Hugh Jackman) considers himself to be the world’s foremost investigator of myths and monsters. The trouble is none of his small-minded high-society peers seems to recognize this. Sir Lionel’s last chance for acceptance by the adventuring elite rests on traveling to America’s Pacific Northwest to prove the existence of a legendary creature. A living remnant of Man’s primitive ancestry. The Missing Link.

Zach Galifianakis is Mr. Link: the slightly silly, surprisingly smart and soulful beast upon whom Sir Lionel’s dreams depend. As species go, he’s as endangered as they get; he’s the last of his kind, and he’s lonely. Proposing a daring quest to seek out his rumored distant relatives, he enlists Sir Lionel’s help in an odyssey around the world to find the fabled valley of Shangri-La.

Together with Adelina Fortnight (voiced by Zoe Saldana), an independent and resourceful adventurer who possesses the only known map to the group’s secret destination, the unlikely trio embarks on a riotous rollercoaster of a ride. Along the way, our fearless explorers encounter more than their fair share of peril, stalked at every turn by dastardly villains seeking to thwart their mission. Through it all, Mr. Link’s disarming charm and good-humored conviction provide the emotional and comedic foundation of this fun-filled family film.

More at the link.
 

Jake Lipson

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Annapurna just dated this for April 19, 2019. It will open against an untitled horror film from New Line and the next Disneynature documentary.

That's also (currently) 2 weeks before Avengers 4...but I assume Marvel will probably move Avengers up again, in which case Missing Link would face the opening of Avengers against its second weekend.

https://deadline.com/2018/06/missin...oe-saldana-release-date-annapurna-1202419001/
 

Jake Lipson

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Trailers are here. The domestic one from Annapurna:



and a slightly different international one from Lionsgate:



And also the poster:

Link.jpg


The fact that the rating is on the poster must indicate that it's already done, or very close, if it's screened for the ratings board already.

I don't know why, but so far I'm not taking to this quite as much as to Laika's previous movies (all four of which I love.) I'm still going to see it, of course, but this is more of a straightforward comedy than I was expecting. I can't put my finger on why the trailer doesn't super excite me.

Oh well, there's lots of time between now and April. It doesn't look bad...I'm just not quite as excited as I normally would be for a new Laika trailer. We'll see.

Also, it's interesting that they chose to identify Laika as "the creator of Kubo and the Two Strings" in tiny print on the poster. If people even notice that (I had to look at it close up for it not to be dwarfed by the title), Kubo is their lowest-grossing title. Even though it's the most recent, I suspect name-dropping Coraline would be more effective, since it is the biggest Laika film by a wide margin.

Presumably the trailer will attach to The Grinch, which even though I have no interest in seeing it should certainly get the trailer in front of a lot of people this weekend.
 

Edwin-S

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Laika's films do not do well because the characters are not "cute" and the stories are not gag-filled family comedies with a lot of "feels" moments. I mean take "Paranorman" and "Kubo" for example.

Paranorman dealt with a misunderstood and somewhat disliked kid, who had to deal with the vengeful spirit of a girl that was murdered by a by a group of intolerant, ignorant adults who, as adults, should have known better.

Kubo was about a kid that was being hunted down for his power.

Unlike most other studios, none of Laika's films have been made with characters where the first thought in the design is the ability to sell toys to kids. That is where Laika's films set themselves apart from the product of other studios. They are made as films first with no real thought given to revenue streams from toy sales and fast food tie-ins. Kubo did have a tie-in with (I think) Burger King, but even that was pretty short-lived and really wasn't heavily promoted. None of Laika's characters are toy friendly.

They pretty well do not do great box office because they treat animation as a medium to tell more complex stories and not as merch machines. In turn that means they run into the age old problem in North America where animation is seen as little more than a medium for child friendly comedies.
 

Malcolm R

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I've seen a fair amount of TV advertising recently. Sadly, it hasn't really convinced me that I need to see this. Also had the trailer before How to Train Your Dragon 3 at the theater last week.

I hope it performs well. Annapurna has been hemorrhaging money recently. Recent stories said they had taken sizable losses on Vice and If Beale Street Could Talk, despite their awards nominations.
 

Jake Lipson

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Sadly, it hasn't really convinced me that I need to see this.

I'm there automatically for anything that Laika does because they have yet to produce a movie I don't love. However, the trailers on this one haven't inspired as much excitement as Kubo and the Two Strings did. I saw that three times theatrically.

I hope it performs well. Annapurna has been hemorrhaging money recently. Recent stories said they had taken sizable losses on Vice and If Beale Street Could Talk, despite their awards nominations.

I could be wrong but I think this is just a distribution deal for Annapurna. However, Laika needs it to perform, too. For Annapurna, their highest-grossing film is Vice at $47 million. Kubo, which was the lowest-grossing Laika film to date unfortunately, was at $48 million. So if it is able to perform in line with the other Laika films, it could become, sort of by default, the highest-grossing release yet for Annapurna. But that's a big "if." One of the problems that Laika has had in the past is that, aside from people who hang out on boards like this one, the brand is not clearly defined with mainstream audiences. Disney is. Pixar is. Illumination is, mostly because of Despicable Me and the Minions I don't get the sense that family audiences are tying all of Laika's films together and getting excited because those people have a new film out, and because there is less awareness overall of the Laika brand, that means they have to start from zero every time they produce a new film in terms of generating interest.
 

Edwin-S

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The thing with Laika is that they don't care about creating appealing looking "cute" characters that translate well into merchandise outside of their films (ie, toys). As an animation fan that makes me happy since it shows that Laika cares more about creating animated films that are about the story and animation as a medium than about toys and franchising deals like Disney, Illumination and other typical Hollywood studios do. On the other hand, they can go a bit too far in creating characters that don't strike a chord such as those in "Boxtrolls".

"Boxtrolls" certainly had unique looking characters, some bordering on grotesque looking; however, their look plus the characterizations do not encourage repeat viewings of the film. Visually, it is an incredible looking animated film but the film overall is their first one that didn't inspire repeat viewings from me. I have never had any urge to see the film beyond my initial theatrical viewing. If it had that effect on me, as a fan of animation, then I can be doubly sure that its appeal to mainstream film goers was even lower.

I'll definitely see this latest effort of theirs if it makes to my local theatre or if I am somewhere where it does play, even if it is for nothing more than to support an animation studio that, at least, tries to make films that are less typical than the usual CGI comedies. This is a comedy; however, to me what makes it unique is it is a period piece that centres around adult characters, rather than cute animals and kids.
 

Jake Lipson

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My theater is selling tickets for opening weekend and it occurred to me I think this is the first Laika film that is not being released in 3D. Or, if it is getting a 3D release, my theater is not listed as showing it that way.

I'm not a 3D fan so this doesn't affect me, but it's interesting they don't appear to be doing that this time. I wonder if this has to do with the change of distributor from Focus to Annapurna or not.

I can't wait to see the movie but it seems like awareness is not very high, so it will probably open lower than it probably deserves to. So far, the critics reviews have been very good, with a 89% on Rotten Tomatoes as of right now.
 

Malcolm R

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It seems to be available in 3D. Some theaters are pre-selling tix for 3D shows.
 

Jake Lipson

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Some theaters are pre-selling tix for 3D shows.

Oh, okay, then it's just mine that's not pre-selling 3D shows. They still have to update listings for movies that they don't have on advance sale, so maybe they'll add 3D showtimes in the next couple of days.
 
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