Chris Butler (‘Missing Link’ director): Stop-motion limitations made him a better filmmaker [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Chris Butler is very blunt when he discusses why he’s gravitated towards making films using the stop-motion animation method, including his most recent film, “Missing Link.” He reveals, “It comes down to real light on real objects and that’s something I don’t think we can still fake. There’s still an element of chaos to it that’s so beautiful and tactile that you feel like you can reach into the screen and touch these things,” he explains. But even with the restrictions that the technique presents, Butler says the ability to actually be on the film’s set has helped make him a better filmmaker, “because I was thinking about the limitations and not just about how I could fly the camera around in an impressive way.”

“Missing Link” centers on Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), a well-meaning but reckless explorer who searches for mythical creatures, and his quest to find the fabled Sasquatch. When he does discover the creature, Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis), he helps the Sasquatch find his relatives in the Himalayas. It also stars Zoe SaldanaStephen FryTimothy Olyphant and Emma Thompson. The film is Butler’s follow-up to “ParaNorman” which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature in 2012.

While Butler expresses a lot of love for stop motion, the medium still presented many challenges during production. In particular, an early scene in the movie involving a barroom brawl proved to be the hardest one to shoot. “There’s four walls so in some ways that should make it simpler but when you add into the mix more than a dozen characters and seven physical puppets on frame at the same time,” he says. He elaborates that in addition to the physical challenges, there were issues with the availability of the actual puppets since they weren’t all usable at the same time.

An aspect of the film that Butler is very proud of is the tremendous voice cast, but he specifically singled out getting Galifianakis and Jackman in the two main parts. Of what Galifianakis brought to the part, Butler expounds that, “Everything Zach does is kind of displaced. There’s an awkwardness to it but there’s also a real humanity to that and I felt that was perfect for this character who’s never been around humans before.” For Frost, Butler had always wanted Jackman for the part for his likability and ended up waiting six months for him to be free for the recording sessions.

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