With museum exhibit, Laika seeks to boost its Portland profile

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — None of Laika’s films takes place in Portland, but the animation studio says the city is in every scene you see on screen.

Portland’s quirky, do-it-yourself vibe informs Laika’s style of handcrafted animation, its filmmakers say, and inspires the offbeat stories the studio tells.

“There’s a corps of brilliant artistry here, and we were able to set up a studio here and find a lot of local talent as well as the international talent that were brought in,” said Georgina Hayns, who left England to work on Laika’s first film, “Coraline,” 11 years ago. She stayed, supervising the puppets in every Laika film since, because the city had a sensibility that encouraged creativity and artistry.

“Portland was the place that Laika could grow in, it was made for it,” she told an audience last summer.

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The Portland Art Museum opens its Laika exhibit on Saturday, showcasing the puppets and sets that appear in the studio’s four films, all Oscar nominees: “Coraline,” ”ParaNorman,” ”The Boxtrolls” and “Kubo and the Two Strings.” Its stop-motion films use actual puppets for its characters, with animators manipulating them on elaborate soundstages to simulate motion.

For movie fans, the exhibit is an opportunity to examine the raw materials from those films up close. But it’s also a chance for Laika to raise its profile in its hometown as it seeks to build a brand around its growing stable of movies.

“People know of our films, our mission is to turn Laika into a household name representing the quality films and products that it has, and we’re going to do that in different ways,” said Brad Wald, Laika’s chief financial officer and head of business operations.

While Laika is the Northwest’s biggest filmmaker, it has a relatively low profile regionally. Part of the reason is that it makes its films in a nondescript…

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