Giant skeleton from Kubo and the Two Strings
I once read somewhere that all film studios have a core premise they rely on for every one of their projects. Examples included “Who deserves to win in the end?” or “What if ____ had feelings?”
If Portland’s LAIKA Studios has a similar Rosetta Stone to their unstoppable popularity, they’re keeping it firmly to themselves. But I’ll raise my hand from the back of the class here to suggest it might be something like, “What if hidden worlds were real?”
Try it out. Run through their movies in your mind: Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, Kubo and the Two Strings, Missing Link… It kinda works, right?
Enter the LAIKA: Hidden Worlds exhibit at MoPOP and my embarrassingly acute but understandable obsession.
It’s a simple enough set-up to start with: The exhibit unveils (A) the hidden world of LAIKA’s production studios alongside (B) an immersive trip through the fantastical worlds of their films. Two hidden worlds for the price of one. Love it.
But if you’re anything like me you get there, and you’re standing in front of the actual Pink Palace, the actual Box Trolls, the actual leaf boat from Kubo, and you remember the sign urging you to Look closer, there’s more, so you lean in and you realize oh, yes, there is. There is more. <squinting> How is there more?!
Every. Single. Artifact. In that show. Is a hidden world.
The knitting pattern on Coraline’s gloves. The eyes on ParaNorman’s slippers. The writing on the scrolls in Hanzo's study. Seriously, look closer. Someone made that. I could happily spend an entire day at MoPOP just on Sir Lionel Frost’s study, filling my eyes and heart with every tiny picture, crest, dodo, vase, chair, teacup, and perfectly worn carpet while my brain chants “How? How? Howwww?!”
In the end, the answer to that question might also be the answer to LAIKA’s magic. “What if hidden worlds were real?” Turns out in this case they are. Literally.
And lucky us, we get to go see them.