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ParaNorman (Blu-ray Review)

In what seems like an incredibly perfect match, Shout! Factory will be releasing new digitally remastered versions of the first four films from the wonderful stop-motion animation studio, LAIKA. Those films include Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls and Kubo and the Two Strings. In addition to the new restorations, every release will feature new bonus features while carrying over the old ones. Also, a booklet is included inside the packaging. For today’s review, we’ll be taking a look at their sophomore effort ParaNorman, which found LAIKA really flexing and taking a rather giant swing after their breakout feature. ParaNorman and Kubo and the Two Strings are the second wave of these LAIKA Blu-rays arriving from Shout! Factory on September 14th. The other two films were released back in August. You can land yourself a copy of ParaNorman by clicking the paid Amazon Associates link that follows the review.

Film

Young Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) has the ability to speak with the dead — and he often prefers their company to that of the living. Norman receives word from his strange Uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman) that a centuries-old witch’s curse on their town is real and about to come true — and that only Norman can stop it. When zombies rise from their graves, Norman must summon all his courage and compassion and push his paranormal abilities to the limit to save his fellow townspeople.

ParaNorman is a complete love letter to the horror genre, paying tribute and inspired by spooky flicks of the past, carving its own path to becoming one of the best entries into the lexicon. The creators know their stuff, play with it and find new and original avenues with which to utilize classic monsters and horror tropes. Its altogether meshed in with some wonderful coming of age and three dimensional characters both lead and supporting that have such great depth and arcs in the film.

In terms of the animation prowess in ParaNorman, its quite insane what a feat this movie really is. They go from their previous movie which took place in a secluded area with a handful of characters, to a full fledged populated town and a ton of zombies. And to add to that, many of the visual effects, like the witch in the clouds or the electrifying climactic battle, are just a treat on the eyes and really push the limits making you wonder how and how long it took them to pull such things off.

This second LAIKA feature really takes off from Coraline and lifts off to the sky. ParaNorman works so well with its horror, action and comedy, you almost forget its an animation. They’ve really staged, shot and cut together some outstanding action sequences. The voice actors and chemistry is terrific. They pull off a very Scooby Doo-like vibe and adventure within this film too. And to boot, the film has some great character beats and heartwarming moments. With no hesitation whatsoever, ParaNorman can be labeled as a perfect film.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: The press release for these LAIKA releases boasted “digitally remastered editions”. But some other outlets were saying aside from Coraline’s switch from VC-1 to AVC encoding, they were the same transfers on the first two discs back in August. I’ll go on Shout! Factory’s word that they’d done some tinkering with it. But like the others, this had a fantastic transfer to begin with, so any difference seen is going to be minimal without a jump to 4K Ultra-HD. This film features great color saturation, crisp image and loads of great detail and texture.

Depth:  I believe this film was original released in 3D, and being the stop motion animation type, it lends itself to being really well rounded, spacious and having great camera movements to display the depth of field. Movements are smooth (for stop motion) and have no issues regarding motion distortion.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and rich. There’s a lot of terrific shadowing going on with no issues with information being lost in the darker corners of the image. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are very strong and well saturated. There’s a lot of good glowing on display with the clouds, displays, the witch at the end and much more. The colors are pretty strong and you get great blues, purples, reds, greens and more.

Flesh Tones: N/A

Noise/Artifacts: None

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics: ParaNorman carries over its 5.1 track from the previous release. And that’s not a bad thing. This is a really fun track that sprawls around the room and provides an engaging experience with lots of jumps and spooky soundscapes. The mix is well balanced with the music/vocals/effects, each one getting their time in the spotlight while never stepping on another’s toes.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Crashing, smashing, energy bursts, music bumps and more get a nice thomp from your subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: This one swims around the room quite well. You get plenty of accurate and impactful sound travel as well as some terrific spooky soundscapes. This isn’t some front heavy track, its plenty active throughout with the rear channels for the duration of the film.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. Great detail in capturing the full vocal inflections and mouth sounds of the actors.

Extras

ParaNorman comes with a DVD copy of the film and an insert booklet.

Audio Commentary

  • With Writer/Director Chris Butler and Director Sam Fell

Inside LAIKA: Discovering the Characters and Effects of ParaNorman (HD, 12:51) – This one goes over their desire to go very big with the story, taking on challenges of things that were deemed “impossible” for stop motion. Their goal was to create something that felt like a live action movie. There are a lot of nifty details and stories within this one.

Inside LAIKA: Revisiting the Puppets with LAIKA’s Animation Team – The team brings out some of the old puppets from the film and reflects and motions them around a bit.

  • Courtney Babcock (HD, 1:25)
  • Mitch (HD, 1:35)
  • Norman Babcock (HD, 1:59)
  • Neil (HD, 1:22)
  • Mr. Prenderghast (HD, 1:43)
  • Zombie Judge (HD, 2:09)

Feature-Length Storyboards (HD, 1:32:03)

Peering Through the Veil: Behind the Scenes of ParaNorman (HD, 40:41) 

You Don’t Become a Hero by Being Normal (HD, 2:43)

A Normal Childhood (HD, 2:03)

Playing as a Profession (HD, 2:18)

Making Norman (HD, 1:34)

This Little Light (HD, 1:15)

Have You Ever Seen a Ghost? (HD, 2:11)

The Zombies of ParaNorman (HD, 2:14)

Still Galleries (HD) – Character Art, Concept Art, Behind the Scenes

Trailer (HD, 1:33)

Summary

ParaNorman is perfection in the world of not just stop motion, but animation in general. I’d even go so far as to use the easily bandied about “M” word on it. Shout! Factory has given it a new release with some tinkering and nice bells and whistles to polish up and make slight improvements to the previous disc. However, like Coraline and The Box Trolls, many are probably going to be fine with just holding onto their old discs. If you’re a LAIKA super fan or have never owned it, then grab this version for sure!

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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