The Boxtrolls premieres in September and I could not be more excited about it. Laika, the studio behind the film, has a history of consistently awesome movies (Coraline and Paranorman, to name a few), and their stop-motion animation skills are on a level no one else can hope to touch.
The basic gist of the story seems to be this: boxtrolls are cute, shy, misunderstood critters that live under the city and hoard shiny stuff. They adopt an abandoned human baby, and raise him as one of their own. Several years later, when said child is more preteenish, a villain threatens the boxtrolls, and the kid has to learn human ways from a girl he meets and try to save the day.
On one hand, I am sort of annoyed that the little girl has to be the one who teaches him about human culture instead of being the protagonist herself. So many children’s stories revolve around a wild, somehow inhuman male character being “civilized” by a girl—Disney’s Tarzan, Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast, hell, even The Aristocats, for cripes’ sake—and this tends to underscore the cultural norm that girls are more well-behaved and less wild than boys. On the other hand, though, given Laika’s past work, I’m willing to suspend judgment and hope that the message its female character sends is not more of the same.
One of the things I most appreciate about the movie so far was not in the above trailer but rather in the first teaser they released. That teaser trailer explained that some kids have a mom and dad, some have two moms, some have two dads, etc. (and some kids have no parents, like our protagonist).
Laika is notable for including the first canonically gay character in a children’s movie—a side character in Paranorman—but I think it was especially ballsy of them to put this particular teaser out as their first promotional effort. Vaguely-in-the-past fantasy stories are often the ones with the least LGBTQ+ representation because people seem to believe that queer people only recently began to exist, but despite its Victorian, steampunk-esque setting, the film’s creators made a point to include a normalized depiction of queer parenthood. It does, however, appear to fall beneath the other oft-raised complaint about period pieces: the “PoC haven’t been invented yet” fallacy. There isn’t a single character of color in the trailer, and I expect the movie will be the same, despite its cast including Ben Kingsley, Richard Ayoade, and Tracy Morgan.
On the topic of the cast, though, it is yet another reason to be excited for the movie. It includes several impressive (and impressively geeky) figures, such as Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Elle Fanning, and Isaac Hempstead-Wright (aka Bran Stark) voices the main character.
Like I said, there’s only a measly two months left till this movie premieres. Here’s hoping that Laika pleasantly surprises me on all the points I’m worried about and delivers a stop-motion home run.