It was bugs, balloons and barrels of fun at Focus Features’ pre-premiere party for Laika’s “The Boxtrolls” Sunday morning at Universal Studios Hollywood. One intriguing treat was a truck offering guests a chance to “Eat Like a Boxtroll,” with an assortment of crunchy critters on display, including such delicacies as Superworm Quesadillas, Chocolate Dipped Chappulines and Grasshopper Kabobs. No word on how many tried these snacks. Meanwhile, studio execs, creatives, cast and guests got a chance to mingle and munch on other goodies as they played a variety of “Boxtroll” inspired games prior to strolling the red carpet for the screening.
Ben Kingsley, who plays a villainous exterminator in the film, was fascinated by the process of voicing an animated character, which is quite the solitary endeavor. “It’s a very extraordinary discipline. You can only use your voice,” he said. “There’s no point in using any body language to convey what I’m feeling or want to say because the body language doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to the animators.”
Kingsley also talked about his peculiar chemistry with co-star Nick Frost, who plays one of his henchmen. “When you see it on screen, it looks as if Nick and I worked together for weeks to achieve the relationship we did,” he explained. But “we were never in the same studio. … I didn’t meet Nick until yesterday.”
Frost enjoyed the process very much because “it’s a nice, low pressure thing. I don’t even have to wear pants when I do it.” He said we’d have to wait until the Blu-ray for the special features to see if that was truly the case.
Playing an animated character can also be a long process. Elle Fanning, who voices Winnie, worked on the film for three years, but big sis Dakota can claim bragging rights. “She worked on (Laika’s) ‘Coraline’ for eight years.”
Working at Laika in the quirky climes of Portland, Ore., offered unique opportunities for co-directors Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable. “Almost every day on the project we’d suddenly panic and go, ‘Wait a minute! Fish has to be playing a saw in this sequence. How do you play a saw?,’ ” said Stacchi. “And someone would say ‘Let me go to my car and get my saw and I’ll play it for you.’ You can’t throw a rock up there without finding someone who can do some obscure thing.”
Annable concurred: “It’s a cast of people that have an unbelievable desire and ability to solve problems in the weirdest ways.”
The Boxtrolls are called by the descriptive names on their individual boxes. Though Kingsley’s, Frost’s and Fanning’s characters were outside the box, so to speak, they did have thoughts on what they’d be if they did have boxes to inhabit. Frost didn’t name his box, but wanted to be in a “nice big one. I’d like to be the one that’s on the bottom of the night stack. It would be nice and warm in there.” Fanning, with a giggle, proclaimed that her box would read “Bubblegum.” And Kingsley said he would be in “a box of bullets.”
In addition to Focus Features execs Peter Schlessel and Christine Birch, Laika topper and “Boxtrolls” producer Travis Knight, and the film’s creatives and stars, the premiere brought out some of Hollywood’s youngest celebs including “About a Boy’s” Benjamin Stockham and “Modern Family’s” Aubrey Anderson-Emmons.