Laika’s latest stop-motion feature, “Missing Link,” recently won a Golden Globe for animated film, and picked up an Oscar nomination as well. It’s the story of late Victorian-era Sir Lionel (voiced by Hugh Jackman), who discovers a creature resembling a yeti in the Pacific Northwest (Zach Galifianakis). They travel to the Himalayas with Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), a woman looking for adventure, to reunite it with its kin. Deborah Cook, who was the costume designer on Laika’s “ParaNorman,” “The Boxtrolls” and “Kubo and the Two Strings,” brought much hard-earned experience costuming puppets and working with stop-motion armature and animators — to the film.
What did you realize about the film when you first read the script?
I realized how expansive the costume opportunity was. We got to explore the Himalayas and the fabrics used there in that period of time, and the jewelry. I worked with a specialist from that region and that era. We had to make sure everything was accurate.
What kind of liberty did you take with the color palette?
Sir Lionel is from London and I am from London and very much into the history of fabric and the evolution of textiles. At that time, in late Victorian London, certain new dyes were in play and I used lemon yellows, fuchsia pinks, purple, teal blue. That vivid palette is very much of Sir Lionel’s time. He’s quite dapper, quite vain. And with his character, I looked at
color mixing in a very different way. Just a few years earlier, Lionel and Adelina would have been wearing dusky blues
and duller pinks, more subdued colors.
Adelina’s jewelry is lovely. She’s very daring and fashion forward. Adelina’s brooch is a cameo brooch, which is very traditional for the late Victorian age. [In the beginning of the film] she’s in a mourning dress, but she’s ready to move on. In the brooch she would have a picture of her late husband. The design is a swallow; it symbolizes a reawakening. We tried to get all these details into the costumes. The Victorians were very symbolic.
What goes into the costumes?
Everything was hand-sewn and hand-tailored by a team of specialists. All textiles were handmade. We’re very much self-reliant in building the costumes ourselves. All the costumes are motivated by story points and tell the story of the characters like a regular live-action movie, but the fabrics have to perform differently. We have to consider the movement and durability. We do a lot of animation testing and work closely with the animation department. There are 83 costumed puppets and about 47 test suits made for Lionel.
What’s another construction difference from a regular costume?
Since the puppets are animated by a person, the fabric has to follow the movement of the puppet to be believable. We have to engineer the movement into the costume. It’s very subtle. They look delicate but when you touch them, they’re built like a car; they’re very, very solid.