I have been catching up on the films from Laika studio recently. Even disregarding all other factors with which we judge a film, the body of work they have produced with respect to only stop-motion animation quality is astounding.
Coraline (2009) is their best work yet. A visual masterpiece. And incredibly creepy. Worth spending money on for the visuals alone. The story was above par too. Most films have a typical plot line where a character is shown to desire something, then has obstacles put in the way of that desire, and spends the film overcoming these obstacles to achieve a resolution. This films takes a slightly different view, where like 'Alice in Wonderland', we see the main character change goals midway through the film, which is when the real source of conflict is revealed. Of course, they film makers did have good source material to work from (a Neil Gaiman story). This might also explain why the film was one of the creepiest I've ever seen. I was also surprised by how well crafted the film was in terms of pacing. The film wasn't long, and yet seems evenly paced throughout.
ParaNorman (2012), a dramedy, was a whole lot of fun to watch. The story of acceptance is a little predictable (but still reasonably engrossing), and the animation wasn't as great as 'Coraline' (maybe that comes from setting your film in a typical suburban setting), but it was still good. The supporting characters are colourful without being annoying, and they get the comedy right. The lead character's personality and development are both above par. For that matter, so is the script. The lead character's thoughts and conversations with others are perhaps the best thing about this film. The best part of the movie is of course the final confrontation with the little girl. A work of art on all levels, it's worth watching the entire film for that scene alone.
The Boxtrolls (2014) is a visual masterpiece. The set design itself is better than 'Coraline'. Again, watch it for the visuals alone. I liked the story, but felt it was aimed at younger audiences. The story felt old, like it has been done before, so it felt a little predictable and low key for me. Nothing about the plot really stood out. The Boxtrolls and ParaNorman are almost like inverted versions of each other, with the Boxtrolls being the better visual experience, and ParaNorman having a fuller, more emotional story to tell, with characters you really relate to. But this shouldn't take away how awesome the film is. Each individual frame is so well crafted it's tough not to admire the film.