GS INTERVIEW: ParaNorman Directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell

We here at Geek Syndicate managed to nab a few minutes with ParaNorman directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell to talk about horror, zombies and biscuits…

GS: How would you describe ParaNorman in your own words?

Sam: It’s a roller coaster ride, a supernatural adventure. It’s funny, it’s scary and it’s really moving.

Chris: And it’s got zombies in it!


GS: ParaNorman is such a great homage to horror movies and the genre in general. What was your first experience with horror?

Chris: I watched all kinds of stuff I shouldn’t have been watching as a kid. But I do remember watching Night of the Living Dead when I was quite young. It was black and white so I thought it would be fine. Then it got to the scene with the girl in the cellar eating her mother…that scene stuck in my head for a while. It made me who I am today! A messed up individual. And then I couldn’t get enough.

Sam: My first experience was a sci-fi thing called The Quatermass Experiment, which again was black and white, but I still have nightmares about it! That guy turning into a giant cactus. It’s nasty!


GS: You use replacement animation technology in this film (each character has a series of hundreds, even thousands of separate faces to make up different expressions), how exciting was it to use this process and how did it differ to when you made Coraline?

Chris: It opens the whole world up – we wanted it to feel like a live action film and we were able to embrace that. The replacement animation technology really allowed us to do real filmic acting, because it’s so subtle, because it’s so nuanced. You can get in really close and do extreme close up shots and reaction shots. You can do the kind of shots you see in live action every day but we haven’t been able to do with stop motion before.

Sam: We can also print coloured faces now with much more texture. The faces on Coraline were mostly flat colour faces with maybe a few freckles. Now we can give a character a thousand freckles!


GS: How do you map out the action before you film it then? Because there are so many faces and the gestures are so intricate.

Chris: We have a whole team who sit at computers with all the faces available and they come up with the performance that way and we sit with the animators and go through it.

Sam: It’s all layered because of course the actors come in and do their performance first, which is half of it, then we go through the facial animation, then stage it. We go through each performance a dozen times before we actually shoot it.


GS: It’s time for our quick-fire round! Fast or Slow Zombies?

Chris & Sam: Slow!


GS: Who is your favourite character in ParaNorman?

Chris: Courtney.

Sam: Neil.


GS: What’s your favourite biscuit?

Sam: Custard Creams at the moment.

Chris: I don’t know! I’ve lived in America for so long a biscuit is what you put gravy on…Pass. I can’t believe I just passed on what’s your favourite biscuit.


GS: Whose ghost would you want to talk to?

Chris: Alfred Hitchcock.

Sam: Me Granddad.

Chris: Thanks, make me look bad!

Sam: Well you put your Grandmother in the film.

Chris: True.


GS: Would you class Frankenstein’s monster as a zombie?

Chris: Yes.

Sam: No.


GS: Hammer Horror or Universals Dracula?

Chris: Universal.

Sam: Hammer.

Chris: If I’d known that we would never have worked together!


GS: Who would you want to play you in a movie?

Sam: Robert Downey Jr.

Chris: Shirley Temple.

Cue hysterical laughter from everyone.


GS: I would pay good money to see that movie. Who shot first?

Chris: Are you seriously asking that!? Greedo never even shot.

Sam: No they added that in later.


GS: What Animal would be your Patronus?

Sam: A rat.

Chris: A wombat.


GS: Would you rather a chainsaw hand or machine gun leg?

Chris: Chainsaw hand.

Sam: Yup, chainsaw hand, easy!


Thanks very much to Chris and Sam for chatting with us! ParaNorman is out at cinemas now – go see it, we loved the film! You can read our review of it here.

Sara Westrop

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