Norman’s not like other kids. He sees dead people, kind of like that Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. Except Norman is friends with ghosts and ParaNorman’s not really scary. It’s 3D, animated, funny and made for kids (probably 10 and up, just saying).
We spoke to the film’s directors, Sam Fell and Chris Butler (also writer) , from the Mandarin Oriental Miami Hotel.
This film is full of disturbing topics. Do you think most kids can handle that?
Fell: I don’t think there’s any clear-cut answer. Every parent knows his or her kid. When I go to these kinds of movies with my son – he’s 8 — he just puts his hands over his eyes when it gets a bit intense.
Butler: I grew up watching all kinds of horror movies and I don’t think it did me any harm. I found kids at school a lot scarier than zombies. The unfortunate truth about bullying is that it never goes away. There’s always going to be someone who judges you unfairly. That’s what this movie is about: Don’t judge a book by its cover.
The script is hysterical.
Fell: We wanted the kids to really sound like kids. We didn’t want to talk down to them.
Butler: Right, even some of the racier jokes we don’t do a nudge-nudge, wink-wink to parents. I think part of it is that I’m extremely immature. There’s some of us who never grow up. The unfortunate thing about adults is they lose their sense of wonder.
Fell: You get that back for a moment when you go to a movie like this. Watching those puppets come to life.
Many people are comparing “ParaNorman” to “The Sixth Sense.”
Butler: Yeah, but I worked on this long before that movie came out. On and off about 16 years. Norman’s the opposite of Osment, who is angst ridden and miserable. We’ve kind of turned it on its head a little bit.
Jeff Garlin of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” did a great job voicing the father who is duly disturbed by his son’s visions.
Butler: We’re kind of rehashing older movies dealing with dysfunctional families. It doesn’t mean the father is unloving or caring. He loves his son. He’s just lacking a few parenting skills. He’s immediately relatable and gives the movie a realness we were striving for.
How do you direct actors who aren’t actually acting with their bodies?
Fell: Like you would any actor. You discuss the character, the motivation, the scene. We were lucky that we got them to spontaneously interact. They weren’t alone in a booth. They could bounce off each other.
Butler: John Goodman [Norman’s uncle] brought so much of his own kind of craziness to the part. That was John really putting himself out there.
What was the biggest challenge of making a 3D feature like this?
Fell: The scope and scale and the ambition. We had crowd scenes, a big special effects scene and an epic conclusion when the whole world sort of falls apart that was an astonishing mixture of old and new technology.
Butler: We said, ‘Let’s do everything we shouldn’t do’ and we did it. We pushed and pushed and I think that’s what makes this medium remain vital.