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ParaNorman
ParaNorman poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
  • Sam Fell
  • Chris Butler
Written by Chris Butler
Starring
Music by Jon Brion
Cinematography Tristan Oliver
Editing by Christopher Murrie
Studio Laika
Distributed by Focus Features
Release date(s) August 3, 2012 (2012-08-03) (Mexico)
August 17, 2012 (2012-08-17) (United States)
Running time 92 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $60 million
Money made $107.1 million

ParaNorman is a 2012 American stop-motion animated dark fantasy comedy horror film directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler (in his feature directorial debut), and written by Butler. Produced by Laika, the film stars the voices of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jodelle Ferland, Bernard Hill, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Tempestt Bledsoe, Alex Borstein, and John Goodman. It is the first stop-motion film to use a 3D color printer to create character faces, and only the second to be shot in 3D. In the film, Norman, a young boy who can communicate with ghosts, is given the task of ending a 300-year-old witch's curse on his Massachusetts town.

ParaNorman was officially released on August 17, 2012, by Focus Features. It received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised its animation and humor and was a modest box office success, earning $107 million worldwide against its budget of $60 million. The film was nominated for that year's Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film, but both lost to Pixar's Brave.

Plot

In the small fictional town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts, Norman Babcock is an 11-year-old boy who speaks with the dead, including his late grandmother and various ghosts in town. Almost no one believes him and he is isolated emotionally from his family while being ridiculed by his peers. His best friend, Neil Downe, is an overweight boy who is bullied himself and finds in Norman a kindred spirit. After rehearsing a school play commemorating the town's execution of a witch three centuries ago, the boys are confronted by Norman's estranged and seemingly deranged uncle, Mr. Prenderghast, who tells his nephew that he soon must take up his regular ritual to protect the town. Soon after this encounter, Mr. Prenderghast dies of a heart attack.

During the official performance of the school play, Norman has a nightmarish vision of the town's past in which he is pursued through the woods by townsfolk on a witch hunt, embarrassing himself and leading to a heated argument with his estranged and paranoid father Perry, who later grounds him. His mother Sandra tells him that his father's manner is stern because he is afraid for him. The next day, Norman sees Prenderghast's spirit who tells him that the ritual must be performed with a certain book before sundown that day; then making him "swear" to complete the task, Prenderghast's spirit is set free and crosses over. Norman is at first reluctant to go because he is scared but his grandmother tells him it is all right to be scared as long as he does not let it change who he is. Norman sets off to retrieve the book from Prenderghast's house (having to take it from his corpse).

He then goes to the graves of the five men and two women who were cursed by the witch, but finds that the book is merely a series of fairy tales. Alvin, a school bully who always picks on Norman, arrives and prevents Norman from reading the story before sundown. Norman attempts to continue reading from the book, to no effect. A ghostly storm resembling the witch appears in the air, summoning the cursed dead to arise as zombies, who chase the boys along with Norman's 17-year-old sister, Courtney; Neil, and Neil's older brother Mitch, down the hill and into town. Having realized that the witch was not buried in the graveyard, Norman contacts classmate Salma (who tells them to access the Town Hall's archives for the location of the witch's unmarked grave) for help. As the kids make their way to the Town Hall, the zombies are attacked by the citizenry. During the riot, Norman and his companions break into the archives but cannot find the information they need. As the mob moves to attack Town Hall, the witch storm appears over the crowd. Norman climbs the Hall's tower to read the book, in a last-ditch effort to finish the ritual, but the witch strikes the book with lightning, hurling Norman from the tower and deep into the archives.

Unconscious, Norman has a dream where he learns that the witch was Agatha "Aggie" Prenderghast, a little girl of his age who was also a medium. Norman realizes that Aggie was wrongfully convicted by the town council when they mistook her powers for witchcraft. After awakening, Norman encounters the zombies and recognizes them as the town council who convicted Aggie. The zombies and their leader Judge Hopkins admit that they only wanted to speak with him to ensure that he would take up the ritual, to minimize the damage of the mistake they made so long ago. Norman attempts to help the zombies slip away so they can guide him to Aggie's grave, but is cornered by the mob. Courtney, Mitch, Neil, and Alvin rally to Norman's side and confront the crowd, arguing that their rage, fear, and misunderstanding make them no different than the cursed townsfolk from long ago. Although the mob realizes the error of their ways, the witch unleashes her powers to create greater havoc throughout the town.

Judge Hopkins guides Norman's family to the grave in a forest. Before the grave is reached, Aggie's magical powers separate Norman from the others. Norman finds the grave and interacts with Aggie's vengeful spirit, determined to stop the cataclysmic tantrum she has been having over the years. Though she attempts to push him away, Norman holds his ground, telling her that he understands how she feels as an outcast, that her vengeance has only made her like the ones who wronged her, causing her to remember happier days. Having finally encountered someone who understands her plight and by remembering her caring mother, Aggie is able to find a measure of peace and cross over to the afterlife (having the opportunity to be reunited with her mother). The storm dissipates, and she, the zombies and even the Judge all fade away. The town cleans up and regards Norman as a hero.

In the end, Norman watches a horror film with his family and the ghost of his grandmother, who have grown to accept Norman for who he is.

Voice cast

  • Kodi Smit-McPhee as Norman Babcock, an 11-year-old outcast kid who speaks to the dead
  • Jodelle Ferland as Agatha "Aggie" Prenderghast, the ghost of an 11-year-old girl from the 1700s who was accused of witchcraft.
  • Bernard Hill as Judge Hopkins, the deceased judge who accused and punished Aggie for witchcraft, and the leader of the cursed zombies
  • Tucker Albrizzi as Neil Downe, Norman's overweight best friend who suffers from irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Anna Kendrick as Courtney Babcock, Norman's 17-year-old sister and a cheerleader
  • Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Alvin, a 15-year-old school bully
  • Casey Affleck as Mitch Downe, Neil's 20-year-old brother and a jock; the target of Courtney's affections.
  • John Goodman as Mr. Prenderghast, Sandra's uncle, Courtney and Norman's great uncle and the town's local eccentric.
  • Elaine Stritch as Grandma Babcock, the ghost of Courtney and Norman's deceased grandmother
  • Jeff Garlin as Perry Babcock, Courtney and Norman's stern father who is concerned about his son's well-being.
  • Leslie Mann as Sandra Babcock (née Prenderghast), Courtney and Norman's sympathetic mother.
  • Tempestt Bledsoe as Sheriff Hooper, the sheriff of Blithe Hollow
  • Alex Borstein as Mrs. Henscher, Norman and Neil's drama teacher
  • Hannah Noyes as Salma, a smart girl from Norman's class
  • Ariel Winter as Blithe Hollow Kid
  • Bridget Hoffman as Crystal and Parachutist Ghost
  • Scott Menville as Deputy Wayne, a deputy who works for Sheriff Hooper
  • David Cowgill as Greaser Ghost
  • Wendy Hoffman as Gucci Lady
  • Jeremy Shada as Pug
  • Emily Hahn as Sweet Girl
  • Jack Blessing as Civil War Ghost

Blithe Hollow townspeople are voiced by Kirk Baily, Cam Clarke, Lara Cody, Eddie Frierson, Rif Hutton, Edie Mirman and David Zyler.

Soundtrack

Jon Brion composed the film's score, and an accompanying soundtrack album was released on August 14, 2012. Bits of other music appear in the film, including the theme music from Halloween, the Donovan song "Season of the Witch" (sung by the school play cast) and "Fix Up, Look Sharp" by British rapper Dizzee Rascal. "Little Ghost", a White Stripes song from their 2005 album Get Behind Me Satan, plays at the end, over character cards identifying the main cast. However, one track in the film, an updated version of "Aggie Fights", was not included in the soundtrack.

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