Isaac Hempstead Wright On The Boxtrolls!
Isaac Hempstead Wright voices a character named Eggs, a boy raised by creatures called Boxtrolls, in the upcoming 3D stop motion film, The Boxtrolls, which releases in theaters across the country on September 26.
Isaac recently spoke with us to chat all about his involvement with The Boxtrolls, including voice acting and the incredible process that goes into bringing stop motion animation to live!
The Boxtrolls is loosely based on Here Be Monsters!, a novel from the Ratbridge Chronicles book series by Alan Snow.
"It's a very expansive, several volume story," Isaac explained. "It's fairly different from the final film, just because it's a bit like trying to fit Game Of Thrones into a feature-length film. You just couldn't do it."
Before The Boxtrolls, Isaac had only done live action acting. The stop motion movie put him in a recording studio and tested his talents in an entirely new way.
"It's really different, because in live action you provide everything," he said. "You provide the body, the face and the voice. But in stop motion, you really are only the voice, and the second part of your job is done by the animators."
This makes it especially crucial to get the vocal work just right.
"You've got to put more through your voice, because that's all you've got to express the performance," he said. "Furthermore, you're not onset, where you feel as though you are where the character is. You're in kind of a sterile recording booth, so to a certain extend you have to imagine it a bit more and get a bit more into the zone."
Isaac recorded most of his voice work in a studio with a reader, rather than the other voice actors, but he did get a few chances to work in the booth with the other stars of The Boxtrolls.
"I was lucky enough to do a couple of sessions with Elle [Fanning] and Sir Ben [Kingsley] and Simon Pegg, and those were great," he said. "The performance comes to life a bit because you are actually conversing with the characters who people will see you conversing with onscreen. You see our real reflections between each other."
In The Boxtrolls, Ben Kingsley plays the wicked Archibald Snatcher, who sets out to exterminate the Boxtrolls, despite his knowledge that they are kind and harmless creatures.
We asked Isaac what it was like to share a recording booth with the star.
"Absolutely terrifying!" he replied. "If you think it's scary watching him onscreen, imagine being in a tiny booth with him. I recorded with him in this really quaint little studio in Oxford. You're in a really tiny booth and things aren't helped by his very large reclining chair, which he uses to get the voice from the right part of his body. You're kind of squished into a tiny corner with a Shakespearean actor in the other corner, screaming at you and trying to kill you."
"Obviously in the story," he said. "I didn't annoy him that much."
Once Isaac had recorded his vocals for the movie, it was also a very new process watching the story come to life on screen.
"It's quite bizarre because you really don't recognize yourself at all," he said. "In live action, you can see it's you, but you're wearing a costume and you're pretending to be someone else. But here, because you're only lending the voice to a puppet, you don't really think it's you at all. It's like watching someone completely different.
Isaac estimated that from the time of his casting in the film to the movie's completion, about 3 years had passed.
"It's a long process, and things weren't helped by the fact that my voice changed rather dramatically throughout the filming," he said. "That's the risk you take when you employ a prepubescent boy."
Isaac had to go back and redo some of the scenes that he had recorded before the voice change.
"We just had to rerecord several parts," he said. "But it wasn't too much of a problem because the scripts changed a lot as well. It wasn't as if we were completely redoing the whole thing."
But Isaac wasn't just involved in the aural portion of the filming. He also got to witness the motion capture procedure in action.
"I got to go to the studios in Portland, which was like getting Willy Wonka's golden ticket," he said. "It was incredible. It's a bit like a university filled with people dedicated to their art. All these different parts of the art all come together as one to create the final finished, incredible product."
Isaac even got the chance to take part in the stop motion process.
"I did get to do a little of the animating myself with Travis, who's one of the lead animators in the Laika studio," she said. "I got to have a go at moving Eggs and changing the little faces on him that create the animation."
Making everything look absolutely perfect takes a lot of difficult and precise work.
"It's an incredibly laborious, time consuming process," he said. "It's kind of a unification between the very old elements of stop motion and cutting edge technology."
They used a series of techniques called rapid prototyping with 3D printing to print all of the characters' faces that appear in the film.
"When they film it, they print them all out and they have these really quite creepy boxes with lots of tiny little faces in," Isaac explained. "You take one off and put one on, and click, and take one off and put one on and click."
But that's only the beginning of the long process.
"That's just the faces," he said. "Let's not forget, they've got to move every single hand, every single finger, everything in the background. You'd think it'd take them an eternity to get a film done, but they do it, and they do it so well. It's remarkable."
This process breathes life into the animated Boxtrolls, as well as the other characters, in a way that makes the film stand out among other animated movies.
"I think they're really cute, but the Boxtrolls are cute in a kind of grotesque sort of way," Isaac explained. "They like their bugs and their centipedes, but they're very nurturing at the same time. They've got that typical children's movie trait of the fact that everyone thinks they're bad, but they're nice. It's just a charming film."
In the film, Isaac's character is called Eggs, because wears a cardboard box that once contained eggs. We asked Isaac which type of box he'd wear if he were an honorary Boxtroll.
"I think I'd wear a sweets box, purely because I like sweets," he said. "I could probably keep some sweets in there. That would be convenient storage for them."
Isaac said that audiences of all ages will fall in love with the Boxtrolls story and really come to appreciate all of the effort that went into making the movie a reality.
"So much work has gone into it from the production team," he said. "It's so easy to forget how much work goes into the animation and the costumes and the puppets and the props, and if there's one thing I want anyone to take away from the movie, it's all the stuff onscreen. You should pause it on every frame and see all the tiny bits that you might not notice but really contribute to the whole thing, and have probably taken someone 3 weeks to do."
For even more on The Boxtrolls, check out our review of the film here and follow Isaac Hempstead Wright on his social pages, listed below! You can also join us at SweetyHigh.com to discuss The Boxtrolls and much more!