San Diego Comic-Con 2012: Co-Directors Chris Butler and Samuel Fell Talk ParaNorman and More!

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For ParaNorman two of the brightest talents working today in animation, Samuel Fell and Chris Butler, have teamed up to co-direct what appears to be another modern animated classic.

Their tale of an unassuming boy (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) who must save his town from a zombie outbreak looks pretty damned fun.

During last week’s San Diego Comic-Con, Dread Central had the chance to briefly chat with the pair about the inspirations behind ParaNorman, making a zombie movie for kids and how this project was a dream job for the duo.

Check out the highlights of our interview with Butler and Fell below, and look for more on ParaNorman closer to the film’s release on August 17th courtesy of Focus Features.

Dread Central: This seems like a very personal project for you guys; can you talk a bit about what inspired ParaNorman?

Chris Butler: Well, it’s sad to say, but a lot of the inspiration behind Norman is a lot of me as a kid; I was him. But in terms of Norman’s world, I was a bit obsessed with horror movies- you know, all the stuff I never should have been watching as a kid. But at the same time, I was also watching a lot of other stuff like John Hughes’ movies, The Goonies, E.T., Scooby-Doo, so for me it was like getting all of those inspirations together, mixed them up and made a zombie movie for kids. John Carpenter meets John Hughes.

Samuel Fell: There’s a lot of great character stuff in there, too; a lot of comedy, some horror of course, but not gory horror at all. You know, we just had some fun with the spooky stuff.

Chris Butler: But there is also something intrinsic about zombie stories that you can use them to tell relevant stories that also have some comment to make as well. George Romero has been doing it for decades, and everything he’s done is still relevant today. So I thought it would be interesting to use zombies in a story about middle school kids bullying each other because bullying is a huge issues.

Samuel Fell: ParaNorman kind of hearkens back to the days of Ray Harryhausen and his models that were all stop-frame. That’s the period that we were looking at and that we love the most so everything just felt right.

Question: Being fans, is it a dream come true to work on a movie like this then?

Samuel Fell: Oh yes, I was just saying the other day that there is stuff written into the script that I actually had forgotten – like a bunch of our horror movie references. Even our character names are references; there are just so many different references I had forgotten many of them. We had 325 people working on this movie, and they’re all horror fans, too, so they added some of their own touches. There’s probably well over 200 horror ‘Easter eggs’ in this.

ParaNorman is directed by Sam Fell (The Tale of Despereaux, Flushed Away) and Chris Butler (Coraline, The Corpse Bride) from Butler’s original screenplay.

A small town comes under siege by zombies. Who can it call? Only misunderstood local boy Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is able to speak with the dead. In addition to the zombies, he’ll have to take on ghosts, witches, and worst of all, moronic grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse. But this young ghoul whisperer may find his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits.

The voice cast includes Academy Award nominee Casey Affleck (The Killer Inside Me), Tempestt Bledsoe (“The Cosby Show”), Jeff Garlin (Toy Story 3), John Goodman (Red State, Matinee, Monsters, Inc.), Bernard Hill (Titanic), Academy Award nominee Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), Leslie Mann (Rio), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Fright Night 3D, How to Train Your Dragon), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In), Tony and Emmy Award winner Elaine Stritch (“30 Rock”), Tucker Albrizzi (Good Luck Charlie), Alex Borstein (“Family Guy”), and Jodelle Ferland (Case 39, Silent Hill, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse).

San Diego Comic-Con 2012: Co-Directors Chris Butler and Samuel Fell Talk ParaNorman and More!

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