ParaNorman is a 2012 American animated comedy horror film produced by Laikaand distributed by Focus Features. Directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler, from a screenplay by Butler, it stars the voices of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill, Jodelle Ferland, Tempestt Bledsoe, Alex Borstein and John Goodman. In the film, it tells about a young boy that communicates with ghosts, who is given the task of ending a 300 year-old witch's curse on his Massachusetts town and also stopping a zombie apocalypse.
In the small town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts, Norman Babcock is a 12-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 rehearsal of 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.
During the official performance of the school play, Norman has a 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 father Perry, who later grounds him. His mother Sandra tells him that his father's stern manner is because he is afraid for him. The next day, Norman sees Prenderghast's spiritwho 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, 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; 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, the late 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 calms down, 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, and eventually forcing 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 the ghost of his grandmother and his family, who have grown to accept Norman for who he is.
- Kodi Smit-McPhee as Norman Babcock, an 13-year-old outcast kid who speaks to the dead
- Jodelle Ferland as Aggie Prenderghast, a ghost of an 11-year-old girl from the 1700s who was accused of witchcraft.
- Bernard Hill as Judge Hopkins, a former judge and the zombie leader
- Tucker Albrizzi as Neil Downe, Norman's eccentric and chubby friend
- Anna Kendrick as Courtney Babcock, Norman's 17-year-old sister and cheerleader
- Casey Affleck as Mitch Downe, Neil's 18-year-old brother and a jock; the target of Courtney's affections, but later revealed to be gay
- Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Alvin, a 13-year-old school bully
- Leslie Mann as Sandra Babcock, Norman's mother
- Jeff Garlin as Perry Babcock, Norman's father
- Elaine Stritch as Grandma Babcock, Norman's ghost grandmother
- John Goodman as Mr. Prenderghast, Norman's great-uncle and the town's local eccentric
- Tempestt Bledsoe as Sheriff Hooper, a police officer
- Alex Borstein as Mrs. Henscher, Norman's teacher
- Hannah Noyes as Salma, a smart girl from Norman's class
The idea of the film came from Chris Butler, who, realizing that zombie films often contained a degree of social commentary, thought making such a movie for kids could help express the challenges kids face growing up.
Production of the stop-motion animation feature took place at Laika's studio in Hillsboro, Oregon. The film was in production for three years, with the animating stage of production lasting about two years and beginning in late 2009. Rather than using traditional 3D format cameras, the studio had sixty Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR cameras film the movie. Ad agency Wieden+Kennedy created the advertising campaign for the film. ParaNorman is the first ever stop motion film to utilize full-color 3D printers for replacement animation. Laika's previous film Coraline had pioneered and popularized the use of black and white 3D printers, which sped up puppet production considerably and allowed the team to make the large number of puppet faces required for the film. "Quite often it’s the stop-motion movies that are more out there," co-director Fell told The New York Times. "They're a little quirkier, they're a little harder to pin down."