This weekend, four films were released in theaters: “Little,” “Hellboy,” “After” and “Missing Link.” None of these films racked up much money in the box office, but one of these suffering films hits close to home. “Missing Link,” produced by an Oregon film studio, was a box office flop, having only grossed a few million dollars over the weekend despite its nationwide release. Having a locally-produced film perform this poorly is a shame, because this heartwarming film deserved more attention.
“Missing Link” was produced by the film studio Laika, which is located in Hillsboro, OR, 50 miles north of Salem in the Portland area. Like other Laika films, “Missing Link” explores a category of animation rarely used in the motion picture industry: stop motion, where every frame is created by moving physical props incrementally. The studio may be small, but its stars are not, as the film features recognizable actors such as Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana and Zach Galifianakis.
The film follows the story of Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), an aspiring explorer. Frost’s main goal is to find mythical creatures and prove their existence to the world, so when Frost receives a letter inviting him to go to the Pacific Northwest to investigate the presence of sasquatch, he accepts it without hesitation. Finding this mythical creature will allow him to join a society of “great men.” However, the society views Frost’s mission as a threat to them, so the society’s leader hires an assassin to secretly follow him.
Eventually, Frost arrives in Washington state to find sasquatch (Zach Galifianakis) living by himself in the woods. The creature, who can talk and is also literate, says he does not not have a name and rarely sees anyone, so Frost names him Mr. Link. Mr. Link says that his dream is to see his Yeti relatives in the Himalayas, so Frost agrees to take him in exchange for evidence of the sasquatch’s existence. The film continues to follow Link and Frost’s journey around the world, with the assassin constantly trying to stop them. Despite the threat of the assassin, Frost and Mr. Link are still able to create a powerful bond of friendship with each other.
Overall,“Missing Link” is an absolute delight. Whether or not you enjoy a Laika film really depends on your personal taste, as their previous films have traditionally incorporated elements of dark, Halloween-inspired fantasy. But “Missing Link,” along with other recent Laika releases, is different in that it steers away from dark fantasy, so the film can appeal to a more general audience. This may be part of Laika’s attempt to compete with mainstream animation studios such as Pixar and DreamWorks. Currently, Laika produces about one film every few years, but their long-term goal is to release a film every year in order to stay competitive with large studios, according to Portland Business Journal.
Although the film itself was well-made, it makes sense why it didn’t do so well in the box office. Forbes credits the film’s poor performance to a low profile release, a vague trailer and Laika’s struggle to compete with the more established animation studios. However, the film’s disappointing box office performance is a bit worrisome for the future of the small film studio. Unlike major film studios, Laika cannot afford a flop like this.
Concerns also arose when the studio’s founder and CEO Travis Knight (the son of Phil Knight, the founder of Nike) was offered a job to direct “Bumblebee.” With rumors of a sequel for “Bumblebee” alive, many are worried that Knight may abandon Laika for Hollywood.
With all of the effort that was put into making “Missing Link,” it certainly deserved more success. “Missing Link” explores an alternative form of art in filmmaking with its handmade sets and minal use of CGI. The next Laika film has not been publicly announced yet, so see “Missing Link” while you have the chance.