SAN DIEGO – The makers of the animated tale "ParaNorman" like to think of their film in terms of odd combinations. Horror and comedy. John Carpenter meets John Hughes. "The Breakfast Club" meets "The Fog."
Or, as writer-director Chris Butler told a crowd Friday at the Comic-Con fan convention, "a zombie movie for kids. Why not?"
Opening Aug. 17, "ParaNorman" tells the story of a boy whose ability to talk to the dead makes him the best hope to save his town after a witch’s curse raises an army of zombies. With a voice cast that includes Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, "ParaNorman" comes from the makers of the 2009 animated adventure "Coraline."
Butler, fellow director Sam Fell and producer Travis Knight said they were aiming to mix a lot of styles, among them the coming-of-age tales of "Breakfast Club" filmmaker Hughes, the wild 1980s youth adventures of Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment and the zombie horror of "Night of the Living Dead" creator George Romero.
"Originally, it was very much influenced by the kinds of stuff I grew up watching, so it was `The Goonies,’ `Ghostbusters,’ and also a lot of horror movies that I shouldn’t have been watching when I was a kid," Butler said.
The filmmakers showed off a handful of scenes of the 3-D comedy, including one of Smit-McPhee’s Norman in a graveyard surrounded by growling but goofy zombies rising from their graves.
"ParaNorman" was the third supernatural animated comedy previewed at Comic-Con, along with Adam Sandler’s monster mash-up "Hotel Transylvania" and Tim Burton’s "Frankenweenie," his animated story of a boy who raises his dog from the dead.
Like "Frankenweenie" and "Coraline," "ParaNorman" was shot through stop-motion animation using puppets that are painstakingly photographed a frame at a time.
"What could be cooler than stop-motion and zombies? Two tastes that taste great together," said producer Knight.
Teenager Smit-McPhee said his voice started to change halfway through his recording work for "ParaNorman."
"Now when you hear the movie, it doesn’t even sound like me," Smit-McPhee said. "That voice will always be there, and I can’t get it back."
Kendrick plays Norman’s whiny older sister, who spends much of the movie bickering with her kid brother. The "Twilight" co-star, who plays one of Kristen Stewart’s gabby school friends, said she asked the "ParaNorman" filmmakers if they hired her because of her work in the vampire franchise.
"They said, `No, we haven’t seen those. We just listened to your voice in interviews,’" the nasal-voiced Kendrick said. "I have a cold right now. Usually, I have a really sexy deep voice."