Sources have been telling WW for more than two years that Phil Knight's Portland animation studio Laika would follow its Oscar-nominated cartoon Coraline with ParaNorman, another spooky story about a zombie-busting kid—and today the studio confirmed that rumor, announcing ParaNorman's planned release date of Aug. 17, 2012. (Also new: that odd capital "N" in the middle.)
The stop-motion movie, directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler, is the first in a two-picture deal with distributor Focus Features, Laika CEO Travis Knight announced today. (Focus also distributed Coraline, which only adds to the sense that this deal was a fait accompli.) ParaNorman's official description goes like this:
In the comedy thriller, a small town comes under siege by zombies. Who can it call? Only misunderstood local boy Norman (voiced by Mr. 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.
That gels with the early synopsis told to WW by Coraline director Henry Selick in 2009: “[It's] a sweet comedy about a boy who communes with his dead grandmother and who must take on a small army of misguided zombies.”
We're not sure if the dead grandma is still in the picture, and Selick is no longer with Laika: He left abruptly after Coraline, and now works for Pixar.
UPDATE, 1:15 pm: And here's another little mystery solved—last March, when Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox cinematographer Tristan Oliver showed up unexpectedly at the Hollywood Theatre, we speculated he might be signing on to a Laika project. He was: Laika announced today that Oliver will be cinematographer for ParaNorman.