Stop motion is known for being the most expensive and time consuming method of animation. The unique art has stylistic significance that often draws a variety of audiences. This has included Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas whose small budget of $15 million went on to earn over $90 million worldwide. He achieved similar success with his feature film Corpse Bride that went on to earn over $50 million.

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While iconic, Tim Burton’s films are not the only stop motion features to do well. Their financial success has resulted in several studios that work primarily in the medium. These include Laika which was founded by Nike co-founder Phil Knight. The studio has produced some of the most recognized stop motion films including Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings. Starburns Industries is another studio known for producing several stop motion films and television shows. The  studio produced the Charlie Kaufman feature Anomalisa, which ultimately secured them an Academy Award nomination. Ranging from studios in the US to several productions abroad, here is a list of the 10 most expensive stop motion feature films of all time.

10 Corpse Bride, $40 million

Tim Burton has become an icon for his stop motion feature films. He is recognized for his work on The Nightmare Before Christmas and Frankenweenie. But Corpse Bride is his most expensive stop motion endeavor to date. The film was co-directed by stop motion expert Mike Johnson. It featured digital cameras which increased the price as well as several brand new armatures and animatronics with moveable limbs and facial adjustments that were designed and made by puppet fabrication expert Graham G. Maiden.

9 Chicken Run, $45 million

Chicken Run was produced by the iconic British-based stop motion company Aardman Animations along with US animation staple DreamWorks. In addition to a time-consuming production featuring a mainly clay aesthetic, the feature also utilized the voices of several prominent actors including Mel Gibson and Julia Sawalha. Despite not having the highest budget on the list, the film is the highest grossing stop motion feature of all time. It earned over $227 million, multiplying its budget five times over.

8 Isle of Dogs, $50 million

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Isle of Dogs was Wes Anderson’s second venture into stop motion after Fantastic Mr. Fox, which narrowly missed this list with a production budget of $40 million. This feature was an international endeavor and was produced by the American company Indian Paintbrush, the Germany company Studio Babelsberg, shot in the United Kingdom, set in Japan, and premiered at the Berlin film festival. The film was a critically-acclaimed success despite its smaller box office numbers and was nominated for multiple Academy Awards including Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score.

7 The Pirates! Band of Misfits, $55 million

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This production was also produced by Aardman Studios and in addition to being in stop motion, it was also released in 3D. The film’s large budget was partially due to its cast of iconic voice actors ranging from Salma Hayek and Hugh Grant to Jeremy Piven. The film was a box office success and earned over $123 million, more than doubling its budget. Due to a lack of international earnings, Sony chose to abandon a sequel to the film in June of 2012.

6 Kubo And The Two Strings, $60 million

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The production of Kubo and the Two Strings took place at the famed stop motion studio Laika based out of Portland. The studio was founded in part by Nike heir Travis Knight who also directed the film, making it his feature film debut. Despite its budget and the reputation of the stop motion studio, the film only made $76 million worldwide. This didn’t stop the film from receiving two Academy Award nominations including for Best Visual Effects, becoming only the second stop motion film to be nominated within the category (the first being The Nightmare Before Christmas).

5 The Boxtrolls, $60 million

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The Boxtrolls was a much more commercially successful release for Laika Studios. The film made over $108 million and was based on the novel Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow. The film also featured a star studded cast that included diverse celebrities such as Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning, Toni Collette, Simon Pegg, and Tracy Morgan. In addition to being in stop motion, the film was also shot in 3D which required additional, specific camera that added to the expensive budget.

4 ParaNorman, $60 million

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ParaNorman made history within the stop motion community and altered the future of the medium forever. It was the first stop motion feature to utilize a 3D color printer to create characters faces. This allowed for a diverse range of emotions that could be simply replaced on the different puppets. There were over 8,000 faces alone printed for the main character, giving a new liveliness to the intricately-animated puppets.

3 Coraline, $60 million

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Coraline combined the esteem of Laika’s production studio with the creative ingenuity of Henry Selick who directed the film. He is known for also having directed the iconic stop motion features The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. The opening weekend of the film proved successful and grossed over $16.85 million, culminating in a total gross of over $124 million worldwide, over doubling the films budget. It is the third highest grossing stop motion film of all time behind Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

2 The Little Prince, $77.5 million

The Little Prince was a technical achievement that interwove traditional stop motion with computer animation. Due to a voice cast featuring iconic actors like Jeff Bridges, James Franco, and Ricky Gervais, the film became successful after its release and grossed over $97.6 million worldwide. The film became the most successful French animated film of all time.

1 Missing Link, $102 million

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Despite being the most expensive stop motion film featured on the list, Missing Link is also known for being one of the largest flops within the stop motion industry. The film only made $26.5 million, resulting in a loss of over $101.3 million. There were over 110 sets created for the film with over 65 unique locations and featured a mix of both stop motion and CGI.

Stop motion is an innovative field of animation that continues to survive due to its niche stylings and consistent nominations at the Academy Awards. But in contrast to live action films, a larger budget doesn’t always yield better box office results. Instead, a primary focus is centered around the story, images, and iconic characters. Some of which have fetched their own high prices at auction, including for Coraline which generated an addition $1 million in sales.

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Sources: CartoonBrew, CriticalHit, TheNumbers, BeverlyBoy, ScreenRant, YouTube, MovieMakerMagazine, Forbes, IMdB, AnimationArtConservation, RadioTimes, BoxOfficeMojo, 3Ders, HollywoodReporter, Yahoo, DigitalTrends, Gizmodo, PopularMechanics, Wired, AWN


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