This post is in partnership with United Artists Releasing.
Missing Link is the newest gorgeous film to come out from Laika Studio, who are known for their breathtaking stop animation marvels like ParaNormen, Coraline, and Kubo and the Two Strings. Missing Link follows the exploits of Sir Lionel, a cryptozoologist and adventurer who sets out across the globe seeking the ultimate specimen, the fabled Sasquatch, and finds more than he bargained for along the way.
The movie explores great themes for children like the importance of looking for the truth, discovering a place you feel at home at wherever that may end up being, respecting others who are different and being mindful to treat people right, and learning how to make a new dream to follow when the one you have isn’t leading you to be your best self.
Missing Link has lots of charm and plenty of laughs. It’s filled with lots of details and feels like a sprawling epic as it goes from one beautiful vista to the next. The adventures keep tumbling along by train, by wagon, or by sea. From foggy lagoons filled with monsters, regal halls of explorer’s clubs and Spanish villas, to towering deciduous forests of dappled light, to icy peaks surrounding the legendary land of Shangri-La, it finds new ways to delight.
We visited the beautiful Beverly Hilton Hotel and got to meet characters from the film and visit the deep forests of the Pacific Northwest and even got to check out “A smile for Sasquatch”, a storybook version of Mr. Link’s adventures before he met Sir Lionel.
While there we also go to have a chance to speak with Writer and Director Chris Butler, as well stars Zoe Saldana who plays Adelina, and comedian Zach Galifianakis who plays Mr. Link/Susan and ask them about working on the film.
The idea from the movie started out simply, from a sketch.
Chris Butler: This one really started with a drawing that I did of Mr. Link, which has been described as a hairy avocado, with legs. And there was something about that drawing that I just kept coming back to, and people kept saying, “That is a very charming thing.”
Zach Galifianakis: I’ve always wanted to play a hairy avocado, or at least, I’ve been told I look like a hairy avocado.
Chris Butler: Basically, it’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, meets Sherlock Holmes meets Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
When asked what he as the writer and director of the film wanted people to walk away with from the film the biggest thing was “family”.
Chris Butler: I think oftentimes kids movies are about family, and I think it’s also important to say that family can be about friends. Family’s something you can choose too. A big thing for me, a big message for me in it is that your identity is formed by yourself, and it’s not put upon you by others.
Chris Butler: You hope that you’re gonna create a story and characters that are compelling enough for the audience to just go with it, to be taken in and enjoy the ride. Artistically, that’s a great treat for me, that every time I do one of these things, I get to play in a different world. So for me, it’s wonderful being able to create these new stories. But it is frightening because you know, this is a packed canvas. There is a lot of stuff out there. I think all you can do is try to tell a story that means something and is maybe unique to you or at least tells things from a perspective that not everyone else is using.
The characters and ideas went through a few changes over the several years it took to make the film from beginning to end.
Chris Butler: When I first wrote Mr. Link, I think the first session that I did with Zach, I think the way he spoke was slightly different. It was maybe a little wordier, and I noticed that you were like deconstructing my lines and moving words around. And immediately I started writing for you as opposed to for me, cause I’m obviously British. I’m not saying, Zach, that I speak English better than you.
Zach Galifianakis: Well, you guys invented it.
Chris Butler: Good point, good point.
Zoe Saldana: When we started working on Adelina, and Chris had it in his mind that her accent was really strong. So I asked him, “Do you want my grandma or do you want my mom?” Different kinds of understanding. And he’s like, “I want your grandma,” and I’m like hmm. Later at our second session he realized, “I think I want to pull it back, because I don’t want Adelina to feel stopped or limited because of her accent or her limited kind of capacity of speaking English to really convey how she’s truly feeling.” we had to find what was the right amount of accent that Adelina was gonna have, given the history, given sort of like the migratory stories of that time, of the late 1800s and stuff.
Zach Galifianakis is known for his comedy both on stage and on film. He spoke about the challenges that come with performing without an audience, knowing that you won’t know if your jokes will land until years later sometimes.
Zach Galifianakis: As a stand-up, you are used to instant gratification. With comedy, at least stand-up, you have to hear laughs to keep going. So when you’re performing in these booths, or even on sets, it’s just a different energy and you kind of have to get used to it.
The creator of Missing Link and it’s stars talked about the journeys the characters go through over the course of their adventures.
Chris Butler: Sir Lionel has the biggest journey to make in the movie, because he starts out as a very flawed character. And he– I think, he does make certain progressions through the movie. They’re small, and he quite often ruins it moments later. But just seeing someone who is that selfish trying to make an effort, that was important to me to have this main character who was flawed, who had something to learn.
Zoe Saldana: I hope that we continue to explore this new journey of portraying females that are broken, that are the ones that have the true lessons to learn, versus just being the voices of reason.
Zoe Saldana: The fact that there wasn’t a kiss. Do you understand how like, every script I read I dread a kiss scene. I’m like, “Is it gonna have it? Bleh.” I’m not one of those actresses.
I like that there was history that Adelina never wants to kind of rehash in the way that Sir Lionel wants to. I like also that she’s trying to break away from that. You know, she dealt with displacement, being an immigrant. Then she dealt with loss, burying a husband. And now, this self-discovery is like, okay, I have it in me to take care of people, check that. I have it in me to start from scratch, check that, but now I’m just gonna go off and go do my thing. So I appreciated that she sort of like had that for herself. “I can be selfless and I can be self-focused, as long as I have the choice.”
Zach Galifianakis: The thing that I really like about Mr. Link, I miss it, is innocence. I miss it, and having kids you get to see it, you know. And I’m like, “Oh my god, what happened to me?”
When asked about why she chose to be part of this project and how she chooses her roles Saldana had insightful wisdom to share.
Zoe Saldana: If it’s not there here [indicates script page], it’s not gonna be there [indicates heart]. It’s like your mom taught you, don’t believe boys that lie. So why am I believing boys that lie in Hollywood? When they go, “We’re gonna make this role better,” and you’re like, “Papi, it’s not here.”
Zoe Saldana: At first you’re so used to being a serviceable character, you know, you’re in your earlier years when you start acting that you never think to question something like that until you read those lines and you finally understand that that was her journey. Chris wrote it that way for her and I praised him for it.
Butler talked about the long hard work that the crew and artists put in on creating a stop motion project on the scale of Missing Link.
Chris Butler: I’m speaking with all these artists that I work with, and everything that they’re being asked is them explaining how difficult it was for them, and I’m like, “Sorry.” Because we do try to be a little more ambitious every time, we try to really push the boundaries. And I think we do, but it’s not easy, you know? I mean these people are at the top of their game, because they’ve made five movies in a row that are so beautiful.
Without spoiling anything, we asked the question everyone will be dying to know but is too afraid to ask- “What’s with the chicken?”
Chris Butler: It was a National Geographic photograph. And at the start of this movie, you know when you’re trying to come up with a look for the thing, you lean on different sources. And I really did a lot of National Geographic research. Especially like Steve McCurry, the portrait work that he did. And there was one photo that just stuck out of a woman walking down a street with a chicken on her head. And I thought, “I’m gonna have that,” and that was it. I like sometimes that you just have something random that’s not explained.
You’ll just have to wait to find out more about the mystery of the chicken. Catch Missing Link in theaters Apr 12th and discover the adventure for yourself.
Get Tickets Now! #MissingLink hits theaters everywhere April 12. Get your tickets now! bit.ly/MissingLinkTix
Author Laura Gaddy with Zoe Saldana, Zach Galifianakis, and Chris Butler.