What I didn't realize is that Laika used 3D printers to make the figures, and this way were able to make the parts separately - especially useful for the crazy number of mouth and face shapes they needed.
Laika used a hybrid of both traditional model makers and sculptures with digital artists, defining their own language along the way. Everything started with hand sculpted clay marquettes that were scanned into Maya using a 3D scanner. The faces were remodeled to maintain every detail and imperfection the original sculpt possessed; stylized wrinkles, bags under the eyes, moles and freckles that all needed to remain consistent throughout the expressions. The models were rigged using blend shapes and posed for the various facial positions, carefully noting proper placement of the tool marks from the creation process.After they were printed, they were sanded and hand-painted, but they had to be very specific in making sure the pieces snapped together cleanly and without creating any chatter (unwanted movement from frame to frame). I thought this quote from Brian McLean, Facial Structure Supervisor, was really interesting:
It reminds us a lot of traditional drawing and sculpture process but instead of scraping away at a clay sculpt to make the changes, you dive back into the computer.There's a lot more interesting stuff over at CG Society's article, especially if you're a nerd about combining CG and hands-on stuff! (And yes, I know I've posted a lot on Coraline, but this probably won't be the last!)