ParaNorman is definitely not normal
Norman isn't normal. He sees dead people, you see, he's on chummy terms with many of them and he catches a whiff of a zombie awakening in his small town with a creepy, witch-burning past.
It's not often you can describe a zombie/ghost movie as charming, but the 3D stop-motion animated film ParaNorman qualifies.
Directors Chris Butler, who wrote the original story, and Sam Fell were going for an '80s vibe. Butler pitched the story to Tale of Despereaux director Fell as "John Carpenter meets John Hughes". Or an episode of Scooby-Doo directed by Sam Raimi.
Both filmmakers visited San Francisco recently to screen the movie for an appreciative preview audience.
"In some ways it harks back to a period of filmmaking with a little more range to it," Fell said.
"It's not just a comedy. There's a dramatic heart to it.
"We were looking at movies from the '80s, Amblin (Entertainment) movies like The Goonies."
Although the story is American, both filmmakers are British.
Butler, though, now lives in Portland, Oregon, where he went to work with Henry Selick on Coraline and six and a half years later, still lives there. He loves it.
Butler also worked on Despereaux and Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. ParaNorman is his first credit as director.
It was Butler who pushed to make it a stop-motion film as opposed to a computer-generated film (as most animated films now are).
"It's not a novelty any more," Butler said of CG.
"I think there is still something about stop-motion that has a magical quality to it that you can't quite put your finger on. It's imperfect.
"CG is all about creating this perfect streamlined image on the screen, and it's always chasing reality.
"Our stuff is real.
"It's real objects, on a stage, lit by real lights. And there is something magical about seeing something inanimate come to life.
"You look at a stop-motion piece made 80 years ago and it looks beautiful. You see a CG movie made, say, 20 years ago and it looks very dated."
Fell added: "We love the Ray Harryhausen movies, too, and that kind of aesthetic seemed to fit a zombie movie as well."
Ultimately, though, ParaNorman isn't about the supernatural but about the often lonely world of a child.
The message: you are unique, and you are not alone.
"There's a lot of me in Norman," Butler said.
"I didn't see ghosts or battle zombies, but there's definitely this element of not fitting in. A lot of this is from my childhood.
"Every craftsperson and artist that worked on this movie was Norman at some point in their lives.
"None of us fitted in. We're all outsiders."
Fell said: "Yeah, we were the art kids on the playground.
"I personally found the mainstream kids, the popular kids, boring, even if they seemed to be successful. Yawn."
Butler added with a laugh: "Popular kids aren't making movies now."
ParaNorman (PG) opens in Australian cinemas on January 10.
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Supernatural adventure: Kodi Smit McPhee voices Norman in new claymation feature film Paranorman.