In February of 2021, it was announced that LAIKA Studios and boutique home media distributor Shout! Factory made a deal to bring LAIKA’s incredible stop-motion films to U.S. audiences’ homes. Toward the end of 2021, Shout! Factory released Blu-ray/DVD combo editions of Coraline (2009), ParaNorman (2012), The Boxtrolls (2014), and Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) that included both legacy bonus features and brand-new materials created just for the new release. Now, to up the ante, the studio and distributor are releasing these four films upgraded to 4K UHD with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. In December of 2022, Shout! Factory released a regular and steelbook edition of both Coraline and ParaNorman and now it’s The Boxtrolls and Kubo’s turn. What follows is an exploration of the 4K UHD release of co-directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi’s (Boog & Elliot’s Midnight Bun Run) adaptation of Alan Snow’s novel Here Be Monsters! in the third LAIKA release, The Boxtrolls.
The citizens of Cheesebridge go about their lives in relative ease because they know that they are protected from the vicious boxtrolls, creatures that live underground and steal all they can, by the red hat-wearing Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Ben Kingsley), at the behest of white hat-wearing Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Ben Kingsley). But when one of the boxtrolls, a youngling known as Eggs (voiced by Isaac Hempstead-Wright), starts to realize that perhaps he’s not a boxtroll but a human child thought stolen years ago, a years-long subterfuge comes to light and it will change Cheesebridge forever.
If you’re interested in learning about the film and the bonus features, head over to the August 2021 The Boxtrolls LAIKA Studios Edition Blu-ray home release review. Moving forward, this will be focused solely on the 4K UHD edition.
There are times when remasters feel like just a means of either reminding the audience a film exists or trying to squeeze as much coin out of a fanbase. Gratefully the 4K UHD releases of LAIKA films from Shout! don’t feel like either. As with Coraline and ParaNorman, the 4K UHD edition of The Boxtrolls is an option to view the third LAIKA story in its best possible version, but it’s not a necessity. Owners with the 2021 Blu-ray re-release still have a solid presentation on-disc, as Shout! took care in their production. So what makes the 4K UHD with HDR worth it? First, the enhanced details enable the audience to appreciate the work the LAIKA animators put into creating the world of Cheesebridge and its peoples. The brown hairs on Eggs’s head actually appear fibrous, you can see the dirt smeared across Snatcher’s fingers (that also give them more depth and dimension), and the underground world possesses improved textures. Of course, with the HDR, there’s also more vibrancy and beauty in the underground sequences (especially when contrasted against the darker, more brooding nighttime scenes), as well as a touch more terror when Snatcher’s machine goes to work within the boxtrolls’ home. It’s not that the 4K UHD and HDR make the world of The Boxtrolls more real, it’s that it makes it far more fantastical and immersive.
As with the 2022 4K UHD releases, these 4K UHD remasters also include a brand-new Dolby Atmos track. However, that could not be tested as my home theater does not yet have that capability. I can safely report that the clarity on the English 5.1 track plays as strongly and clear as on the previous Blu-ray LAIKA/Shout! re-release. Additionally, as with the prior two 4K UHD remasters, everything included on-disc in the previous Blu-ray re-release is included here. The featurettes, the brief essay and storyboard art in the liner notes from the 2021 re-release are accounted for, as are all the other legacy materials. All of the special features can be found on the Blu-ray disc.
As with the 2022 releases, the steelbook is adorned with custom-designed artwork. For The Boxtrolls, Cancun-based illustrator and art director Cesar Moreno is once again tapped (he designed the Coraline 4K UHD steelbook), presenting a scene that merges the underground and upper-world all in one. As is the case in the film itself, the underground is far more lively and exciting, while the upper-world is presented as filled with terrors (a mix of a nighttime scene plus Snatcher and his crew). To my taste, it’s not as resplendent as the Coraline design, but given the nature of the film, one which deals directly with monsters being gentle and humans being terrors, the artwork is at least honest. The inside of the steelbook is a close-up of the underground section, a lovely warm orange visible through the clear plastic that serves as the locking mechanism for the two discs. Additionally, the discs themselves are styled differently from the prior re-release with the 4K UHD disc featuring Eggs and Winnie Portley-Rind (voiced by Elle Fanning) and the Blu-ray featuring two of the boxtrolls, compared to the prior release which had Snatcher on the DVD and Eggs by himself on the Blu-ray.
Snagging a 4K UHD edition of any LAIKA release is basically a foregone conclusion on its announcement. Like the two before it, The Boxtrolls is beautiful to behold, the details of the craftsmanship on prominent display thanks to the increased sense of depth afforded by the 4K and greater shades of color thanks to the HDR. The question merely becomes which version to get: regular or steelbook? If the artwork isn’t to your liking, you can save a few dollars with the regular edition and still walk away extremely happy. The only real question is whether or not the lack of additional new materials is worth the double-dip if you’ve already purchased this in 2021 with the initial Blu-ray re-release. To that, if The Boxtrolls is one of your favorites, you won’t be able to watch it better anywhere else than in this edition.
The Boxtrolls Special Features:
Disc One: 4K UHD
- NEW 4K Restoration
- NEW Dolby Atmos 7.1 Mix
Disc Two: Blu-ray
- “Inside LAIKA” – Discovering The Characters Of The Boxtrolls Featuring Never-Before-Seen Test Footage (9:34)
- “Inside LAIKA” – Revisiting The Puppets With LAIKA’s Animation Team
- Feature-Length Storyboards (1:36:07)
- Audio Commentary With Directors Graham Annable And Anthony Stacchi
- The Making Of The Boxtrolls
- Original Featurettes including Character Art and Concept Art Photo Gallery
- Deleted Scenes
- Foreward by Ramin Zahed, the Editor in Chief of Animation Magazine (essay inside liner notes)
For more information on the film, head to LAIKA Studios’s official The Boxtrolls website.
Available on Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Shout! Studios August 31st, 2021.
Available on 4K UHD/Blu-ray Combo from Shout! Studios in both regular and steelbook editions February 28th, 2023.
Categories: Home Release, Recommendation
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