You'd have to be reaching a bit to call ParaNorman a landmark for gay characters on film. Yes, the completely winning animated film from Laika Studios had what is probably one of two jokes in cinematic history in which a character being revealed as gay is a punchline, and it's actually funny. (The other is Some Like It Hot, obviously). But that tiny reveal about the jock character is a really minor element of a film that, otherwise, isn't really about gay characters at all.
Laika's next film The Boxtrolls probably doesn't have anything that much to do with gay characters either, but they've made a fascinating shout-out to gay families in the first trailer, which debuted today on Apple. Phrases like "families come in all shapes and sizes" are usually just bland shout-outs to single moms, divorced families, or kids being raised by grandparents or aunts and uncles (see the ending speech of Mrs. Doubtfire). But in this very brief little teaser The Boxtrolls acknowledges-- hilariously-- that plenty of kids are raised by two moms or two dads, and those families are no weirder than those with uncles eating weird smelly cheese hanging around all the time. What's weirder, of course, is being raised by a group of Boxtrolls… but where you and I see "weird," Laika Studios sees potential for great storytelling.
The Boxtrolls isn't coming until next fall, which means we're still stuck with the likes of Turbo and The Smurfs 2 for animated films the rest of this summer. But keep your 2014 calendars marked, because The Boxtrolls has plenty of potential that doesn't even get hinted at in this brief teaser. There's the voice cast, which includes Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning Jared Harris, Simon Pegg and Isaac Hempstead-Wright, a.k.a Bran Stark from Game of Thrones. There's the fact that it's adapted from Alan Snow's Here Be Monsters, which is so gorgeous even its website is pretty. And there's concept art like what you below, which gives you a sense of the detail and beauty we've come to expect in Laika films like ParaNorman and Coraline. The shoutout to all different kinds of families is just icing on the cake.