The Boxtrolls is in theaters now and it's awesome. That much needs to be said up front. And it's with that in mind that we celebrate the news that LAIKA and Focus Features have firmed up an agreement to make three more films together. Pause for a moment and applaud, or slap your hands heartily against your boxy chest...

Box clap

Focus and LAIKA announced today that they've secured a pact to distribute three new movies, with Focus set to distribute them domestically, and Universal Pictures International set to release them overseas. These anticipated but unspecified films follow the three previously released films that LAIKA and Focus brought us, going back to the 2009 film Coraline. That one was followed up with ParaNorman (2012) and then most recently, The Boxtrolls. The new deal ensures that the stop-motion animation studio and Focus Features will continue to work together on new and potentially great films.

While LAIKA's films haven't exactly been the mega-hits of say, Pixar, Coraline and ParaNorman both made their budgets back and then some, and The Boxtrolls just debuted with LAIKA's biggest opening weekend yet, with a gross of $17.3 million. Beyond the numbers, LAIKA's delivering films that are entertaining, funny and unique. With its incorporation of stop-motion animation, each film offers its own visual style, which sets LAIKA's films apart from other animated movies. It's that unique style, look and tone that's allowing this studio to shape its identity one film at a time. And in the process, they're giving us great stories and great characters.

Looking specifically at The Boxtrolls, the story is set in the European town of Cheesebridge, where the cheese-loving residents live in fear of the Boxtrolls they believe live below ground and come out at night to snatch up their young ones. As it happens the Boxtrolls do exist beneath the city of Cheesebridge, though they're hardly the ferocious beasts people believe them to be.

Isaac Hempstead-Wright voices the role of Eggs, a boy who's raised by the Boxtrolls. Also among the voice-cast are Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade and Tracy Morgan. If you haven't seen it yet, it's well worth a look -- though it does delve into darker territory, which might make it a bit more suitable for older children than for young ones. I'd described The Boxtrolls as funny, moving, visually stunning and just the right amount of cheesy. (Because of all the cheese.) But if you don't want to take my word for it, read Kristy's 5-Star review here.

Knowing that LAIKA and Focus are set to make three new movies together leaves us to wonder what their next project will be. We may have to wait a little while for that. Going by the last film's timeline, we learned about LAIKA and Focus Features' plans to bring The Boxtrolls -- based on the book Here Be Monsters -- to the big screen in February 2013, which was about six months after ParaNorman hit theaters. But looking at the situation more optimistically, maybe the announcement of this deal is build-up to an announcement of LAIKA's next project. We'll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, if LAIKA's first three films are any indication, we have much to look forward to from this studio in the years to come. They've got the whole world in their hands...

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