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Three months before Laika’s 3-D stop-motion feature ParaNorman was set to start production, the company’s breakthrough workflow technology—making puppet faces via 3-D color printing—was spitting out disasters.

“They looked awful,” says Brian McLean, Laika’s director of rapid prototyping (RP, or 3-D printing). “The skin tones were terrible and inconsistent. What you saw on the computer screen was completely different than what printed out. There were some ‘Oh shit!’ moments when we realized we’d jumped head first into shooting this movie using this process, and we now had to figure out a way to make it work.”

By sheer force of will, scientific process, and ulcer medication, McLean’s team solved the system quirks.

Behind ParaNorman’s Breakthrough 3-D-Printing-Driven Animation Process