Minnesota-based 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys has helped American stop-motion animation studio LAIKA and footwear giant Nike to 3D print an exclusive edition of the Missing Link x Nike Air Max Susan shoe, for LAIKA’s upcoming film, ‘Missing Link’. The original version of the Missing Link shoe is a collaboration between Nike and LAIKA, manufactured in part using 3D printing, and inspired by the character ‘Mr. Susan Link’.
The Missing Link x Nike Air Max Susan shoe is designed by Tinker Hatfield, the Nike VP of Advanced Concepts, and former animator Michael Berger.
“The Air Max 1 has always been a really uplifting, happy design. When I saw the film, I immediately felt Mr. Link was instantly lovable — he’s happy-go-lucky, the type to stop and smell the flowers. So, he’s got a certain chill that for me made sense with the silhouette,” says Hatfield.
A 3D printed shoe with character
The exclusive edition of the Missing Link x Nike Air Max Susan, developed by Nike and LAIKA utilising Stratasys’ PolyJet 3D printing technology, was created specifically for the Mr Link character to wear. The ‘Mr. Link’-sized trainer is not the first time 3D printing has been used in promotional material for a film.
With the design of the original trainer, both Hatfield and Berger aimed to translate the materials and textures of Mr. Link’s plaid suit to the silhouette of a Nike Air Max 1.
The suit was designed by LAIKA costume designer Deborah Cook, who explains that the aesthetic of Mr Link aims to pay a playful homage to the character’s Pacific Northwest roots. The shoe featuring cufflinks, a leather-wrapped midsole and a quirky checkered design, can certainly be described as playful.
“Costume isn’t a separate entity from character design, it’s very much intrinsic,” says Deborah Cook. “If Mr. Link was wearing completely different clothes, you’d read him in a very, very different way.”
The production of the Missing Link x Nike Air Max Susan utilised 3D printing technology supplied by LAIKA, and represents the latest example of footwear made using 3D printing technology from Nike. The company has also manufactured the 3D printed Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%, and an updated version of the same trainer titled the Zoom VaporFly Elite Flyprint 3D, featuring a 3D printed ‘Flyprint’ upper.
LAIKA and Stratasys use 3D printing to bring stop-motion to life
3D printing is not solely utilised by LAIKA in its footwear collaboration with Nike and Stratasys. The film itself, Missing Link, features the use of 106,000 3D printed faces made with PolyJet J750 and PolyJet Connex3 3D printers from Stratasys, in a further collaboration between the two companies.
LAIKA’s usage of 3D printing, and specifically its collaboration with Stratasys, does not stop at Missing Link. LAIKA’s previous films Coraline, Paranorman, The Boxtrolls and Kubo and the Two Strings all use Stratasys’ PolyJet 3D printing technology to create the stop motion animation. For example, ‘Kubo’ uses 64,000 3D printed faces in total for its characters. The main character, Kubo, has 11,007 unique mouth positions, 4,429 brow motions and a total of 23,187 different faces alone. The film also features a fully 3D printed puppet, called the Moon Beast, which uses 130 individual 3D printed pieces.
In 2016, LAIKA was recognized for its efforts in 3D printing by the Academy Awards, earning the Scientific and Engineering Oscar® plaque.
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Featured image shows Mr. Link wearing the exclusive 3D printed shoes. Image via Nike.