In the past month, Hollywood ground to a halt amid the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, leading movie theaters to shutter, feature films to be delayed, and major studios to furlough or lay off their employees. But Laika, the independent animation studio behind Oscar-nominated films like Coraline and Missing Link, intends to keep all its employees on payroll even as the Portland, Oregon-based studio remains closed.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Laika will keep “all employees are being paid in full with all benefits in place” while it remains closed through at least May 1. Like many major studios, the Portland, Oregon-based studio closed its doors in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic.

“When this ends, and it will end, the world will need storytellers more than ever,” Laika president and CEO Travis Knight said Thursday in a memo shared by THR. “The world will need hope and inspiration and empathy and high-spirited joy. The world will need beauty and poetry and restorative works of art. The world will need you.” Knight added:

“Telling stories is one of the prime functions of the human mind and spirit. Good stories open us up to new possibilities, to new ways of thinking, to recognize the shared humanity in which we all participate. That has always been Laika’s reason for being. And it will remain so. And we will do it as we always have. Together.”

Laika is not a major animation studio like Disney and Pixar with thousands of employees under its wing. The studio specializes in stop-motion animation, aided by 3D printing and CG technologies, and has a gained a reputation for beautiful, high-quality animated films since it launched with 2009’s Oscar-nominated Coraline. From its small, scrappy company of a couple dozen, it expanded to a well-oiled — but still modestly sized — animation studio that I got the chance to visit last year.

It’s encouraging that a smaller studio like Laika can keep its employees paid even while other bigger studios are forced to furlough or lay off employees. But for Laika, whose films can take five years or even more to develop and produce due to the painstaking stop-motion process, this shuttering may prevent us from seeing another Laika film for a while.

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