Frozen? Toy Story? The Lion King?

Not Sunday night. The Golden Globe for best animated movie went to tiny Hillsboro film studio Laika for its latest feature, “Missing Link,” which beat out all those Hollywood blockbusters.

“I’m flabbergasted,” director and writer Chris Butler exclaimed as he reached the stage to collect the award. He thanked the 450 animators and craftspeople who made the film in the Hillsboro warehouse where Laika makes its movies, then singled out studio CEO Travis Knight “for making this possible.”

Sunday’s upset win is a major piece of redemption for “Missing Link,” which was warmly reviewed but collected just $26 million at the worldwide box office – well below a budget that was likely north of $60 million, and by far the worst financial performance of any Laika film.

Like Laika’s other films, though, “Missing Link” was beloved by animation enthusiasts for its distinctive, handcrafted look.

"Missing Link"

Sir Lionel Frost (left) voiced by Hugh Jackman and Mr. Link (right) voiced by Zach Galifianakis in director Chris Butler’s “Missing Link,” a Laika Studios Production and Annapurna Pictures release. (Laika Studios/Annapurna Pictures)

Released last April, “Missing Link” featured the A-list voices of Hollywood stars Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Thompson and Zoe Saldana. It’s the offbeat story of a 19th Century explorer who comes across Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest, then accompanies the creature to the Himalayas in search of family.

“We try to tell more irreverent stories, try to do things other studios wouldn’t do,” Butler told entertainment reporters at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “Walking around our studio is like walking around Santa’s workshop, all kinds of artists.”

Undeterred by its modest showing at the box office, Laika has been running a full-tilt promotional campaign for the film in the run-up to awards season. Ads for “Missing Link” appeared regularly on the websites of the major Hollywood trade publications, and the studio mounted a massive, multi-story billboard promoting the movie in downtown Portland last fall.

In an age of computer-generated effects, Laika is one of a handful of studios worldwide specializing in an old-fashioned technique called stop-motion animation. The Oregon studio’s animators painstakingly manipulate puppets one frame at a time to simulate motion.

Nike co-founder Phil Knight owns the studio and is Travis Knight’s father. “Missing Link” is the studio’s fifth film. All its predecessors were Oscar nominees, though before Sunday none had taken home a major Hollywood award.

“Missing Link” was already a favorite for an Oscar nomination — nominees are announced a week from Monday — and with Sunday’s win at the Golden Globes, its prospects for winning an Academy Award next month may have shot up.

Mike Rogoway | twitter: @rogoway | 503-294-7699

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