One of the most inventive animated films of the year takes the most risks in storytelling. ParaNorman is not just a story about spooky occurrences. It is a story about a young boy realizing how people can misjudge anyone based on misconceptions of their actions. This is a rather advanced concept for an animated film to explore. Director Chris Butler and Sam Fell first tackle this by showing main character Norman's abilities to see the dead. He does not bust them or fear them at all. Ghosts seem rather passive and unaggressive in this story. They simply coexist in reality without having a direct effect on the physical plain and simply keep company with the living.
The second act introduces the danger of zombies wreaking havoc on the city. However, these zombies are eventually seen as less dangerous than the humans who are threatening to destroy them. This eventually leads to the revelation that the black magic causing the town's paranormal activities are generally caused by one person-- a witch avenging herself upon the town. As Norman begins to investigate this problem with his odd tagalong team of various personalities, some friendly and some antagonistic, the talented boy discovers that NO ONE is a stereotype. For example, the antagonistic bully and masculine jock that join them in their fight are very different on the inside versus their outward image. Therefore, is their powerful enemy truly as all evil as she is depicted to be in the town's legends, all based on quick judgments?
This is what truly makes ParaNorman a great film. A kids' creepy-crawly adventure became much more than just that. It became a creepy-crawly adventure about understanding who people really are. All of their traits, good and bad, and how that makes them human.