Mr. Link, the protagonist of LAIKA's new film, "Missing Link," is the inspiration behind the latest collaboration between Nike and the animation studio. In the story, Mr. Link, a lovable creature, supports Sir Lionel Frost, the world's greatest monster chaser, on a globetrotting adventure to find a remnant of Mr. Link’s primitive ancestry. The Missing Link x Nike Air Max Susan, designed by Nike VP of Advanced Concepts, Tinker Hatfield, and former animator Michael Berger, translates the materials and textures of Mr. Link's plaid suit, created by LAIKA costume designer Deborah Cook, to a Nike Air Max 1.
"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."
Cook explains that Mr. Link's aesthetic plays up the character's Pacific Northwest roots and balances it with a desire to serve as playful foil to the urbane Frost. This is also evident in the shoe's leather-wrapped midsole, cuff links and kurim fur tufts on the tongue that lend a gleefully haphazard elegance to the silhouette.
Production of the Missing Link x Nike Air Max Susan and its unique elements benefit from a blend of LAIKA's specialty in 3D printing (the company was awarded a Scientific and Engineering Oscar® plaque for its innovation in 3D printing in 2016) and Nike's rapid prototyping.
The team also used LAIKA's Stratasys PolyJet-based 3D printing solutions to create an exclusive pair of the Missing Link x Nike Air Max Susan for Mr. Link.
"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.
Nike has a long-time partnership with the LAIKA studio, and while many shoes have been produced in tandem over the years, the Missing Link x Nike Air Max Susan is the first to release commercially.