Missing Link, the fifth movie from Oregon animation production company Laika, debuted in April, then disappeared faster than Bigfoot the second a camera comes out.
A twee stop-motion romp about a 19th century cryptozoologist and his kindhearted Sasquatch buddy, the film arrived with a dull thud at the box office. Its opening weekend take of $5.9 million was the lowest ever for Laika, and the lowest in movie history for a film playing on more than 3,150 screens nationwide.
But not everything about the movie was a flop.
In an interesting quirk of colliding Oregon commerce, all film releases thus far from Phil and Travis Knight's Laika film studio in Hillsboro have been paired with a special edition shoe tie-in from Phil Knight's other company, Nike. (You may have heard of it.) These collaborations are highly sought after on the sneaker resale market, especially the 2009 Nike Dunk High Coraline and 2012 Air Foamposite ParaNorman, both of which sell for thousands and draw big crowds at sneaker shows.
For Missing Link, the team at Nike designed the "Air Max Susan" adapted directly from the film, in which the titular ape-man spends much of the second act adorned in late Victorian menswear. This includes a green corduroy vest with matching top hat, white linen undershirt and a two-piece banana yellow plaid suit, with high-waisted trousers and a topcoat barely containing his girth. (Susan is estimated to weigh some 650 pounds in the film, though insists, "Most of that's fur.")
I checked out a pair at Index, Portland's premier retail destination for sneaker resale and consignment. They are almost preposterously ugly shoes. And yet, there's something undeniably charming about them. A huge "Air" bubble window is framed by yellow and brown plaid, with a forest green upper tooled with real corduroy. There are touches of leather on the collar, cork soles, and a partially obscured swoosh logo in both green and cream. The overall result is like a sneaker version of a collectible action figure from the movie—it feels like you could be holding a film prop—but it's also very much in line with imagining Sasquatch chic vis-à-vis a Victorian fashion lens.
"People are buying these now and holding on," says Mike Nguyen of Index, who adds the shop has seen and sold several pairs of the Air Max Susan over the past few months. Sneaker site StockX lists the shoe's trade range at around $250, with a 52-week high just shy of $1,000. (The shoe debuted at retail for $170.) They're available at Index for a flat $300, but that price could fluctuate in the months and years to come. There's a chance these shoes, like the other Laika Nike releases, become big-time cult classics down the line—it's safe to say there is no other pair quite like them in 2019.
The same can be said for the source material. In an era of all-digital-everything animation and uncanny valley half-real half-computer remakes (see: Cats, The Lion King), Laika's handmade world building has never felt more essential and charming. Hopefully, the film finds a bigger audience in the months to come among kids and families via streaming services.
The humanity granted to Susan throughout Missing Link is emblematic of the sort of respect we ought to be showing our Sasquatch cousins, wherever we may find them. The humble yeti deserves not just dignity and agency—a kind notion upon which Laika's thoughtful film delivers—but also, to go hard and ball out on the sneaker game, from the forest to the city and back again.