KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS
Director: Travis Knight
Kubo and the Two Strings is the last stop motion feature film from LAIKA is set in feudal Japan and follows the story of Kubo a young boy who takes care of his mentally ill mother and raise money telling stories in a near village inspired by the adventures of his father, a disappeared samurai.
Laika Entertainment, with four feature films, has become in the last years one of the most renowned animation studios. Bringing together the traditional technique of stop-motion supported by CGI animation and unique style whit original stories, make of their films an alternative to the 3D aesthetic imposed by the big studios such as Pixar or Dreamworks. The narrative and strong aesthetical decisions make by the studio in their productions has now become their brand image.
Kubo is the first film directed by Travis Knight, president of Laika Entertainment and producer of their previous feature films: Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls, all of them nominated to the Academy Award for best animated feature. This time, director Knight introduce us to the plot with naturalness and touches themes such as the effect of death, and significance of memory and legacy in an intense story about love and courage.
Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson) is a young boy and a storyteller. He knows that his father was a brave samurai that died fighting against evil and his mother was able to rescue him from his own grandfather, the Moon King (voiced by Ralph Fiennes), who is a sadistic spirit who took the boy's eye as a new born in the hopes of blinding him. In her moments of lucidity her mother raised Kubo among myths about heroes and monsters, transmitting on his son the passion for telling stories. Also, she was the one that gave him magic. Kubo, as his mother, is capable of bringing to life paper and creating intricate origami figures with his shamisen, a three string traditional Japanese musical instrument.
But these myths are more than that, and upon knowing Kubo’s location, two powerful witches and supporters of the Moon King starts following him, and now he must run away and find an ancient magic armour if he is to defeat his grandfather. Kubo embarks in this adventure finding himself away from the comforts of his childhood aided by a monkey (voiced by Cherlize Therion) and a cursed half warrior, half beetle (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) as his allies, and armed whit his magic shimasen and the knowledge of the old stories her mother told him growing up.
Packed with stunning scenery, this story also counts with one of Laika’s most important characteristics in his feature films: not shying away from the strange and slightly disturbing. The eccentricity and oneiric plays in Kubo’s favour allowing balancing suspense and dream logic with humour and sensitivity with one of the recurring themes in now days animated films such as Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea, overcoming loss and fear trough storytelling and how it helps to preserve our memories and hopes for the future.
And it is one of the most central pillars of Kubo, it is about being connected to the past trough storytelling and how it strengthens our view of the world. The need to hold into stories we know and how they transform our perspective and, at some point, being so fundamental they become part of ourselves and help us reflect in the world we know as much as broaden it. The power that Kubo imposes in his stories is the same power that storytelling has to make a change and influence the future and that knowing those tales is game-changer is a powerful realization.
One of the most prominently aspects of Laika is that they use a mixed media in their stop motion producing techniques; they have, since the making of Coraline, continually use the most recent technologies like 3D printing even managing through the years to collaborate with 3D printing companies to develop new software for the puppet and set making process. Also the study pushes stop motion animation to another edges in its production, to bring their stories to life managing to touch and intertwine the delicately hand-crafted settings with CGI. Resulting in the tactile physicality of the stop motion whit intricate and high passed action scenes and visual effects to reach the high stylized look of the film.