Kubo, a boy with an eye patch who lives in a cave, carefully places a bowl of glistening rice against a crackling, beautifully orange fire. His mother groans. He rushes to her gently and dutifully feeds her the rice. She is a shell of a woman, absent and emotionless as she eats. This intriguing opening alone is enough of a hook to keep an audience watching, but Kubo and the Two Strings has the winsome advantage of also being an epic, beautifully made 3D stop motion film. Its originality is overshadowed only by the knowledge that it is a technical feat to painstakingly craft such a visually stunning piece of animation.
Directorial debut of Laika president/CEO Travis Knight, who also co-produced the film
Both of Kubo’s formidable parents give their lives to save him from his magical maternal grandfather (Ralph Fiennes) and aunts (Rooney Mara). He sets off on a journey of discovery to find three pieces of his father’s magical suit to save his life, accompanied by a Monkey (Charlize Theron) and a Beatle (Matthew McConaughey), only to later realise that they are the spirits of his parents. He is armed only with his shamisen (three-stringed instrument), his developing magic and the memory of his parents’ great love.
Kubo had a total of 23,187 prototype faces and over 48 million possible facial expressions that were created for him
While there is a real uphill quest that our little protagonist has to overcome, the film artfully tugs at every heartstring, reminding us that it is eventually family relationships, and the experience of that love, that is truly the meaning and motivation of life. This is also a story about the powers of storytelling, as most of Kubo’s past, present, and future is shaped by the stories his mother tells, and that people around him continue to tell – an homage to the most imaginative lovers of fantasy and stories.
Kubo and his new friend and ally Beetle (Matthew McConaughey)
Kubo’s own magic is constantly manifested in his ability to create and bring intricate origami to life. This origami art illuminates the film with its captivating animation against a backdrop reminiscent of a traditional Japanese art themed film. Kubo’s pitiful grief, loss and the creepiness of Kubo’s evil relatives are accentuated by the romanticism of the artwork and its impeccable soundtrack.
Kubo and the Two Strings' Awesome Interactive Map Let's You Dive Into Its Stop-Motion World
This is the creation of Laika, a stop-motion animation studio based in Portland, Oregon, one of my favourite cities, that lists their Japanese garden and Chinese garden as some of their attractions. It is not difficult to see how something as enthralling and original as Kubo and the Two Strings could come out of this Portland. This is the directorial debut of Laika CEO, Travis Knight, who is a fan of Japanese art. For a children’s film, it is not afraid to connect with the very adult themes of family complexities, betrayal, and smart, sometimes sarcastic, dialogue. The difficult themes in the film are balanced by the pure innocence of Kubo’s heart and love for his parents.
The film received critical acclaim and an extremely high approval rating amongst critics and moviegoers alike in 2016, which leaves only one question – have you seen it yet?
Did you know?
Laika studios blended handcrafted puppets, CGI, and 3D printing to create their latest epic, Kubo and the Two Strings. Check out the video below.