Stop-motion juggernaut LAIKA Studios is set to release what’s sure to be another unique animated feature this month, with Kubo and the Two Strings. Directed by Travis Knight, the film follows a young boy named Kubo as he journeys across a fantastical Japan to discover the secrets of his family’s past and the power that he holds inside.
Screen Rant recently had a chance to sit down with the voice of Kubo himself, Art Parkinson. Parkinson is best known for his role of Rickon Stark on HBO’s Game of Thrones. He also starred alongside Luke Evans in Dracula Untold and Dwayne Johnson in San Andreas, but Kubo marks his first role in an animated feature.
ScreenRant: First off, loved, the movie, thought you did a great job.
Art Parkinson: Thank you.
SR: So I was curious. I know Isaac [Hempstead Wright] previously did voice work on the Boxtrolls. Was he in any way a part of you getting this role? Did he recommend LAIKA to you or you to LAIKA?
AP: He wasn’t, no. [Laughs] But the way he talked about LAIKA and he was singing their praises and he talked about what he’d done… he sort of talked about the production process they went through and he was really interesting, I thought. From the time I talked to him about it I was interested in doing a project with LAIKA, so whenever the chance came around to do a project with LAIKA I jumped on it.
SR: Okay, so you just heard about it and said –
AP: I want to do that. A couple years later we got the chance and I was absolutely pumped to do it.
SR: How familiar were you with their process? The stop-motion side of it.
AP: I was not too familiar with it. I just sort of had been going on what Isaac had told me… I didn’t realize the extent they went through. The sections and research and sort of putting everything together, and they were really, it’s not like in primary school where you move it a meter and take a picture and then you move it a meter and then, you know. It’s like you move it a fraction of a millimeter and take a picture. They were just so detailed with everything, so I was really looking forward to it when I got the part.
SR: Yeah there’s just an incredible level of detail. When did you become involved in the project? Did they have a little Kubo puppet for you to draw from?
AP: Yeah, whenever I did the audition they sent the script over and it had a little illustration so I knew what Kubo looked like… They did send us over little care packages and things like that with like books of illustrations of the set and little props that they could send over and stuff.
SR: So you did the voice recording in Ireland?
AP: I actually came out to LA so it was all in person. I mean, LA is great so I didn’t mind at all. And once we did a session in Portland as well and did a tour of the LAIKA studios beforehand.
SR: So you got to see all of the sets on hand? Did you get to see the giant skeleton?
AP: Actually we didn’t get to see that. It was whenever they were finishing up The Boxtrolls and… they’d made the town for Kubo, and things like that, but we didn’t get to see any of the monsters. But it was at the time where they were doing the very very last scene for Boxtrolls and Travis [Knight] was finishing it up so we got to witness that which was really cool. And they were working on how to make the sea. You know, the sea is so detailed so they were figuring out how to do that. It was a really cool tour.
SR: When you came out to LA and went up to Portland to do voice recording, were Matthew and Charlize in there as well or was it just you?
AP: See I worked with Charlize and Brenda [Vaccaro] only. But we didn’t get the chance to work with Matthew, George Takei, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara and those kind of people. We didn’t get the chance to work with them, but we were shown footage of the work they were doing so we still got the sort of chance to work off them. But whenever we were all in the studio together it was like really cool. Because we were also working off each other.
SR: Could you talk about a scene you and Charlize recorded together, how it worked differently?
AP: Yeah there was one particular scene, where it was in the whale and she’s feeding me the whale soup. And before we were doing it where he was like “aw that’s disgusting” and she says “you have to eat it.” But we did one particular take were we just went for it and it was all snappy back and forth… And it just worked really really well.
SR: How did you get into character for Kubo?
AP: The night before me and my mum would read over the script and learn all the lines – well, you didn’t really have to learn them because you could just read them off the page, but to at least be familiar with them and to not have to look at the page… So we did that and sort of got ourselves into the mindset of the character, and then once we got to the studios, we’d have Kubo set up here, the puppet, the illustrations of the scene that was taking place all over the walls… it wasn’t like filming, it wasn’t TV and film because we weren’t immersed in the set from the get-go – it was something I had to slip into mentally.
SR: Kubo is a musical kid, he plays the shamisen. Are you musical in any way? Do you play an instrument?
AP: Whenever I was in primary school I played a little bit of tin whistle and I played the bodhran, which is an Irish drum, and things like that. As for the Irish culture side of it, I wouldn’t be more into the music, I would be more into the language and the sport.
SR: I know you’ve talked about this in the past, how you were on Game of Thrones and that isn’t too appropriate for you to watch. How was it being in a movie where you can finally tell your friends “no you can definitely go see this.”
AP: For the age I am now I can watch Game of Thrones, but it is like definitely cool to be able to read the script without having my mum running over and pulling out pages and saying “no, no, don’t read that page, please don’t look at that” and burning some pages. But it’s cool to have a little bit more of a friendly character. A friendly movie. Because in Game of Thrones everyone is dying and killing each other. And it’s at the same time this movie it really is, a kid’s movie of course, but you can watch it as an adult because it’s really emotional and powerful and a little bit frightening.
SR: You and Kubo are very similar ages; he’s a teen and you are in your teens. What other big ways do you relate to Kubo?
AP: For me I can relate to Kubo pretty strongly because I have a very good relationship with my mother, because of the work we do together. You can’t sit in a hotel room for 3 months with your mum and not be very close to her. It’s something that is absolutely vital to be, because you would be battling each other… Also I think my culture is very important, as does Kubo. Kubo comes from a small town, I come from a small town. Kubo’s a storyteller through his shamisen, through his origami. He tells stories, and I like to think… that I bring it to life.
SR: What’s next for you? Are you looking at doing more animated films?
AP: It depends on the project. If you get a really, really big role but it’s a terrible movie, you’re not going to do it. But if you get offered a film like this, and it’s a huge film and it’s a great film, then you are obviously going to throw everything else out the window no matter what it is, whether it be film or TV or animation.I’d definitely consider going back into animation after this, but… I really do enjoy being on camera.
Kubo and the Two Strings arrives in theaters on August 19th, 2016.