Kubo and the Two Strings is the latest offering from Focus Features and Laika Entertainment, the 3D stop-motion animation movie studio that got its start with Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride in 2005, before it went on to create the critical darlings (and Oscar-nominated) Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls over the decade that followed. In the process of dong so, Laika also successfully carved out a niche for itself as an animation studio that specializes in crafting highly imaginative and unique fare (in the forms of both original animated movies and those based on relatively lesser-known source material) – though for related reasons, Laika movies have less mainstream (and more cult) appeal than Disney and/or Pixar Animation.
Nevertheless, Laika does have a solid following, and thus far the studio has done a solid job of getting its fans excited to see Kubo and the Two Strings – as evidenced by the largely positive responses to the teasers and trailers for the film that have been released to date. The latest Kubo trailer (which you can watch above) shouldn’t do anything to dampen those expectations among Laika fans, either. For those wondering, here is the official synopsis for Kubo and the Two Strings (a story that takes place in a “fantastical” version of historical Japan):
Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of “Game of Thrones”) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Akihiro (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and Kameyo (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro). But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. With the help of his shamisen – a magical musical instrument – Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara), to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family, and fulfill his heroic destiny.
The Kubo and the Two Strings script was written by Marc Haimes (a producer/studio executive on such films as Collateral and Transformers) and Chris Butler (ParaNorman), based on a story that the pair co-wroted with Shannon Tindle (a writer and character designer on Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends). Meanwhile, directorial responsibilities on Kubo were handled by Travis Knight, a producer and the lead animator on Laika’s previous feature-length movie releases (save for Corpse Bride) who is making his debut as the helmsman on a Laika film here (or any full-length movie, for that matter).
While Kubo and the Two Strings appears to be gorgeously-animated and meticulously constructed from a visual perspective, the one recurring issue that Laika’s post-Coraline films have (arguably) had is that their stories – while they’re often original and/or overflowing with creative ideas and concepts – lack the cohesiveness and thematic richness found in Coraline and/or the best work from their fellow major animation studios. Kubo does appear to have something of an archetypal narrative (which isn’t, per se, a bad thing), though the film’s creative fantasy setting may be more than enough fun to make up for any storytelling issues the movie has. Indeed, as illustrated most recently by Disney’s Zootopia, great world-building can make all the difference in an original animated feature.
Kubo and the Two Strings opens in U.S. theaters on August 19th, 2016.
Source: Focus Features/Laika
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