I saw Kubo and the Two Strings. I had been looking forward to seeing it for while, ever since I saw the poster with the boat and the leaves and the moon, this one:
I actually saw it twice, once with my sister and once with Snorth. The story, clearly heavily influenced by Miyazaki, was… confusing the way Japanese movies tend to be for me. I’ve spoken about this before:
The Japanese seem to be perfectly comfortable with non-linear storytelling and I cannot get on board. Ergo I had some problems with Kubo in that regard. However, the animation? Amazing. Phenomenal. I can’t say enough good things. The studio that made this is called Laika and they’re one of the last studios that does stop-motion animation. I got to go to a Q&A with the director Travis Knight and learned some neat facts.
- In stop-motion animation if you bang out two seconds a day it’s a miracle. So they have ten movies in various stages of production at any time.
- Normally they have tons of time to record the voices but the kid who does the main voice (Art Parkinson, Rickon from Game of Thrones) was going to go through puberty at any minute so they had to record him extra extra fast.
- Art is from Ireland and does a phenomenal American accent. His audition tape was with the American accent and when Travis called him to tell him he had the job he thought he had called the wrong kid. Here’s what Art sounds like normally (and you can hear how his voice is all manly now): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XyV-Vu40Mk
- Laika doesn’t shun the use of computers. For example, they use green screen throughout the movie, especially when there are big sweeping vistas. They’re building these spaces in a large drafty warehouse in Portland, Oregon and they build the entire village where some of the scenes take place but there are shots where the ocean extends to the horizon and that couldn’t be accommodated.
- They also used computers to print every possible facial expression as well as the intermediate facial expressions between those. Those used to have to be carved by hand so it frees up the designers to do more work on the character’s clothes and fur and armor. Using computers doesn’t make the process easier, it simply allows the designers to focus their energy elsewhere.
- There’s origami paper floating all over this movie. (The second the first origami thing happened Snorth turned to me and said, “NOPE.” So that’s settled.) Laika tried a variety of materials and settled on Tyvek which is paper with a plastic coating so it doesn’t rip and a piece of aluminum pasted on the back to help it hold its shape when it is bent and folded.
There’s a great video that shows many of the elements I’ve just mentioned. It’s sixteen minutes long so you’ll want to get real comfortable before starting it. Also it’s silent for the first thirteen minutes so don’t assume your volume is broken (like I did).
And here’s some more insight from the film’s creators.