Articles: I am an obsessive fan of fantasy epics," Says 'Kubo And The Two Strings' Director Travis Knight




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By Samantha Ofole-Prince/Photos courtesy of Laika Studios

Laika President and CEO Travis Knight

For “Kubo and the Two Strings” director Travis Knight, the use of stop-motion puppetry was easily the wisest way to bring his fantastical film to life.

Knight, the President and CEO of Laika, the animation studio behind such classics as “Coraline” and “The Boxtrolls,” makes his directional debut on the animated feature film, which follows a young Japanese boy named Kubo on a quest to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past. Employing stop-motion animation, which involves photographing articulated figures one frame at a time, making tiny movements between shots to create the illusion of movement, the film manipulates so many different moving parts that it’s easy to forget just how tedious the work must have been.

“I’ve loved stop-motion my entire life. It’s a technique that’s been around since the beginning of cinema, but was never a dominant form of filmmaking,” shares Knight. “With the ascension of the computer, which dominated everything visual effects and animation, we knew when we started Laika 10 years ago that we would have to find a new way to tell stories in order to reinvigorate this medium.”

(l-r.) Beetle, Kubo, and Monkey

Beautifully animated, superbly designed and impressively directed “Kubo and the Two Strings” deals with themes of courage, acceptance, family, and identity as it follows the kindhearted, Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of ‘Game of Thrones’) whose tranquility is shattered after he accidentally summons an evil spirit.

The voice work is excellent and as the fierce, no-nonsense Monkey who joins forces with Kubo on his odyssey, Charlize Theron is likable and appealing, while Matthew McConaughey, in particular, is perfectly cast as the quixotic insect samurai Beetle. There’s also reliably brilliant support from Rooney Mara who voices the villainesses.

“Growing up, I was an enormous, obsessive fan of fantasy epics and I had been looking for something big and expansive and epic in nature that would also speak to deep truths about life and childhood,” recalls Knight.
Deeply entrenched in culture, the images onscreen are tactile and layered, but it’s the story that really matters, and the story told here is funny and poignant. There are a handful of very funny gags between Monkey and Beetle and the film deserves kudos for showcasing an old-school form of animation unlike the generic clone of the animated product that studios are churning out.

Monkey, Kubo and Beetle prepare to battle in Kubo and the Two Strings

“Even though stop-motion has been in existence for over a century, it feels like we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what we can do in this medium,” Knight continues. “We couldn’t have imagined making a film like 'Kubo' when we started ‘Coraline’ and yet it only exists because we made ‘Coraline,’ ‘ParaNorman,’ and ‘The Boxtrolls.’ Going through this experience, I know that our crew can do absolutely anything no matter what the story is. The future for stop-motion is Laika, because we are driving the future of stop motion. Just watch our shop and you will see what the future is.”

“Kubo and the Two Strings” releases in theaters Aug. 19, 2016

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