Laika, the stop-motion animation company behind the films Coraline, Paranorman and The Boxtrolls, literally builds worlds. “And part of that process is to imbue each landscape and every environment on film with a sense of history as if it has a true life of its own,” says president/CEO Travis Knight. Never has this been truer than their latest film, Kubo and the Two Strings.
Knight is also the director of Kubo, which opens August 18. In this film, a young boy travels across Japan on the search for an ancient armour. Knight calls it “an epic road movie”, and that means the locations are key.
Enter North, a fellow Portland company that created this amazing YouTube video that lets users use annotations to see clips from Kubo and explore some of the carefully considered and crafted locations, which we are excited to exclusively debut.
While Kubo is rooted in Eastern traditions, Knight explained that the world is definitely a Laika creation.
“For Kubo, set in a fantastical Japan, we made sure that the flora and fauna of a given scene are as accurate to the time and place as we can make them, but then added additional details to add a sense of mystery and magic that might not necessarily be historically accurate,” he said. “There is no area called the Far Lands in Japan, but there is in Kubo’s Japan, so we looked to furnish the world with details that would give it a sense of a real place… fallen statuary that would provide mystery and ‘realism’.”
“Realism” is an interesting word when it comes to Laika, because while the movies are obviously animated and not real, the company physically builds every single set so their animators can move the characters frame by frame by hand.
“How would we create a largely exterior movie that is epic in scope while working in stop-motion, traditionally a medium that shoots on top of table tops?” Knight asks. “A continuous challenge for our crew was the vigilance we’d have to use to not cram the frame with details. Our aesthetic was sparser, by design, and the impulse with miniature worlds is often to add details, so it took restraint to commit to a sparser cleaner design.”
Kubo and the Two Strings opens August 18. See more at KuboTheMovie.