The stop-motion animation studio responsible for “Coraline” and “Paranorman” is back with its fourth release. “Kubo and the Two Strings” is about a Japanese boy who embarks upon an epic quest to save himself and reunite his family.
I’ve been a fan of Laika Studios and the amazing detailed work they do since the beginning, and “Paranorman” was on my Top 10 list the year it was released in 2012. The original DVD release even featured my quote about the film on the box cover. My wife and kids love to tease me about that quote since I said something goofy like, “it’s ghoulish fun for the whole family!”
Yeah, yeah alright it was corny, but I really did love that movie!
There’s a great St. Louis connection, too. Brad Schiff, Laika’s animation supervisor, is a St. Louis native and one of the biggest Blues and Cardinals fans you’ll ever meet. If you’ve been around this town a while, you’ll remember Brad’s father, Steve Schiff, from his days at the anchor desk with Julius Hunter when they were the undisputed kings of local news at Channel 4.
St. Louis Native Brad Schiff: Animation Supervisor of ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’
Travis Knight is the CEO and founder of Laika (his father is Phil Knight, the founder of a small little shoe company called Nike) and “Kubo” is his first time behind the director’s chair.
I had the chance to visit the studio’s headquarters in Portland recently and see behind the curtain of the stop-motion animation process.
Knight told me when he was around 8 years old, he took his first trip to Japan with his father and completely fell in love with the country, the culture, the food, the art, the movies the style of dress.
“This movie was an opportunity to take these things that I’ve deeply loved since I was a kid, you know animation, epic fantasy, samurai stories, the transcendent art of Japan, roll it all into one and tell a beautiful story with it.”
The question I always have about stop-motion is why? Making a movie like this takes FOREVER. Knight told me, “the pace on of of these projects is glacial … average animators churn out anywhere from four to five seconds per week.”
That wasn’t a typo, not four to five minutes — four to five SECONDS.
“On a great week, we’re doing maybe two minutes of footage. You wouldn’t do it if you didn’t absolutely love what you do.”
The finished product is amazing and features the voices of Matthew McConaughey (his first animated film) and Charlize Theron. The voice of Kubo himself is Art Parkinson, best known for his work on “Game of Thrones”.
My set visit of “Kubo” was pretty awesome. The amount of work, detail and creativity that goes into a project like this is mind-blowing.