Remember that trip I took to Los Angeles last month when I was lucky enough to attend advance screenings of Bad Moms and Kubo and the Two Strings? I loved Bad Moms (and I hope you’ve all had a chance to see it!), but now I’m really excited about Kubo and the Two Strings hitting theatres next Friday, August 19th. Mark your calendar for this gorgeously animated and uplifting family-friendly film, and read on for your chance to win a movie night out and some fun movie swag.
“Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA. Clever, kindhearted Kubo ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town. 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 and Beetle, 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 and the evil twin Sisters, to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family, and fulfill his heroic destiny.”
Before I even got the invitation, I was excited about this movie. From as far back as I can remember, I’ve always had a soft spot for stop-motion animation. I have fond memories as a kid of watching classic Ray Harryhausen movies Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans on lazy Saturday afternoons.
Naturally I’ve been a huge fan of LAIKA from the beginning. They’ve revitalized the time-honoured traditon of stop-motion animation, and I love the whimsical and slightly darker feel they bring to their work. We own and love all their feature films: Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls. I even have a copy of their short film Moongirl that came bundled with the picture book of the same name. So yes, I was looking forward to KUBO already.
We sat down in the darkened theatre, put on our 3D glasses, and settled in for an beautiful animated adventure. LAIKA calls it an epic adventure, and that it is. Having watched many stop-motion animated films, the nature of the animation means they tend to focus on close-up action. There’s certainly that in KUBO, with wonderfully expressive characters and fascinatingly intricate animated origami figures, but the film also features gorgeous sweeping vistas giving it a stunning cinematic feel. Within just a few minutes, I forgot I was watching inanimate puppets moved by hand millimeter by millimeter and photographed frame by frame.
Kubo is a storyteller, and the movie revolves around themes of story and memory. Your memories – your personal story – are what make you you. Music, magic, and family are important. Loving opens you up to being hurt, but it’s still worth it.
As an animated movie, Kubo and the Two Strings may ostensibly be aimed at children, but I really don’t think it is. Adults will love this just as much, if not more. There’s a skeleton battle in the movie that’s clearly influenced by Clash of the Titans and Indiana Jones, and I also caught a Return of the Jedi homage at the end of the movie. When George Takei’s character intones his trademark “Oh myyy,” my seatmate and I both looked at each other and smirked.
Without giving you any spoilers, I appreciate that the film doesn’t pander or sugarcoat the story. It’s a fantasy, but it reflects the genuine balance of joy and pain, light and dark, present in real life. I can’t wait to take my family to see this. There are some pretty scary scenes, notably with the creepily evil twin sisters and a couple of intense battle scenes that may be too scary for younger kids. I think Tee will love this movie, but I would suggest 7 or 8 and up to be safe.
Here’s the trailer. Watch it and tell me how much you want to see this too! Also, a reverent nod to Regina Spektor for her haunting cover of “My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
After watching the movie, we attended a press conference with the stars of the movie Art Parkinson (Kubo), Malcolm McConaghey (Beetle), Charlize Theron (Monkey), and Director Travis Knight.
Yes, it was very cool listening to Matthew, Charlize, and Art talk about working on the film. This is Matthew’s first animated film, and he was excited to finally be making a movie his kids can see. Charlize talked about the importance of being connected, and how that theme attracted her to the movie.
I was most impressed though, with hearing Travis Knight talk about his love of storytelling and “geek” roots. As a parent himself, Travis talked about how having kids changed everything for him. He realized he didn’t want to make empty commercial pieces. He wanted to create art that uplifted, knowing that the best movie is the one you talk about on the way home.
Kubo and the Two Strings is his directorial debut, and it’s clearly a very personal project for him. For example, not only is the song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” a thematically appropriate choice for the score, but when Travis talked about childhood memories of listening to the Beatles version with his mother over and over again, it makes perfect sense why he chose the song to reflect Kubo’s relationship with his mother.
I asked Travis what gave rise to his love of animation, and he named Harryhausen and Rankin-Bass (Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer) as childhood influences. He talked about his lifelong love of fantasy, science fiction, and comic books. Apparently his mother read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings while pregnant, and Star Wars was the first movie Travis saw in the theatre. Then he spoke about observing his son act out stories with his toys and realizing that stop motion animation is basically how he brings childhood toys to life. I get that!
Some movies you can wait to see on Blu-ray. This isn’t one of them. Take the entire family to see this in 3D on the big screen! As an aside, this may be a bit premature, but I’m also looking forward to the home release, just so I can watch the behind-the-scenes features. I can’t wait to see how they designed and made the puppets, and I hope they’ll show more of the creative process. A tour of LAIKA Studio in Oregon State is officially on my bucket list!
Win a Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Prize Pack
I want you to be as excited about this movie as I am! One Canadian reader will win this Kubo and the Two Strings movie prize pack including the following:
- Passes for four people to see KUBO at any Cineplex location in Canada, excluding weekends.
- KUBO cinch bag backpack
- KUBO collapsible Frisbee
- Set of KUBO origaudio portable speakers
- Pack of KUBO temporary tattoos
- Pack of KUBO pop up characters
- KUBO folder with activity sheets
Enter in the giveaway widget below. This giveaway is open to residents of Canada, 18+. All entries will be verified.
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