Kubo and the Two Strings Travis Knight interview

With Kubo and the Two Strings, the CEO & President of Laika, Travis Knight, makes his feature directorial debut. Knight’s 3D stop-motion / CG hybrid follows a brave young hero named Kubo (Art Parkinson), as he goes on an epic quest to retrieve what’s needed to defeat Raiden the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes). Along for the samurai’s emotional adventure are Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey).

The Japan-set film’s style was inspired by ink wash paintings, Noh theater, and period doll making. One of the biggest influences for Knight, besides the famous woodblock painter Kiyoshi Saito, was ukiyo-e (translation: pictures of the floating world). The director was most drawn to the work of Hokusai and Hiroshige, and the former’s “Great Wave off Kanagawa” clearly inspired the film’s opening sequence, which we talked about with Knight.

During our time with the filmmaker, we discussed the work Laika put into crafting some of Kubo and the Two Strings most visually stunning sequences, in addition to why they’ll never make sequels. Below, read our Travis Knight interview.

Kubo and the Two Strings Travis Knight interview

The opening does a nice job establishing the tone of the film. 

Well, you know, we take our time early on in the film, getting to know these characters. Getting to know the world, and so it adds your structure of your first act. You want to make sure that you give the audience the information they need early on, what kind of story this is going to be.

With the beginning sequence, we wanted to make sure that we gave a hint of where we were going with this movie. That there is a little bit of mystery. There’s some peril and danger, kind of a big epic sweep to the whole thing. This is a world where characters get hurt.

This is not a Wile E. Coyote universe where you fly into the side of a canyon, and you turn into a pancake, and then you dust yourself off, and you’re ready for the next adventure. This is a world where if you smash your head on a rock, that hurts, and it’s going to damage to your body.

The very next sequence we have Kubo preparing the morning meal for his mother, and he burns his hand on the boiling water as he’s preparing the rice. It’s a simple moment, but what it lets you know is that this is a world where people get hurt. If our characters get hurt, the stakes are real. And if they die, they die, and that’s it. Just like real life, alas.

We wanted to communicate a number of different things within that one sequence that lets people know what kind of a world this was. It’s a beautiful world, it’s a stylized world, but it’s the world that is much like our own. It’s real life wrapped in metaphor. That’s everything we do, it’s definitely what we were approaching for this one here.

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