Interviewing Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Art Parkinson for KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS #KuboMovie

blogger press trip Kubo and the Two Strings

Last month I traveled to Los Angeles for the Kubo and the Two Strings press junket.

In addition to screening the movie (read my parent’s review of Kubo and the Two Strings and see why I was enthralled with the Kubo end credits) I was mesmerized by origami and Japanese amezaiku candy art AND I got to interview Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey and Art Parkinson, the stars who voice key characters in the movie!

I’ve been a blogger for a long time, and I’ve interviewed several celebrities. Even so, I never get tired of hearing an actor’s perspective on the movie he or she has made, and how it ties into his or her everyday life.  This Kubo and the Two Strings interview definitely didn’t disappoint!

blogger press trip Kubo and the Two Strings

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Kubo and the Two Strings: A Parent’s Review #KuboMovie

Kubo and the two strings parents review

I attended an early screening of Kubo and the Two Strings when I was in LA for the film’s press junket. I already spoke of my absolute love for the credits in Kubo and the Two Strings with While My Guitar Gently Weeps, but I promised a parent’s review of Kubo and the Two Strings, plus more about the actual movie and other reviews!

First, the real critics are raving about Kubo. Check out just a few of the snippets I found when browsing online.

Kubo and the two strings parent's review

Kubo and the Two Strings Reviews

RottenTomatoes.com has Kubo and the Two Strings Certified Fresh at 94%.  The “Critic’s Consensus” of Kubo and the Two Strings on Rotten Tomatoes states:

“Kubo and the Two Strings” matches its incredible animation with an absorbing — and bravely melancholy — story that has something to offer audiences of all ages.

The Globe and Mail states that Kubo and the Two Strings is “visually stunning” and elaborates with these glowing words:

The overall stunning nature of the work cannot be ignored. Audiences would do well to take Kubo’s advice from the movie’s beginning, “If you must blink, do it now,” as there is no telling what they might miss if they look away.

Killer Movie Reviews rates Kubo and the Two Strings an impressive 5 out of 5 stars with these words:

“Kubo and the Two Strings” continues Laika’s string of arresting, unconventional stop-motion animated films that are both sophisticated and enchanting…Kubo is audacious enough to tackle serious subjects and to do so with no pretense about the finality of death, or the reality of evil.

The true magic in “Kubo and the Two Strings” is found in the characters, starting with the titular character, who is brave, but also essentially a little boy on the verge of manhood struggling with his sense of loss and his desire for family…This is a transcendent film of astute insights that resonate with the heart.

The AV Club published an astute review of Kubo and the Two Strings that hit quite close to my own feelings on the film:

No American animation studio is better-suited to dreamlike plotting than Laika, and the animation of Kubo is truly dazzling, mixing sophistication and handmade charm with inspired flow. The movie glides from one gorgeous sequence to the next…

Laika has nonetheless crafted a movie with real resonance. Plenty of animation uses dead parents as an easy trope; Kubo actually attempts to process death as a part of life.

Finally, Variety wraps up their detailed review of Kubo and the Two Strings with this statement:

With such awe-inspiring artistry, designed so as to never distract from the material it serves, “Kubo and the Two Strings” stands as the sort of film that feels richer with each successive viewing, from the paper-folded Laika logo at the beginning…to the emotional resonance of its final shot.

In his first project at the helm, Travis Knight has delivered a tale that touches on immortality.

As for my own thoughts, as a parent, on Kubo and the Two Strings, I strongly believe that parents should see this movie with their children. In addition to being beautiful and having some great funny moments, it’s thought-provoking for all ages.

Kubo and the Two Strings and Death

Kubo and the Two Strings parent rev iew

Like other movies from LAIKA, Kubo and the Two Strings doesn’t sugarcoat death of loved ones. I lost my dad, my kids lost their grandpa and my husband lost his father-in-law just a few months ago. That loss is still very fresh for us, and I think parts of the movie could be cathartic for my kids.

In the past three months, it’s become hard, at times,  to find new things to say to help grieving little ones when I’m going through the same thing in my own way. I actually like the idea of my kids getting a different perspective on the theme, of seeing a fictional character experiencing a similar loss.

On that note, if your own children haven’t experienced loss in a capacity that helps them understand death, I think it’s fair to say you should discuss it before seeing Kubo and the Two Strings to help cushion the sadness within the film.

Finally, Kubo and the Two Strings is sweeping gorgeous both in design and in the story. But it has very intense scenes that are potentially scary for little kids. At the same time, it seems like every animated movie that’s worth seeing has those moments.

It’s definitely up to us, the parent’s, to determine if a movie is appropriate for our children. I’d just say that Kubo is on the more intense end of the spectrum when it comes to animated movies.

All in all, Kubo and the Two Strings is amazing. Knowing what I know about everything that went into making the movie, I’m even more proud and amazed at how it all came together so beautifully.

In a world of computer-generated animation, Kubo and the Two Strings is so different, and so much more than an evening of entertainment.

Kubo and the Two Strings is now in theaters. Find it in a theater near you and get your tickets today!

song in credits Kubo and the two Strings

See the rest of our Kubo and the Two Strings coverage:

Kubo and the two strings kubo and monkey still

About Kubo and the Two Strings:

An epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA.

Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of Game of Thrones) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Akihiro (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and Kameyo (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro).

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 (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), 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 (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara), to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family, and fulfill his heroic destiny.

Find out where Kubo and the Two Strings is showing at a theater near you!

Disclosure: Travel and most expenses were covered to facilitate the trip and learn more about Kubo And The Two Strings.  All opinions are my own.

Lyrics to The Song in the Credits of Kubo and the Two Strings

song in credits Kubo and the two Strings

I attended an early screening of Kubo and the Two Strings when I was in LA for the film’s press junket.

The movie was beautiful – absolutely stunning. I’ll have many more details in my upcoming review, but I wanted to share a fun fact from the end credits of Kubo and the Two Strings.

song in credits kubo and the two strings

I was immediately taken with the opening notes of the song that played in the end credits of Kubo and the Two Strings. The key and the instruments made for a haunting combination of sounds that were a perfect fit for the movie.

It wasn’t until the singer started with the vocals that I realized it was Regina Spektor singing While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

kubo end credits song lyrics

I have to tell you, that song gets me every time I hear it. Whether it’s the original, sung by The Beatles, Jake Shimabukuro playing it on ukelele or this new version, While My Guitar Gently Weeps one of those songs that seems to succeed in every adaptation.

Watch Regina Spektor’s music video for While my Guitar Gently Weeps from Kubo and the Two Strings:

Lyrics to While My Guitar Gently Weeps from Kubo and the Two Strings

I look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping
Still my guitar gently weeps.

I don’t know why nobody told you
How to unfold your love
I don’t know how someone controlled you
They bought and sold you.

I look at the world and I notice it’s turning
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps.

I don’t know how you were diverted
You were perverted too
I don’t know how you were inverted
No one alerted you.

I look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
Look at you all…
Still my guitar gently weeps

While My Guitar Gently Weeps was written by George Harrison

song at end credits kubo and the two strings

Buy the Kubo and the Two Strings soundtrack or download While My Guitar Gently Weeps from Kubo and the Two Strings performed by Regina Spektor.

Amezaiku Candy Craft with Shinobu Ichiyanagi for kubo and the two strings

Be sure to check out the expert origami artist and Shinobu Ichiyanagi demonstrating Japanese candy art at the Kubo and the Two Strings press junket!

See the rest of our Kubo and the Two Strings coverage:

Kubo and the Two Strings arrives in theaters on August 19, 2016.

Kubo and the two strings kubo and monkey still

About Kubo and the Two Strings:

An epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA.

Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of Game of Thrones) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Akihiro (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and Kameyo (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro).

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 (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), 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 (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara), to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family, and fulfill his heroic destiny.

Find out where Kubo and the Two Strings will be showing at a theater near you!

Disclosure: Travel and most expenses were covered to facilitate the trip and learn more about Kubo And The Two Strings.  All opinions are my own.

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS Shinobu Ichiyanagi Candy Art Demonstrations #KuboMovie

Amezaiku Candy Craft with Shinobu Ichiyanagi for kubo and the two strings

It’s hard to believe I was sitting in a conference room in Los Angeles during the Kubo and the Two Strings junket just a few weeks ago, waiting for these two people to fill their seats:

blogger press trip kubo and the two strings

It was pretty exciting to think that I was going to interview Matthew McConaughey and Charlize Theron later that day!

blogger press trip kubo and the two strings

My group of bloggers at the Kubo and the Two Strings press conference had some time in between our interview with the director and the interview with the talent from the film. Luckily, Focus Features had some great entertainment set up for us to take in while we waited.

Origami plays a key part in Kubo and the Two Strings, and a brilliant origami artist was there showing us his talents:

Kubo and the Two Strings origami

But it was another exhibit that I couldn’t tear myself away from: Shinobu “Shin” Ichiyanagi was demonstrating the art of amezaiku, or Japanese candy craft. It was incredible!

Shin Shinobu Ichiyangi amezaiku candy for Kubo and the two strings

I took home this amazing dragon lollipop that Ichiyanagi had made earlier:

amezaiku candy dragon by Shin Ichiyanagi

I was also lucky enough to get this video of Ichiyanagi demonstrating the amezaiku craft while making a delicate candy hummingbird. Believe me, it’s a must watch. He is so talented!

After spending a morning taking in all things related to Kubo and the Two Strings I’m even more excited for the movie to be released in theaters!

Kubo and the Two Strings secrets

See the rest of our Kubo and the Two Strings coverage:

Kubo and the Two Strings arrives in theaters on August 19, 2016.

About Kubo and the Two Strings:

An epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA.

Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of Game of Thrones) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Akihiro (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and Kameyo (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro).

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 (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), 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 (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara), to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family, and fulfill his heroic destiny.

Find out where Kubo and the Two Strings will be showing at a theater near you!

Disclosure: Travel and most expenses were covered to facilitate the trip and learn more about Kubo And The Two Strings.  All opinions are my own.

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS at LAIKA Meeting the Production Team #KuboMovie

kubo and the two strings secrets

It isn’t every day that you get to meet the brilliant production team members behind a beautiful movie such as Kubo and the Two Strings.

While in Portland touring LAIKA and the Kubo and the Two Strings set, however, I got to meet several of them from all different departments.  Each of these areas work closely together to bring you brilliant stop-motion animation films.

LAIKA Tour Dan Pascall

We were taken back into the Executive Screening Room to meet with Steven Emerson, the VFX Supervisor, for a presentation on the Visual Effects.

Then Dan Pascall, the Production Manager, took us on a tour of the different stages.  He introduced us to more of the production team.

LAIKA Tour Deborah Cook

Deborah Cook is a Costumer Designer.

In addition to making the puppets look good, Cook has to pick fabrics that will move properly on camera.  When a puppet is running, that fabric has to flow in just the right direction.  It is also important that small details are followed, such as the proper way to tie a kimono.

LAIKA Tour Georgina Hayns

Georgina Hayns is the Puppet Fabrication Supervisor.

Hayns told us that there are actually several smaller departments within the puppet department that all work together to create lifelike puppets: sculpting, mold making, casting, armature, hair, paint, and costume.

LAIKA Tour Brian McLean

Brian McLean is the Supervisor of Rapid Prototype.

LAIKA has been a trendsetter in the world of 3D printing when it comes to being used in a stop-motion film.  In fact, they won a Technical Oscar for pioneering this technique.

Fun fact: when LAIKA was working on their previous films ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls, they were the #1 consumer of color 3D printer material in the world!

LAIKA Tour Phil Brotheron

Phil Brotherton is the Assistant Art Director.

Brotherton showed us a couple of the art boards that they work off of during the movie.  Every detail has to be paid attention to, such as the color palette they work off of, the texture of the material that they use, and they also have to make sure that everything looks lifelike on screen.

LAIKA Tour Animation Rigging

Oliver Jones is the Animation Rigging Supervisor.

Jones showed us a pretty cool contraption that they invented to animate one of the monsters in the movie that had a huge eyeball.  They actually rigged up a bowling ball so that when they move the bowling ball with their hand, the eyeball on the monster moves too.  This helps animators get the perfect movements for their scenes.

The production team at LAIKA is really remarkable.  It is a small group that all share the same vision and desire to produce high quality films.  It was an honor to tour their studio and meet some of them!

Kubo and the Two Strings arrives in theaters on August 19, 2016.  Keep checking back here for more details, including lots of behind-the-scene photos from the set visit to LAIKA and mind-blowing facts on how the movie was made!

About Kubo and the Two Strings:

An epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA.

Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of Game of Thrones) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Akihiro (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and Kameyo (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro).

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 (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), 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 (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara), to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family, and fulfill his heroic destiny.

Find out where Kubo and the Two Strings will be showing at a theater near you!

Disclosure: Travel and most expenses were covered to facilitate the trip to LAIKA and learn more about Kubo And The Two Strings.  All opinions are my own.

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS at LAIKA How a Stop-Motion Film is Made #KuboMovie

kubo and the two strings secrets

Have you ever stopped to think about what goes into the stop-motion animated films that are so enjoyable to watch?  I hadn’t, until my visit to LAIKA and my behind-the-scenes look at the new movie, Kubo and the Two Strings.

Kubo and the Two Strings secrets

I had no idea that there were so many crew members working long hours all week to capture just a few seconds of footage for this stop-motion animated film.  With so many moving parts, working together and being on the same page is crucial.

KUBO and the Two Strings Movie Poster

I’ll introduce you to some of the amazing crew behind this new movie next time, but for now I wanted to share some really cool photos that I took on my set visit to show you a few of the many things that has gone into Kubo and the Two Strings.

KUBO Costume Board

Z miniature version of one of the boards that the Costume Department works with when developing costumes for the characters in the film. They use photographs that inspire them, along with real samples of fabric and other materials.

Planning in a Stop-Motion Animated Film

A TON of planning had to be done long before anything could be filmed for Kubo and the Two Strings.  Not only have the scenes been scripted, but the costumes, facial expressions, words, and movements of the characters have also been planned out.

A week’s worth of work usually produces just a few seconds of footage and having to go back and re-shoot something costs a lot of time and money.

Having a detailed storyboard, a continuity department to keep track of facial expressions, “character bibles” housing all of the information about a character (such as the way that they walk, the way that they run, etc.), and costumer boards all help them be as efficient as possible when they are finally ready to shoot.

"Monkey" is voiced by Charlize Theron in the film. This is one of the Monkey puppets they have on set. Fun fact: Monkey is the favorite character of Travis Knight.

“Monkey” is voiced by Charlize Theron in the film. This is one of the Monkey puppets they have on set. Fun fact: Monkey is the favorite character of Travis Knight.

Puppets in a Stop-Motion Animated Film

I think it is really unique that physical puppets are used in these films.  These puppets are way more advanced that what I usually think of as puppets.

They are constructed of heavy duty material to withstand months and months of filming, and there are usually 20-30 or more of each puppet around.

When puppets get damaged, they get sent to the “Puppet ER.” These puppets look SO lifelike in person!

Rigging Mechanisms in Stop-Motion Animation

Stop-motion is shot at 24 frames per second with lots of teeny tiny movements.  All of the puppets have framing inside and are rigged up on the outside by mechanisms that can help the animators control the movements.

The rigging is edited out with computers later, but it is really neat to think about.  Some of the puppets also had features on them such as fur or capes that needed to blow in the wind – and the animators wanted it to be real.  So, the capes that some characters wear in the movie have wiring built into them so that it can be controlled very precisely.

The Monkey character has a silicone covered fur for a more realistic look.  There are so many little details involved in animating the puppets–it blows me away!

3D printing was used to create the different facial expressions for the puppets. They are cataloged and the animators will request certain pieces per scene and then physically change the out.

3D printing was used to create the different facial expressions for the puppets. They are cataloged and the animators will request certain pieces per scene and then physically change the out.

3D Printing for a Stop-Motion Animated Film

Laika was the first studio to use 3D printing to make their animated faces.  They started doing this back when they filmed Coraline and their techniques and processes just keep getting better and better. They’re at the top of their game with Kubo and the Two Strings!

They took the idea of replacement animation and combined it with modern techniques.  LAIKA models and animates the faces in the computer, then sends the faces to a 3D printer rather than hand-sculpting them all.

In fact, Laika won a Technical Oscar just a few months ago for pioneering the technique of 3D printing for stop-motion films!

Although this looks like a real room, it is actually a miniature version of one. It is one of the sets of the movie!

Although this looks like a real room, it is actually a miniature version of one. It is one of the sets of the movie!

Sets in a Stop-Motion Animated film

The sets were so cool to see!  All of the Kubo and the Two Strings sets are placed up on blocks or lifts to be about waist high and they all break apart so that the animators don’t have to crawl all over the set when they are animating.

Sometimes an animator can spend weeks using the same set so it is critical that everything stays in place.  Do you see the papers in the left-hand corner?  All of those are glued down to make sure they don’t blow away while filming.

Here is a view of one of the prop boards used in the movie. There is a lot of attention to detail with the props such as color, texture, and more.

Here is a view of one of the prop boards used in the movie. There is a lot of attention to detail with the props such as color, texture, and more.

Props in a Stop-Motion Animated Film

Every single prop in Kubo and the Two Strings looks incredibly lifelike, but shrunken down in size.  There are lots of prop boards that the crew works off of to make sure the texture is right, the color is right, and that the material they use to create the prop looks right under the studio lights and can hold up under the heat generated from those lights.

Do you see the orange,yellow and red leaves toward the right-hand side of the above image?  Those are not hand cut but they ARE hand-glued to a boat for one scene in the movie.  They had to make three of the boats, and even the pattern of the leaves are identical on all three of the boats.  Talk about attention to detail!

LAIKA Hall of Bones

This character lives in the Hall of Bones and is 16 feet tall when assembled. There is a lot of rigging on him because he has to physically handle some of the puppets in one of the action sequences.

Computer Imaging in a Stop-Motion Animated Film

While most of what you see in Kubo and the Two Strings really exists in the physical world, computer imaging is used to fill in some gaps and save a little bit of time and resources.

Some of the items that were put into the film via computer really surprised me because they looked so lifelike!  This is because a lot of research goes into every graphic created.  The animators base all computer images off of something physical.  They take a physical sample and put it under the stage lights to make sure the computer image has the right lighting and shadows and movement.

The main characters and any other character with a speaking role are all physical puppets, and all of the sets are real – they’re just sometimes extended with computers.  For example, you’ll see The Hall of Bones in the movie which is home to a large 16-foot tall puppet.  There was no way they could build a set big enough for this puppet so instead they built one physical wall and then extended it out with a green screen.

Check out this short video with some more behind-the-scenes footage:

The Kubo puppet on one of the sets of the movie.

The Kubo puppet on one of the sets of the movie.

Kubo and the Two Strings arrives in theaters on August 19, 2016.  Keep checking back here for more details, including lots of behind-the-scene photos from the set visit to LAIKA and mind-blowing facts on how the movie was made!

About Kubo and the Two Strings:

An epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA.

Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of Game of Thrones) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Akihiro (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and Kameyo (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro).

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 (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), 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 (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara), to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family, and fulfill his heroic destiny.

Find out where Kubo and the Two Strings will be showing at a theater near you!

Disclosure: Travel and most expenses were covered to facilitate the trip to LAIKA and learn more about Kubo And The Two Strings.  All opinions are my own.