In spite of receiving a more mixed reaction than its predecessors, The Boxtrolls is doing quite well for itself in the awards season. It has recently scored a Golden Globe nomination and it currently leads the Annies with 13 nominations. That being said, LAIKA has already set its sights on its next film (one of three more films to be made in its extended partnership with Focus Features). And here’s the good news: it already sounds awesome.
Yesterday in a press release, LAIKA and Focus have officially announced production on an epic fantasy film titled Kubo and the Two Strings. The announcement was made by LAIKA president and CEO Travis Knight and Focus Features CEO Peter Schlessel. Knight will be making his directorial debut with this film in addition to producing with Arianne Sutner.
Based on an original screenplay by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler (ParaNorman), the film is described in the press release as a “sweeping, swashbuckling adventure set in a mythical ancient Japan.”
The official synopsis for the film reads as follows:
In the epic fantasy, scruffy, kindhearted Kubo ekes out a humble living while devotedly caring for his mother in their sleepy shoreside village. It is a quiet existence – until a spirit from the past catches up with him to enforce an age-old vendetta. Suddenly on the run from gods and monsters, Kubo’s chance for survival rests on finding the magical suit of armor once worn by his fallen father, the greatest samurai the world has ever known. Summoning courage, Kubo embarks on a thrilling odyssey as he faces his family’s history, navigates the elements, and bravely fights for the earth and the stars.
The film has already lined up an impressive all-star voice cast, which includes Academy Award winners Matthew McConaughey and Charlize Theron; Academy Award nominees Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, and Brenda Vaccaro. Rounding out the cast is Art Parkinson (Rickon Stark on Game of Thrones) as the voice of Kubo.
“Kubo and the Two Strings is a rare gem,” said Mr. Knight. “It’s a gripping yarn woven from Japanese folktales and mythology, with lost civilizations, mystical origami, noble heroes, star-crossed lovers, and blood-curdling monsters. At once epic and intimate, Kubo is a funny, intense, and ultimately uplifting fairy tale draped in some of the most bizarre and exciting imagery I’ve ever seen. Most importantly, it’s deeply moving. It’s a story that means something, a story that deserves to be told. In short, it’s a LAIKA movie. And with a poetic script, sublime cast, and our freakishly talented artists and craftspeople, Kubo will be a strange, stirring, and altogether stunning film. I can’t wait to share it with the world.”
“LAIKA raises the bar on animated movies as a creative art,” said Mr. Schlessel. “Each picture Focus does with them is unique yet identifiably theirs. Travis and Arianne have convened a wonderful group of animators, actors, and artisans to tell a story that moviegoers of all ages will be transported by.”
In conclusion, all I have to say is yes. Regardless of any animation studio, this is exactly what we need more of in animation as a whole: epic, genre-spanning, grand-scale ideas and concepts that serve to flex the more inventive muscles of a medium that’s just now beginning to realize its full potential in diversity and spectrum.
Again, my hope is that this mindset isn’t tied down to LAIKA or any one studio. I sincerely hope that every animation studio hits us with more of these types of films and is more willing to venture into genres that haven’t been explored very often.
One other thing: the film also marks a significant departure from the goth-horror trappings that are commonly associated with LAIKA (as you can tell from the concept art below):
Kubo and the Two Strings will arrive in theaters on August 19, 2016.