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Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings
Kubo and the Two Strings poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Travis Knight
Produced by
  • Travis Knight
  • Arianne Sutner
Screenplay by
Story by
Music by Dario Marianelli
Edited by Christopher Murrie
Distributed by Focus Features
Release date
  • August 13, 2016 (2016-08-13) (MIFF)
  • August 19, 2016 (2016-08-19) (United States)
Running time
102 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $60 million[2]
Box office $74.5 million[3]

Kubo and the Two Strings is a 2016 American 3D stop-motion fantasy action-adventure film directed and co-produced by Travis Knight (in his directorial debut), and written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler. It stars the voices of Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, and Matthew McConaughey. It is Laika's fourth feature film produced. The film revolves around Kubo, who wields a magical shamisen and whose left eye was stolen. Accompanied by an anthropomorphic snow monkey and beetle, he must subdue his mother's corrupted sisters and his power-hungry grandfather Raiden (aka, the Moon King), who stole his left eye.

Kubo premiered at Melbourne International Film Festival and was released by Focus Features in the United States on August 19 to universal critical acclaim and has grossed $74 million worldwide against a budget of $60 million. The film won the BAFTA for Best Animated Film and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Visual Effects, becoming the second animated film to be nominated in the latter category following The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).


In feudal Japan, young Kubo tends to his ill mother Sariatu in a mountain cave near a village. He earns their meager living by magically manipulating origami with music from his shamisen for the village folk, telling the tale of a samurai warrior named Hanzo, Kubo's missing father. Sariatu warns him not to stay out after dark, as her Sisters and his grandfather, the Moon King, will be able to find him and take his remaining eye.

One day, Kubo learns of the village's Bon festival allowing them to speak to deceased loved ones. Kubo attends but is frustrated that Hanzo does not appear, and forgets to return home before sunset. Sariatu's Sisters, Karasu and Washi, quickly find him and attack, but Sariatu suddenly appears to protect Kubo. She uses her magic to send Kubo far away, telling him to find his father's armor. Kubo grabs a strand of Sariatu's hair before he is sent away.

Kubo wakes up in a distant land to find Monkey, his little wooden snow monkey charm, has come alive. Monkey tells him Sariatu is dead and the village destroyed, but they must find Hanzo's armor. With help of "Little Hanzo", an origami figure based on Kubo's father, they track down the armor. Along the way, they meet Beetle, an amnesiac samurai who was cursed to take the form of a Japanese rhinoceros beetle/human hybrid but believes himself to have been Hanzo's apprentice. Meanwhile, the Sisters track down Kubo's trail.

Kubo, Monkey, and Beetle reclaim the "Sword Unbreakable" from an underground cave "Hall of Bones" guarded by a giant skeleton. They cross the Long Lake in an origami boat to locate the "Breastplate Impenetrable" deep underwater. Kubo and Beetle swim down to retrieve it and encounter a sea monster in the "Garden of Eyes" that can entrance its victims with its many eyes. Kubo is caught in the creature's sight, but while entranced, comes to realize that Monkey is the reincarnated spirit of his mother. Beetle rescues Kubo and obtains the Breastplate, but returning to the boat, they find that Monkey has been badly wounded in fighting and defeating Karasu.

They take to shore to recover, where Monkey explains that she and the Sisters had been ordered by the Moon King to kill Hanzo, but she instead fell in love with him, and the Moon King branded her an enemy. That night, Kubo dreams of meeting Raiden, a blind elderly man, who points him towards the "Helmet Invulnerable" in Hanzo's abandoned fortress. They travel there the next day, but realize too late it is a trap set by Washi. Washi reveals that Beetle is Hanzo, whom they had cursed for taking Sariatu away from them. Washi kills Beetle, and Monkey sacrifices herself to allow Kubo to use his shamisen to defeat Washi, breaking two of the three strings on it. Little Hanzo provides insight that the Helmet is actually the bell at the village, and Kubo breaks the last string to quickly travel there.

At the village, Kubo meets Raiden, who is revealed as the Moon King. He offers to take Kubo's other eye as to make him immortal, but Kubo refuses. Raiden transforms into a giant centipede-like creature, the Moon Beast, and pursues Kubo and the remaining villagers into its cemetery. Kubo removes Hanzo's armor that has proven ineffective, and instead restrings his shamisen using his mother's hair, his father's bowstring, and his own hair. With the instrument, he is able to summon the spirits of the villagers' loved ones, who show the Moon Beast that memories are the strongest magic of all and can never be destroyed. Kubo's magic protects him and the villagers from the Moon Beast, eventually stripping him of his powers and leaving him a mortal human without any memories. Spurred on by Kubo's stories, the villagers take compassion and tell Raiden he was a man of many positive traits, accepting him into the village. Kubo finally is able to speak to his parents during the subsequent Bon ceremony.



Announced in December 2014, the project is the directoral debut of Laika's CEO Travis Knight.[4] Knight was pitched the story by production designer Shannon Tindle as a "stop-motion samurai epic" although the studio had never ventured into the genre before, Knight was enthusiastic about the project owing partly his affinity towards both the "epic fantasy" genre as well as Japanese culture in general.[5]

The art took inspiration from such Japanese mediums as ink wash painting and origami among others. A particular influence came from the ukiyo-e wood block style, with Laika intending to make the entire film "to look and feel as if it’s a moving woodblock print"[5] Assistance came from 3D printing firm Stratasys who allowed Laika to use their newest technogies in exchange for feedback on them.[5]

For the Skeleton monster the team created a giant 16 foot, 400 pound puppet, which Laika claims is the record holder for largest stop motion puppet.[6] The idea to make such a massive puppet was born out of a fear that individual smaller parts (meant to represent the larger monster) would not work well on screen interacting with the other puppets.[6] The resulting puppet was built in two parts which were then attached together by magnets. For movement Laika had to design a robot to easily manipulate it. The team at one point purchased an industrial robot off of eBay but found that it would not work with their setup.[6]

Dario Marianelli composed the score for the film.[7]


Kubo and the Two Strings
Soundtrack album by Dario Marianelli
Released August 5, 2016
Genre Film score
Length 53:11
Label Warner Bros. Records
Laika film soundtrack chronology
The Boxtrolls
Kubo and the Two Strings
Dario Marianelli chronology
Kubo and the Two Strings

Track listing

No. Title Length
1. "The Impossible Waves" 2:37
2. "Kubo Goes to Town" 1:25
3. "Story Time" 2:10
4. "Ancestors" 2:07
5. "Meet the Sisters!" 2:22
6. "Origami Birds" 3:25
7. "The Giant Skeleton" 3:30
8. "The Leafy Galleon" 4:36
9. "Above and Below" 3:59
10. "The Galleon Restored" 1:06
11. "Monkey's Story" 2:57
12. "Hanzo's Fortress" 5:45
13. "United-Divided" 3:01
14. "Showdown with Grandfather" 7:04
15. "Rebirth" 1:33
16. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (Regina Spektor) 5:23


The film screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival on August 13, 2016,[8] and was theatrically released in the United States on August 19, 2016.[9]

Box office

As of January 24, 2017, Kubo and the Two Strings has grossed $48 million in North America and $26.5 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $74.5 million, against a budget of $60 million.[3]

In the United States, the film was released on August 19, 2016, alongside Ben-Hur and War Dogs, and was projected to gross $12–15 million from 3,260 theaters in its opening weekend.[10] It made $515,000 from its Thursday night previews and $4.1 million on its first day. It went on to gross $12.6 million in its opening weekend, finishing 4th at the box office.[11]

Critical response

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 97%, based on 185 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "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."[12] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 84 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[13] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[14]

Christy Lemire of awarded the film 3.5 stars out of 4, saying that "one of the most impressive elements of Kubo and the Two Strings—besides its dazzling stop-motion animation, its powerful performances and its transporting score—is the amount of credit it gives its audience, particularly its younger viewers."[15] IGN's Samantha Ladwig gave the film 7.5/10, stating that the film is "Dark, twisted, and occasionally scary, but also with humor, love, and inspiration."[16] Jesse Hassenger, of The A.V. Club, praised the film, saying that "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."[17]

Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post gave the film 4/4 stars, stating that the film is "both extraordinarily original and extraordinarily complex, even for a grown-up movie masquerading as a kiddie cartoon (which it kind of is)."[18] In The New York Times, Glenn Kenny said that "the movie’s blend of stop-motion animation for the main action with computer-generated backgrounds is seamless, creating what is the most visually intoxicating of all Laika's movies."[19] Peter Debruge of Variety wrote that ""Kubo" offers another ominous mission for a lucky young misfit, this one a dark, yet thrilling adventure quest that stands as the crowning achievement in Laika's already impressive oeuvre."[20]

Jonathan Pile, member of the British film magazine Empire, wrote about the film: "Yet another success for stop-motion giants Laika ... boasts big laughs and effective scares in a typically gorgeous animated tale."[21]


Home media

Kubo and the Two Strings was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital media on November 22, 2016.[22]


  1. ^ "Kubo and the Two Strings (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. August 19, 2016. Retrieved August 19, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 22, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)". The Numbers. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  4. ^ Hammond, Pete (December 22, 2014). "Laika & Focus Begin Production On All-Star 'Kubo And The Two Strings' To Kick Off 3-Pic Deal". Deadline. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c Lott-Lavinga, Ruby. "Kubo and the Two Strings: an epic film made on a 12-foot-long table". Retrieved 14 April 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c Fails, Ian. "Laika Was Crazy Enough To Animate A 16-Foot Tall Skeleton for 'Kubo and The Two Strings'". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved 14 April 2017. 
  7. ^ "Dario Marianelli to Score Laika's 'Kubo and the Two Strings'". Film Music Reporter. April 28, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015. 
  8. ^ "KIDS GALA: KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS 3D". Melbourne International Film Festival. Retrieved July 18, 2016. 
  9. ^ Reyes, Mike. "The Kubo And The Two Strings Trailer Is Epic And Magical". Cinema Blend. Retrieved August 13, 2016. 
  10. ^ "'Ben-Hur' remake likely won't be able to topple 'Suicide Squad' at the box office". Los Angeles Times. 
  11. ^ "War Dogs' Begins Barking On Thursday Night – Box Office". 
  12. ^ "Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 18, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Kubo and the Two Strings". Metacritic. Retrieved August 26, 2016. 
  14. ^ "CinemaScore". 
  15. ^ "Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review (2016) - Roger Ebert". Retrieved August 23, 2016. 
  16. ^ "Kubo and the Two Strings Review - IGN". Retrieved August 23, 2016. 
  17. ^ "Kubo And The Two Strings - Film Review Laika releases another, less ghoulish triumph with Kubo And The Two Strings - Movie Review - The A.V. Club". Retrieved August 24, 2016. 
  18. ^ "'Kubo and the Two Strings' weaves a magical tale that feels both ancient and fresh - The Washington Post". Retrieved August 23, 2016. 
  19. ^ "Kubo and the Two Strings - The New York Times". Retrieved August 23, 2016. 
  20. ^ "'Kubo and the Two Strings' Review: Puts the Emotion in Stop-Motion - Variety". Retrieved August 23, 2016. 
  21. ^ "Kubo And The Two Strings Review - Movie - Empire". Retrieved August 24, 2016. 
  22. ^ "Kubo and the Two Strings Blu-ray". 

External links