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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 has magical powers and whose left eye was stolen. Accompanied by Monkey and Beetle, he must subdue the Sisters, Raiden the Moon King and his army of evil spirits.

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. 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 ancient Japan, Kubo is a eyepatch-wearing young boy who lives with his ill mother Sariatu in a cave atop a mountain which is next to a village. Every day, he tells stories to the village's locals including Hosato, Hashi and Kameyo by magically manipulating origami that moves under music played from Kubo's shamisen. He tells the tale of a samurai warrior named Hanzo who is Kubo's missing father. When the town bell chimes signaling sunset, Kubo returns to his mother as she explicitly warns him to not stay outside after dark or her Sisters and his grandfather the Moon King will come to take his remaining eye after they took his left one when he was a baby.

One day, Kubo learns of a Bon festival which has a ceremony where family members communicate with deceased loved ones. He arrives at a cemetery and tries to speak to Hanzo, but leaves in anger when his father does not respond. As Kubo stays out after sundown, Sariatu's Sisters Karasu and Washi find him and attack. His mother arrives to fend them off. She sends Kubo away using her magic, telling him to find his father's magic armor. He takes a lock of her hair before she charges at her Sisters.

Kubo wakes up and meets Monkey, his little wooden snow monkey charm that was brought to life by his mother's magic. She informs him that his mother is dead, his village is destroyed, and they must move on to survive. The next morning Monkey wakes Kubo and points out "Little Hanzo"–one of Kubo's origami designed to look like his father–who folded himself and came to life at night. Little Hanzo shows Kubo and Monkey the way to pieces of a magic armor, where they are greeted by Beetle, an amnesiac samurai who was cursed to take the form of a stag beetle/human hybrid and claims to have been Hanzo's apprentice. He joins them on their quest when he finds out that Kubo is Hanzo's son. Meanwhile, the Sisters discover Kubo is looking for his father's armor and split up to find him.

Little Hanzo leads them to an underground cave known as the "Hall of Bones" where they find the "Sword Unbreakable" on the skull of a giant skeleton guardian. The skeleton attacks them as they try to reclaim the Sword, but they defeat it and escape. Kubo uses his magic to create a boat out of fallen leaves. They set sail across the "Long Lake" and arrive, floating over the "Breastplate Impenetrable". The Breastplate lies below the lake in the "Garden of Eyes", where intruders are entranced and paralyzed by a giant monster's eyes by showing secrets before they are eaten by it. Beetle and Kubo dive in to retrieve the Breastplate. One of the Sisters named Karasu appears and attacks Monkey. Monkey manages to defeat her but is badly wounded in the process. Kubo recovers the Breastplate but is immediately entranced by one of the eyes. In his entranced state, he has a revelation: Monkey is, in fact, his mother, her spirit reincarnated into physical form. Beetle rescues Kubo and the dilapidated boat is restored with Kubo and Monkey's own magic.

On a nearby island, the trio rest in a cave as Monkey explains with leaves, twigs, and a flower by using Kubo's shamisen that before she met Hanzo, she and her Sisters were sent to kill him. Instead, she fell in love with him and gave birth to Kubo. Her Sisters and Kubo's grandfather learned about it, felt betrayed and have since branded her as an enemy. Kubo has a dream in which he is greeted by Raiden, a blind old man spirit who shows him where to find the "Invulnerable Helmet", the final piece of armor. They head to his father's old damaged fortress to claim the armor, but it was revealed to be a trap. They are ambushed by the remaining Sister Washi who reveals that Beetle is, in fact, Kubo's father Hanzo whom they had cursed as retribution for "taking" their sister from them. Beetle is killed and Monkey sacrifices herself to allow Kubo to obtain his shamisen and kill her Sister with it, breaking every string but one in the process. After Kubo learns that his village's bell is the Helmet with Little Hanzo's help, he breaks the last string on his shamisen and uses his magic to fly back to his village.

After reclaiming the Helmet, he is greeted by Raiden, who is revealed to be his grandfather the Moon King. He wants to take Kubo's other eye in order to join his "family" and make him immortal like him. Kubo refuses and an angered Raiden transforms into a monstrous centipede-like creature known as the "Moon Beast" and attacks. Despite landing several blows, Kubo is beaten and thrown into the village cemetery where the Moon Beast corners both him and the villagers. Kubo sheds the armor and re-strings his shamisen, using his mother's hair, his father's bowstring, and a strand of his own hair. He uses its magic to recruit the spirits of the deceased villagers, showing to his grandfather that memories are the strongest magic of all and can never be destroyed. Kubo uses the spirits to shield himself and the villagers from the Moon Beast and then engulfs him in their magic. The Moon King is defeated and becomes mortal, and in his human form has no recollection of who or what he was. The villagers show compassion and forgiveness and tell Raiden that he was a man of many positive traits, thus convincing him that he was a good man.

At the end, Kubo is able to speak with his parents whose spirits appear beside him, as he sets their lanterns afloat across a lake, all the while seeing the deceased villagers' other lanterns transform into golden herons and flying to the spirit world into the sky.



On December 22, 2014, Laika and Focus Features announced that production had begun on a 3D stop-motion animated film, Kubo and the Two Strings. Laika's CEO Travis Knight would make his directorial debut with the film, based on an original story by Shannon Tindle, and written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler.[4] Knight and Arianne Sutner would produce the film.[4]

Voice casting included Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara and Ralph Fiennes.[5] Other voice actors in the film include George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro, Meyrick Murphy, Minae Noji, and Alpha Takahashi.[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. ^ a b 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. ^ Ford, Rebecca (December 22, 2014). "Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara Join Voice Cast for 'Kubo and the Two Strings'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  6. ^ Amidi, Amid (December 11, 2015). "Teaser: Laika's 'Kubo and the Two Strings' Is A Stop Motion Action-Adventure Film". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved January 25, 2016. 
  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