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Kubo & Coraline: The Art of Stop Motion | Rosanne Pak

In your childhood, you may or may not have been traumatized by the 2009 film, Coraline. The movie is a dark fantasy-horror film that follows its protagonist, Coraline Jones, moving to a new town in an old house where she discovers a hidden door to another parallel life of her’s, but in order to remain in her ideal fantasy world, she must make a very real sacrifice: sewing buttons in place of her eyes.

This is but a nutshell of the perplexing world of Coraline, a stop motion film produced by Laika Studios. Although you may not recognize Laika by its name, you may know its iconic films including Coraline as mentioned earlier, Kubo and the Two Strings (2016), ParaNorman (2012), The Boxtrolls (2014), and more recently, Missing Link (2019). In this article, I will be giving insight on the film as well as my personal review of the two more well-known Laika films (in case you’re interested in watching them too!)

Coraline: Considered to be one of the most renowned stop motion films in movie history, Coraline is a movie you cannot skip. Over a span of 4 years, a team of 35 animators worked on the magical film, with each animator completing 2-6 seconds of footage in one week. From the creative details of pink food-colored popcorn as spring trees in the background, to over 15,000 individual 3D-printed faces of the characters, Coraline displays the authentic art of stop motion animation. The art of Coraline truly compliments the storyline of the film; Coraline stumbling across a small door that connects her to a new, bright life opens up a profound development in her character. She becomes brave, considerate, and thankful for the life she has with her parents despite them always busying themselves with work. The dark aspect of Coraline, however, may just well be the capturing factor of the film. The ominous shades of blue and purple can be seen throughout the film, as well as the mysterious motif of insects in the Other World Coraline discovers. The film overall has a captivating sense to it, one with mystery and a hint of thriller, leaving you with widened eyes and wanting more.

Kubo and the Two Strings: Kubo was the first Laika film I have watched and I think it was the perfect movie for me to get hooked onto stop motion animation. For starters, it is one of the most beautiful animated movies I have ever seen; the mythical Japanese-inspired folklore that tied the whole movie together was what I found especially alluring. Artists who worked on Kubo crafted both traditional Japanese clothing and culture together seamlessly with the help of Japanese historians. The film tells the story of Kubo, a young boy with a magical shamisen who tells stories of his late father’s great battles against the Moon King. The plot thickens as Kubo uncovers the truth about his mother’s family who wish to harm the two, and while on the run, befriends magical creatures who help Kubo find his family’s connection with the heavens. Not only is there a comical aspect to the film, but Kubo also tackles deep issues that we all face: loss and recovery. CEO of Laika and director of Kubo, Travis Knight, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times about the film saying, “We get into notions of death and loss. But we also explore what comes out on the other side of that – healing, forgiveness, empathy,” says Knight. “The people that we love are often ripped away from us. Life is a struggle and it has a cost. These are not things you typically explore in an animated film, but it’s a fundamental part of what it means to be. As someone who has lost many loved ones – I lost my brother about a decade ago – there are so many different things you experience when you go through a heavy loss like that and we try to put them in this film.”

And the wonders of Laika’s stop motion films don’t end there. Laika’s other films including The Boxtrolls, ParaNorman, and Missing Link are all streaming on sites like Netflix worldwide in case you can’t get enough after watching Coraline and Kubo. Also, don’t forget to stay tuned with Laika’s newest stop motion film, Wildwood, which is planned to be released sometime this year or in early 2024!

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