Analyzing a Stop Motion film – Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo has been congratulated for being the most advanced stop motion film to come out in a long time, for good reason, Laika, the company responsible went to great lengths for the movie in terms of technical effects.

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Laika used a lot of green screens and much larger puppets in this film than they had before to create more dynamic visuals, as seen in the screenshot above in which Kubo looks at a large yellow eyed monster which is even bigger than a person.

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The above screen shot also has very good use of colour the different shades of green give a sickly look to the environment with the bright yellow light contrasting it well and taking the main attention.

The movements of Kubo when he was underwater was also very realistic and well done, with him bobbing slowly as he swam, the attention to these little details while animating in stop motion are always appreciated as it shows dedication to the film which gives the viewer a good reason to want to support the film, as they know the people who worked on it worked hard.

The model of Kubo himself is very well made; the use of different materials makes the puppet seem more realistic as well as varied so that the viewer can clearly see which part the clothes are, what is skin and what is hair. It would have probably been very difficult to work with such different textures, given that they use stop motion for their animation which needs every slight movement to be exact or else it will look strange, the clothes look very loose which means that some of the movements could have been difficult to shoot as the clothes would move when the cameraman didn’t want them to. I probably won’t use a cloth material for my stop motion because of this fact but it’s good to see a company that is able to do it well.

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Something else to point out about Kubo’s model is the fact that the skin has a lot of its own texture, with certain parts of the face being a red colour while everything else is more pale beige, this helps the character look more realistic as well as to put emphasis on shadows that naturally fall on the face, since Laika used stop motion they wouldn’t be able to input an artificial light source which would be able to put the shadows onto the face and body through coding, like a 3D model could be, which meant that the colouring had to actually be painted onto each face they used for each expression, another example of the crew’s dedication to the films details. The model also had to be painted on because without the painted on shadows the face would look strangely plain, unfinished and texture-less in comparison to the rest of the models body as well as the sets.

The colouring itself is very good, the colours are smooth and seep into each other in a way much like how human skin does, however, it has a stylistic spin on it by how emphasized the red around the nose and jaw is. The clothes have a dirty feel to them as they’ve been torn and stained, this could have been done to show how Kubo has travelled far on his adventure, by giving him travel torn clothes it creates an image of Kubo as a brave explorer, the sort of character that is used a lot as a main character in children’s media as it’s seen as a good role model for children to explore their world.

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You can see in the picture how Kubo’s hair is very dark blue so that, when shone a light on, it creates a lighter blue colour, this was a good stylistic choice because, while not realistic, it’s appealing and can help show each section of hair they put on Kubo, showing the hard work put into the model.

Generally Kubo has a varied colour scheme depending on mood and setting, mood and setting also usually correlate, for example:

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Here we can see Kubo, Monkey and Beetle overlooking a landscape, the colours used are mostly yellows and golden with rays of sun shining onto them from one side of the screen, the use of golden and yellow have the connotation of happiness and heroism which lead to a viewer possibly feeling like they’re about to embark on a brave quest as a result.

The use of walking into the sunset, as the three are doing, is a trope used for when heroes are leaving an area, usually at the end of a film or after a happy/hopeful scene has happened and they’re about to face the big villain of the film, the use of this trope is usually symbolism for a new start or adventure after one has ended, or simply a new perspective on something. This, in turn gives the audience a sense of hope and excitement for the next part of the adventure, creating excitement and anticipation in this form is a very good idea, especially if the story is about to reach its last act because if a film wishes to be remember it must end on a high note by making the audience excited for a good payoff and giving it to them.

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The pale yellow of the sky mixed with the misty mountains in the background and birds flying in the sky give the audience a sense of peace, this can add to the excitement by representing the calm before the storm. The mellow yellow is much less bold than the bright gold colour of the grass in the foreground, this creates a good contrast between the two and stop the scene from becoming overwhelmed by bright colours or underwhelmed by less saturated colours. The mountains stretching into the distance give the audience a sense of depth as it shows the audience how large this world is.

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In contrast, the image above gives a sense of peace for a different reason, the dark blue colours against the saturated yellow of the fireflies and the stark white and red of the models and foreground contrasts well and is a beautiful mix of colouring. The reason this scene is also relaxing is because of how, almost simple it seems in design; the space seen on the camera is uncluttered and has large empty spaces filled with just the dark background and bright yellow fireflies. The fireflies themselves, against the dark background are very reminiscent of stars in a night sky which many people find relaxing to look at sometimes, there is also the fact that the only different colour is Kubo who wear bright red and stands out against everything else, this is to create the connotation that Kubo is different and special in comparison to the world around him, by doing this Laika can easily show that Kubo is the main hero who should have the most focus on him.

In conclusion I believe that Laika put a lot of detail into their film

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