Oscar-Nominated "Kubo And The Two Strings" Is A Game-Changing Animated Film

In 2017, for the second time in the history of the Oscars, an animated film is nominated for special effects. Laika Entertainment's Kubo And The Two Strings was a groundbreaking film — up for Best Visual Effects (The Nightmare Before Christmas, in 1993, is the only other animated movie to get that nod), it also features the largest-ever stop motion puppet, and it was the first animated film to be nominated for a prize at the Costume Designers Guild Awards. This 3D stop-motion fantasy-adventure film takes animation creativity to the next level.

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The 18-foot giant skeleton puppet has a 23-foot wingspan.

Introducing 3-D-Printed Facial Expressions

Set in ancient Japan, Kubo is a young boy who lives on top of a mountain by a seaside village. Summoned by a spirit from his past, he finds himself on a quest to save his family and fulfill his heroic destiny. An adventure this big takes an even larger imagination. Enter visual effects supervisor Steve Emerson. In an interview with Animation World Network, Emerson explains the challenge of creating a stop-motion film: "Everything needs to be hand-animated. Our animators, if we're lucky, we're getting six seconds a week of them. Typically, it's closer to three." The skeleton monster in Kubo took a week to get one second. This 18-foot tall stop-motion puppet is the largest ever made.

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"Kubo and the Two Strings" director, producer and animator Travis Knight

You might think a ginormous skeleton puppet was the animator's biggest feat, but he says the bigger challenge was making photo-realistic water. The water systems were created from a myriad of materials, including garbage bags, shower curtains, and iron mesh. Emerson and his team of animators from Laika also incorporated design techniques like digital matte painting and a complex 3-D printing system. According to Slate, these printers allowed the animators to "quickly 3-D-print complicated facial expressions for its characters, allowing Kubo and the other characters to feel far more emotionally expressive than stop-motion characters typically do."

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Pull Out All The Stops

In addition to being nominated for Best Visual Effects, Kubo was nominated for Best Animated Feature. It was also the first animated film to ever be nominated for a Costume Designers Guild Award. (Puppets need clothes, too!)

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Written by Curiosity Staff February 24, 2017

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