Kubo and the Two Strings
In a small village in an ancient mythical Japan, Kubo and his magic shamisen unwittingly summon vengeful spirits who wish to harm him and his ailing mother. While on the run, he encounters magical creatures, and learns the truth of his earthly family's connection to the heaven and stars.
It takes at least 3-4 months to craft a new puppet from start to finish, not including design or testing time. Once a character’s puppet has been created in its finished form for the first time, duplicates can be fabricated more quickly. A principal character can have 28 individual full body puppets.
For the Sister's cape, the underlying armature has 18 custom miniature rivets that are so small they have to be made with a surgical needle. 1,898 wire knots are required to hold the armature wire in place (there are 949 wire crossings, each knotted twice).
The Sister's cape is made up of 616 individual feathers—each one a unique shape that can only fit into its own specified place. It takes 3-1/2 days for a team of two to apply the feathers and about 100 hours total (per cape) for feather prep, application, and painting.
To make puppet costumes look realistic, they're sometimes airbrushed or even lightly sanded to "fade" and "age" them in certain areas. They’re often treated with stiffeners and fabric protector to prevent fading from the strong stage lighting or extensive human handling.
Costumes are fitted with tiny weights for a natural sense of gravity. They often have different gauges of wire within their structure, which connects to the armature to encourage the costume to move realistically along with the character's movements—or to achieve independent movement from the character.
The puppet fabrication department has 50-60 artists and craftspeople of different skills, including painters, sculptors, wig-makers, mold-makers, costumers, armature makers, and more.
The armature is a metal skeleton that allows the puppet to stand upright and hold a pose as it is manipulated by the animator. Each armature is custom made using ball joints, hinge joints, and swivel joints of varying sizes, all of which are designed by our in-house team and machined out of tool steel.
The crew uses replacement faces on their puppets to allow a wider range of expressions for each character. Many different faces are needed for each individual shot. For example, over 250 unique faces are utilized for one character to create a single shot that lasts only 27 seconds on screen.
Set construction is where many of the talented and innovative artists at LAIKA—including carpenters, model builders, riggers, scenic painters, landscape artists, and set dressers—came together over a period of roughly 18 months to create dozens of unique locations for Kubo.
Three different leaf boats were constructed using natural elements such as leaves, sticks, and branches. All three boats required approximately 245,450 leaves to coat them.