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Kubo and the Two Strings

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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 puppet fabrication department has 50-60 artists and craftspeople of different skills, including painters, sculptors, wig-makers, mold-makers, costumers, armature makers, and more. 

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.

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.

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.

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). 

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. 


Anja Poland & Ludovic Berardo on the Creative Craft of LAIKA Magic

With each title, studio head Travis Knight and his team of talented artists, craftspeople and technical whizzes have pushed the envelope in what the stop-motion medium can deliver with ever more ambitious blends of old-school skills and cutting edge technology.

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Kubo and the Two Strings Is the Hidden Netflix Gem to Watch This Weekend

It's time for you to get to know LAIKA, the studio you should know as well as Pixar.

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Zootopia and Kubo lead Annie Awards nominations

Kubo nominations include for feature, direction, and writing, among others.

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How a Japanese Printmaker Influenced Kubo

The DNA of a Japanese woodblock printing master runs through the veins of Kubo and the Two Strings.

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Kubo tackles deep issues within its dream-like tale

Kubo and the Two Strings, from upstart American animation studio LAIKA, confounds expectations on its way to Oscar contention.

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An American Studio Ghibli: Why Kubo and the Two Strings is Oscar-worthy

Moments into Kubo and the Two Strings, it is clear that this is no ordinary Hollywood animation.

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Kubo and the Two Strings Is Rare Animated Feature to Be Nominated

Kubo and the Two Strings was nominated for best animated feature and received a second nomination for visual effects.

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Is It Finally Time to Give LAIKA an Oscar?

The best of the nominees might arguably be LAIKA’s Kubo and the Two Strings, straight from the heart of director Travis Knight.

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Kubo and the Two Strings: 3D-Printer Key to Puppetry

The rise of LAIKA has advanced stop motion in all kinds of ways.

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These Oscar Nominees Are Here To Give You That Burst Of Inspiration

Valuable lessons to learn from Steve Emerson, VFX supervisor of Kubo and the Two Strings.

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Academy Award® Nominations

Best Animated Feature Film
Best Visual Effects

National Board Of Review Award Winner

Best Animated Feature

Alliance of Women Film Journalists Nomination

Best Animated Feature Film

Empire Awards Nomination

Best Animated Feature Film

Golden Globe Nomination

Best Animated Feature Film 


Best Animated Feature Film

Annie Awards & Nominations

Best Character Animation Award
Best Production Design Award
Best Editing Award
Plus 7 More Nominations


Best Animated Feature


“A powerhouse adventure and a visual wonderland of beauty and genuine big screen magic. Yet another LAIKA masterpiece.”


“Truly original. Kubo is a marvel.”

Entertainment Weekly

“A stop-motion masterpiece. A truly unforgettable journey.”


“4 stars. A beautifully animated tale with undeniable emotion. Stop-motion animation has never been rendered more beautifully. Gorgeous.”

Empire Magazine

“A new classic. Enchanting, haunting, engaging and visually stunning.”

Chicago Sun-Times

“4 stars. Breathtakingly beautiful. Both extraordinarily original and extraordinarily complex.”

Washington Post

“Nothing short of magical. A classic hero’s journey full of action and adventure.”

“One of the most creative and visionary films of its kind. A unique movie-going experience.”

NY Observer

“A crowning achievement.”