Travis Knight rules! He is an inspiration to artists and animators worldwide, besides being an inspiration to us regular folks too. Fortunate enough to attend the exclusive press and interview event, I was in awe listening to him share with us his experiences and motivation to create the new summer hit, KUBO and the Two Strings.
Travis Knight rules! Here's why --
Travis Knight is an accomplished animator who has worked in the entertainment business for over 20 years. When he had children everything changed for him, especially his outlook on how he devoted his art to the world. With this new sense of purpose LAIKA Studios was born, and Travis is the President, CEO, Director and Producer of the all amazing animated films the studio creates. Travis shared, “I wanted to make art that was meaningful, that had resonance, that, you know, had an uncynical view of the world, that offered a hopeful view of the world. And so that was really the impetus for Laika”.
Travis Knight grew up on the side of a mountain about 15 miles from the nearest town. He would spend days exploring the woods around his home, climbing trees and immersing in nature. Being creative, playing music, drawing, writing stories also filled up his universe but in his own words admitted, “when I wasn’t doing that (creative stuff) my whole life revolved around my mom. She was my closest friend in the world”. He used his relationship with his mom to mirror, in many ways, the relationship KUBO had with his mother.
LAIKA studio created films have a bit of a reputation, for not only being incredibly beautiful to behold, but to be appreciated by children and adults alike. The subject matter, that shows up in these fantastic stories, is not your usual fairy tale or fantasy, it’s something more, something deep. There’s always message, a lesson, something more provocative and intense than you experience by other film-makers. What is superb, is the care and thoughtful presentation KUBO and the Two Strings takes on delivering its honest message about love and pain. Travis proudly explains, “we make films for families, so we don’t speak down to our audience. We really want to respect their intelligence.” He continues that, “we talk about fairly sophisticated issues and that mean something to us when we were kids and now as parents with that other generational perspective, looking the other way, we’re grownup kids who now have kids of their own.”
Travis Knight shared with us the story behind his selection of music that embraced the ending of KUBO and the Two Strings. Growing up in a Beatles household, “My mother and I loved more than anything really was While My Guitar Gently Weeps and when we were thinking about this movie and tried to come up with some kind of a musical accompaniment that was evocative of the ideas and the themes that were running through the movie, my mind kept going to that song because it really is a timeless extension… it’s a timeless expression of love and empathy, which is fundamentally what this movie’s about.” He always imagined a female voice singing the song and when arranging the new recording of this classic, partnered with Regina Spector to sing the beautiful tune. She, being a mother of a 3 year old boy, understood exactly where Travis was coming from in his interpretation. Travis explains, “the way we construct the song, it’s effectively a mother singing to her son and saying, you know, carry on my story.” Continuing that “the coda at the end of the song we have a boys’ choir that comes in, as if it’s Kubo carrying on his mother’s song. He’s going to continue to tell her story. And it was, to me it was the perfect way to end the movie.”
Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA. Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of “Game of Thrones”) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Hashi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and Kameyo (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro). But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run,Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. With the help of his shamisen – a magical musical instrument – Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara), to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family, and fulfill his heroic destiny.
Kubo and the Two Strings is in theaters now.