Last month I flew to Los Angeles to attend the press junket for the upcoming LAIKA studios animated film Kubo and the Two Strings.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Art Parkinson (voice of Kubo), Charlize Theron (voice of Monkey), and Matthew McConaughey (voice of Beetle). They were such a pleasure to speak with. You could tell they really loved taking part in this incredible movie.
Kubo stands out because it is a children’s movie that takes really difficult subject matter and handles it in a really intelligent way.
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: For me, that’s something LAIKA seems to do with all their projects. They don’t really pander down to the age group. They deal with adult themes in a way that’s digestible for kids. There’s always a good moral to the story, that’s learned in the middle of the adventure. I liked their previous work and this script had all that.
CHARLIZE THERON: Yeah, for me, I in general love directness. I was raised with a lot of directness. And I think in storytelling we sometimes forget that with children, and there was something about this that was just so clear, and I love that. And I think, you know, as far as taste goes, I like that there’s nothing about this that kind of shies away from very, very real issues and things and I think at the end of the day that makes it very powerful and refreshing because we don’t see a lot of that. And so, yeah, I was very excited to be a part of that.
ART PARKINSON: I think it’s a very family-oriented film. I think it’s a very relatable family-oriented film because some of the problems that the family faces in the film is very relatable to every family. So I think that’s definitely what drew me to the project.how you all prepared for your roles in an animated, a voice character, versus a film.
Well, we don’t all have monkeys for moms, but it was a very relatable movie. You had a chance to see the main character grow from a boy to a young man. Kubo has many challenges to face and with his “family” he is able to face them.
How does an actor prepare for a role as an animated character versus a film?
Kubo and the Two Strings was Matthew McConaughey’s first time doing an animated voice! I couldn’t believe that! He hasn’t made any films in the past 10 years that his children could watch, so having the opportunity to be a voice for Kubo was a wonderful opportunity for him to make a film his children could watch.
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: I didn’t try too hard to prepare for anything, it was there in the script and then I was listening to the guys. You know, when you walk in the sushi bars and I was all [SPEAKING JAPANESE]. Threw a little bit of that under there and yeah, I sort of found it on the day for me. We didn’t actually work together in those scenes, but that wasn’t difficult really at all. And then just started creating on the day and then we’d talk with Travis and say, how do you like this, how do you like that, and this is the tact I’m on, and we were off.
Then to find out that this was Charlize Theron’s first time doing a voice for an animated character! WOW!
CHARLIZE THERON: I’ve always joked that my kids would have to be 52 before they could see anything I’ve been in. So it’s nice that that now has changed. I mean, there was such a constant conversation, the process was so – it was really laid back and very relaxing and I loved it, because I had never done a voice either, other than to my son sometimes when I read and he would always say, “Don’t do that! You sound weird.” Dude, I’m doing a Russian accent, like this is cool. I was nervous too because I didn’t really know the process but the process is very relaxed, and very much like other films. It’s really kind of coming back to the core and the foundation of storytelling and they really were – Travis was really encouraging of keeping things very grounded and very real, and so I felt comfortable with that. I didn’t know if that was how this process would be. I didn’t know if there were things that kind of bled outside my comfort zone with this process, but you know, it’s very much like any other movie I’ve done before. You’re just trying to kind of look at the material and have that inform you. Yeah, it was really nice. Art and I got to do some stuff together which was really helpful too, to have him in the room, and we got to play off each other a little bit.
I absolutely loved to hear that Art Parkinson worked with him mother on his projects. He would look over the script and read it with her.
ART PARKINSON: Travis also helped a lot because he’s such a down to earth person so he’s easy to talk to, you know what I mean? So there’s never sort of shy away from throwing in an idea, and Travis was always very encouraging in the ways that I wanted to portray the character, and he always had the little Kubo sculpture set up so that also made it very easy to prepare.
Kubo and the Two Strings is a film for the whole family.
Matthew McConaughey read the script to his children quite a few times at bedtime. They really got into the script and understood it. He watched their reactions to see where they might think the film was scary or funny.
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: I had a great time watching the film, but I also had a great time looking out of the corner of eye at my kids at what they were laughing at. My eldest son in all the animated films he watched, he always loves the goofy sidekick, and that’s what I got to play, sort of the goofy Beetle. And so they, still to this day, since they’ve seen it, will walk by and ask me something, and as I’m trying to think, they’ll be like, oh, well, I suppose you forgot, like the Beetle. You don’t remember that, do you, Papai? All right? You know, so they still kind of jeer me a little bit about that. They loved it. And then my wife thoroughly loved it. She still talks about it. She had a really great emotional ride watching it, which is something that I think is true about the film. The kids are going to love it but it’s definitely for adults as well.
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Kubo and the Two Strings arrives in theaters August 19th!
Disclosure: I was invited by LAIKA and Focus Features to attend the #KuboMovie press event in LA on 7/7-7/8. All opinions are my own.