×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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

When the Oscar nominations were announced on Jan. 24, some may have been surprised to find “Kubo and the Two Strings” among the visual-effects nominees. But it wasn’t a shock to those who had carefully looked at the work Oregon-based Laika had done for its latest release.

Long known as a technological and artistic pioneer for its combination of traditional stop motion and puppeteering with CG, the studio was already home to a team that pushed boundaries with such previous stop-motion releases as “Coraline.”

One member of the staff, Brian McLean, was also recognized with a Sci-Tech Award by the Academy just last year for his work in rapid prototyping.

The last time an animated film was nominated in the vfx category was 1993’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Since then, the rise of Laika has advanced stop motion in all kinds of ways.

“When we started work on ‘Kubo’ we found ourselves in a place where we would either have to ask for a small tweak on one of the characters or we would have to find a new way to do things,” says McLean, who is director of rapid prototyping and part of the team nommed for a vfx Oscar for “Kubo.”

The team at Laika reached out to Stratasys to find out if it might have something that could help with the project. The 3D printer was still developing the technology for its new Connex3 printer. That became the tool that could help Laika create such characters as Monkey for what helmer Travis Knight has described as “an animated film about death.”

“Kubo” also features massive amounts of water and smoke or mist and skies that tie in with the overall action of the film, something that can be notoriously tricky even in a film not featuring stop-motion animation. There’s also a lot of clean-up work to be done on the puppets to make them look as seamless as possible. VFX supervisor Steve Emerson and his team used VUE and Photoshop for some of these processes and then comped them in Nuke.

“We worked very closely with the art department and the production designer Nelson Lowry,” Emerson says. “We ended up using things like garbage bags for the in-camera tests for water and the art department will create clouds from things like tulle netting.”

The film also required the team to build a 16-foot tall skeleton puppet with a 22-foot arm span.

It’s not every day that this happens and Oliver Jones, head of rigging, and his team collaborated to create a system of pulleys so the animators were able to move the creature easily and then lock it into place for each shot. The result was a monstrous being who dwarfed the 6-inch Kubo when the two battled on screen.

“Moving a giant skeleton around like that can be complicated,” says Jones. “But what you get on screen is certainly worth everything that you put into developing that process and it’s also fun.”

More Film

  • Aquaman

    China Box Office: ‘Aquaman’ Sinks All Challengers With $94 Million Opening

    The decision to release “Aquaman” in China two weeks prior to its North American outing paid off handsomely. The DC Comics adaptation achieved a massive $94.1 million opening in three days, according to data from Asian entertainment consultancy Artisan Gateway. The early release meant that the film played against weak opposition – tired Hollywood and [...]

  • Alfonso Cuarón, Emmanuel Lubezki Discuss the

    Alfonso Cuarón Details 'Roma' Cinematography With 'Gravity' DP Emmanuel Lubezki

    As part of an overall push to bring Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” to awards season voters, Netflix’s “‘Roma’ Experience'” played host to guild and Academy members Sunday in Hollywood. The all-day event featured panels focused on the film’s crafts and an audio-visual installation akin to the streamer’s FYSee initiative for Emmy contenders, featuring costumes and art [...]

  • IFFAM: Erik Matti Hatches Plans for

    IFFAM: Erik Matti Hatches Plans for ‘On The Job’ Franchise

    Filipino director Erik Matti is known for his eclectic body of work that includes “Honor Thy Father” and “Seklusyon.” His 2013 effort, “On The Job” travelled widely and won several awards including two at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, and was nominated for an SACD Prize at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. Matti is at [...]

  • Joan Chen attends the season premiere

    Joan Chen Talks Diversity in Hollywood, Welcomes #MeToo

    Chinese-American actress, writer and director Joan Chen says that she was flattered when Time magazine described her as the “Elizabeth Taylor of China.” When asked at an in-conversation event in Singapore on Saturday whether she paved the way for Chinese actresses to follow in Hollywood, Chen said, “We never go to work because we want [...]

  • Kyzza Terrazas Joins Garcia Bernal, Diego

    Kyzza Terrazas Joins Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna’s La Corriente del Golfo (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — Launching their new production house, La Corriente de Golfo, last April, Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna have tapped Mexican writer-director Kyzza Terrazas as the company’s head of development. The appointment will certainly help build the company appointing an old-rounder capable of overseeing and implementing development, writing and directing, and a longtime [...]

  • IFFAM Actress in Focus: Yao Chen

    IFFAM Actress in Focus: Yao Chen Talks Performing, Producing and Public Pressure

    Macao’s Actress in Focus is a woman who has trained as a boxer, likes British actors, especially Benedict Cumberbatch and Jeremy Irons, and is now setting out her stall as a producer. Yao Chen has built a career over 20 years thanks to TV shows including “My Own Swordsman,” and films including “If You Are [...]

  • Bradley Liew's 'Motel Acacia' Shoots After

    Cautionary Tale, 'Motel Acacia' Under Way After Four Years of Development

    Production has begun on Malaysian director Bradley Liew’s upscale horror film “Motel Acacia.” With a clearly topical message, the film features a hotel bed that eats immigrants. Actor, JC Santos called it: “A cautionary tale of what’s going to happen in the future.” Indonesian star, Nicholas Saputra said the he agreed to the role “because [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content