Animation house Laika has scored Oscar nominations for all three of its films (Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls), but company CEO and first-time director Travis Knight says that he gave the team a bigger challenge for Kubo and the Two Strings: “Let’s take the essence of a classic Kurosawa myth and do it as a stop-motion David Lean epic.”
If that sounds a bit over the heads of Laika’s tyke audience, Knight has other reasons to be confident. Matthew McConaughey, as a brawny beetle, found the screenplay so delightful that he read it as a bedtime story to his kids.
The voice cast also includes Rooney Mara, George Takai, Ralph Fiennes, Art Parkinson (Rickon Stark on Game of Thrones) as Kubo, and Charlize Theron as a woolly monkey. But McConaughey, in his first-ever animated role, needed to work the hardest at flattening the twang coming from his larynx.
“When we put our cast wish list together,” Knight says, “we pull clips from interviews of the actors just to hear how natural their voice sounds. And we’d just seen Matthew in Mud and Killer Joe and Dallas Buyers Club, and it was a pity but we needed him to speak in a bit more neutral tone to fit the fantasy period of the film. He’s still utterly charming.”
See if you can spot vanilla “alright, alright, alrights” coming from McConaughey’s beetle in this brand new trailer. Kubo and the Two Strings hits theaters on August 19.