On Friday, August 19, Focus Features will release the latest stop-motion flick from award-winning animation studio LAIKA: Kubo and the Two Strings. Ahead of the release, a special pop-up exhibit “The Artistry of Kubo: A Magical LAIKA Experience” will set up at the Japanese American National Museum, located in Downtown Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo neighborhood.
Open August 13-30, the exhibit is a behind-the-scenes experience featuring puppets, sets, props, origami and costumes from the production, awaiting visitors in the JANM’s George & Sakaye Aratani Central Hall. Both traditional and digital interactive installations will introduce attendees to the artistry and technical craft behind the film, with displays set in custom-made environments.
“This film expresses the respect and admiration all the artists at LAIKA feel for Japan and its culture, and I’m thrilled to be able to bring our art to JANM’s visitors. The museum is one of the artistic treasures of Los Angeles, and it’s an honor for us to be part of their service to the community,” said Kubo‘s director and LAIKA’s President & CEO, Travis Knight.
“My own introduction to Japan started over 30 years ago, when I accompanied my father on one of his business trips there. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and from the moment I set foot in Japan, it was like I’d been transported to another world. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. It was beautiful, breathtaking, almost otherworldly. The architecture, the art, the food, the style of dress, the music, the movies, the television shows, and comic books: everything was a revelation. I was utterly in its thrall. I arrived back home changed by the experience. My childhood introduction to Japan was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with a great culture, one we wholeheartedly pay tribute to with this lovingly hand-crafted film. LAIKA is proud to salute George Takei with this exhibit and to showcase how the exquisite, transcendent art and culture of Japan has so profoundly impacted our lives.”
Actor and human rights activist George Takei — who is also Chairman Emeritus of JANM and a member of its board of trustees — will take part in a special ceremony on August 25 to present the puppet of the character he voices to the museum. The “Hosato” puppet will be part of a retrospective of Takei’s life and career that will open at JANM next year. In the film, Hosato is a village elder who helps children understand Obon, the traditional honoring of deceased ancestors.
Taking a cue from origami paper folding, which was a key artistic influence on Kubo, the exhibit will feature a framework of “unfolding moments” within a linear, geometric architectural space. From a distance, it will appear as one large sculptural installation, but a closer look will reveal specific settings and moments from the film. LAIKA’s intensive research into Japanese culture and art will also be worked into the exhibit. The “East+West” section will pay tribute to Japanese culture as interpreted by LAIKA’s over 400 artists and technicians from around the world.