Music, stop-motion animation, and origami fold together to tell a colorfully inventive and engrossing tale with Laika’s Kubo and the Two Strings. Shout Factory brings this visually arresting stop-motion animated film to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with another amazing Dolby Vision transfer and Atmos audio track. Loaded with bonus features, this is another essential addition to the collection. Highly Recommended
Once again, I have very little to add to our past coverage. Aaron's coverage was 100% on point in my book. It's tough to choose a favorite Laika film, and while I dearly love ParaNorman as my favorite, Kubo and the Two Strings is a tight contender for the top spot.
The film review is from my colleague Aaron Peck's 2016 Kubo and the Two Strings Blu-ray Review
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, stop-motion animation studio Laika's newest movie 'Kubo and the Two Strings' is a masterpiece. From its staggeringly gorgeous animation to its imagination-fueled dream story this film holds nothing back. It's a brazen journey into a magical world of love, friendship, family, and sacrifice.
Much like Hayao Miyazaki's films, 'Kubo' challenges younger viewers by confronting them with authentic emotions and heartfelt storytelling. It's not a simple, breezy story about a kid on an adventure. No, this is a movie that treats its younger audience with respect. That allows them the room to feel and grow with its title character. It provides a framework for them to contemplate weighty issues like death, acceptance, fear, and faith without getting too dour in the process.
Young Kubo (Art Parkinson) exists in a magical world. Taking a page from the Miyazaki playbook, the Laika team (helmed by director Travis Knight) never feel the need to explain the magic or its rules, or why magic exists, or why people aren't all that surprised to see magic in the first place. Thank goodness for this. It means that the film never has to find itself bogged down in tedious exposition, and can instead focus on its compelling fairytale story and arresting visuals.
There's just something about stop-motion animation that provides a surrealism that straight CG animation lacks. There's a life to it. A living substance to the characters, their expressions, the backdrops, the intricately created sets, everything. It's tactile.
Kubo is a one-eyed musician who spends his time in a local town telling stories with origami. That's how the movie begins. With Kubo strumming his guitar as his origami paper enchantingly folds itself in mid-air. A samurai pops into existence and as Kubo plays the paper warrior dispatches a myriad of paper enemies: dragons, giant spiders, and angry chickens just to name a few.
The beauty of this scene is astounding. The way it dives right into its own universe without apology or explanation is a sublime exercise in complete immersion of an audience. We don't understand the logistics of Kubo's world, we're just glad we get to visit this once.
There's a story about how Kubo's grandfather, the evil Moon King, stole his eye. His mother is the Moon King's daughter and is trying to protect Kubo from becoming like her father. There's a quest Kubo must embark on if he wants to be able to defeat his grandfather once and for all. And yet, all of this is secondary.
It isn't about why Kubo has to do anything. It's about the journey it takes for him to get there. It's about the spectacular visuals and the trueness of the message. It's about a young boy truly understanding himself, discovering what he's capable of, and proving it to the universe.
Laika's films have all focused on young protagonists. They're all strong, layered characters who, again, resemble the young heroes and heroines of Miyazaki's famous anime. The reverence paid to childhood has become a Laika trademark.
As a family film, 'Kubo' excels. Not just because it's fun to look at (oh, boy it really is!), but because it doesn't dumb itself down for kids. It gives them some mental meat to chew on. It presents them with issues to problem solve. It treats them respectfully like the young, developing human beings they are.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Kubo and the Two Strings strums a brand new two-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release from Laika and Shout Factory. The 4K version is pressed on a BD-100 disc with the 1080p being the same BD-50 disc from 2021. The discs are housed in a two-disc black case. The disc loads to a static image main menu with standard navigation options.
From the folds in the paper figures to the textures of the costumes to the fuzz on Monkey’s fur, there’s an impressive amount of detail in every frame. But let's be real, that’s about par for the course with a Laika film! As we previously saw with The Boxtrolls, Coraline, and ParaNorman, every figure and set detail is on display in this beautiful film. As was the case with the 2021 Laika/Shout Factory release in 2021, this 4K offers up a modest boost in overall texture detail. Perhaps not a hair-raising difference but the more you just look and appreciate the small details in the world-building you can see those little improvements. Likewise, the Dolby Vision grade (and HDR10) offers the right sort of subtle but notable improvements in black levels, colors, and contrast. Shadows and black levels are great giving the image an amazing sense of depth and dimension. From the first story Kubo tells, it’s a tremendous effect to have those little figures zipping and flying around. Primaries pick up some nice enhancements without dramatically changing the color palette. Once again, another excellent 4K transfer for Laika.
As has been the case with past Laika 4K releases, this new disc comes fully armed and ready with an excellent Dolby Atmos audio mix. From Kubo’s first story, the infusion of music, dialog, and sound effects is tremendous. The mix makes excellent use of all surround and height channels. Heights offer excellent atmospheric enhancements to give you a bigger sense of space and imaging, but there are plenty of pin-point specific sound effects moving through the soundscape. Dialog is clean and clear throughout without issue and once again the Dario Marianelli score is an excellent enhancement to the mix. That previous 5.1 track was great, but this is Atmos track is the way to go.
Shout Factory and Laika once again port over the previous bonus features since the standard Blu-ray is simply the 2021 disc repackaged. Which is fine, they've delivered another excellent assortment of informative and even entertaining extras to dig through. Travis Knight's commentary is well worth the time and the small featurettes while brief are very interesting to dig through. Again there is the feature-length storyboards of an early "draft" version of the film.
Kubo and the Two Strings is another incredibly inventive stop-motion creation from Laika. With a beautiful story with some incredible visuals and an amazing score, this little adventure is one of my favorite Laika films. It might have been a miss at the box office in 2016, but it’s grown in value and esteem. Thanks to their partnership with Shout Factory, Laika Studios delivers another fantastic 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release with Kubo and the Two Strings. The 4K Dolby Vision transfer is a clear improvement and the new Atmos audio track is a sonic wonder through and through. Add on some interesting and informative bonus features and you’ve got yet another excellent and essential Laika disc for the collection. Must Own