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Laika's Travis Knight talks about the animation studio's new film

"Kubo and the Two Strings"

HILLSBORO, Ore. -- Back when the creative team at Laika was shopping their stop-motion animated movie "Coraline" around Hollywood, Travis Knight says it was a series of doors closing in their faces.

"Someone called Coraline, what was the phrase? A Roman Polanski art film for kids," he says.

That was 10 years ago, and now, the Hillsboro-based animation studio has produced Oscar-nominated projects like "ParaNorman" and "The Boxtrolls." They've even won a Sci-Tech Oscar for their pioneering efforts in 3-D printing.

Now Laika is about to introduce movie audiences to their newest film, an action adventure piece set in ancient Japan. "Kubo and the Two Strings" tells the story of a young boy who goes on a quest to fulfill his family destiny.

"It's about this boy who's crossing the Rubicon from childhood to adulthood, and the things that he gains and the things that he leaves behind along the way," says Knight.

Travis Knight is not only the CEO and President of Laika, but he's also been an animator for years. Until now he's focused on specific character work for past films. (You can see him working at the end of "The Boxtrolls.)

For "Kubo," he has stepped up to take the role of director. He says this story really meant something to him. "In so many ways it mirrored my own journey going from being a kid to being an adult. And I thought there was something about this movie that I could bring a unique perspective to overseeing the entire thing.

"Kubo and the Two Strings is by far the most ambitious thing that we've ever done," Knight said.

Ambitious because of the practical sets used, and the way they are used. While most of the process is still the same, characters are hand-crafted and animated frame by frame, this time there are some new ideas being put to use.

The team created the largest puppet ever, a 16-foot skeleton, that Kubo and his friends have to fight. On the opposite scale are the tiny puppets that play characters in Kubo's stories. And some additional "background characters" have been digitally added for the first time.

Knight is proud of his team behind this project.

"We have an extraordinary group of artists that come from around the world, who really poured themselves into this film for five years," he said.

And proud that their work has moved Laika to the top position in the field.

"We are one of the most acclaimed stop motion, or animation studios in the entire world, and it's deeply satisfying," Knight said.

But more than anything else, he is excited for audiences to see the final product.

"People will be pretty blown away when they realize how this thing was done, because it looks like a complete rip roaring action adventure thriller. Go see it, it's awesome!" And on a more reflective note, "It really is a beautiful and moving story and I cannot wait to share it with the world."

"Kubo and the Two Strings" opens in theaters Aug. 19.

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