Kubo, the Marvel With a Million Faces

Forty-eight million. That’s the number of facial expressions the titular character of the newest stop motion animation film, ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ can potentially portray, thanks to interchangeable 3D printed parts that make up his face.

3D printing for stop motion animation is nothing new, but 48 million possible expressions? Mind-blowing. Image credits: Collide.com

3D printing for stop motion animation is nothing new, but 48 million possible expressions? Mind-blowing. Image credits: Collide.com

I’m certain MY real human face can’t come up with half as many expressions.

That’s not the least of it. Monkey and Beetle, Kubo’s trusty animal sidekicks in the story set against the backdrop of an ancient Japan fantasy, are brought to life with 30 million and 13 million expressions respectively.

Beetle’s exoskeleton brought to life.  Image credits: Steven Wong Jr, LAIKA Studios/Universal Pictures

Beetle’s exoskeleton brought to life. Image credits: Steven Wong Jr, LAIKA Studios/Universal Pictures

 

This isn’t the first time a stop motion animation film has made use of 3D printing. LAIKA, the animation studios behind Kubo, have previously featured such films like Coraline (2009), ParaNorman (2012) and more recently, The Boxtrolls (2014). These productions all made use of 3D printing for the facial expressions of their puppets and models, just not in such a large scale.

To compare, the main character of Coraline, (also named Coraline) had approximately 207,000 possible facial expressions in 2009.  Now in 2016, Kubo alone can express himself in different ways more than 20 times over.

 

The beauty of customization with 3D printing brought to animation. Image credits: Collide.com

The beauty of customization with 3D printing brought to animation. Image credits: Collide.com

Kubo and the Two Strings is not only the champion in breaking records for quantity; it’s also responsible for the first fully 3D printed puppet that portrays the main antagonist of the film, the Moon Beast.

Created by putting together a series of 3D printed pieces bolted together on a fixture, the making of the Moon Beast was a pioneering attempt for LAIKA’s 70-man Rapid Prototyping department.

130 3D printed pieces went into the making of the Moon Beast. Image credits: Collide.com

Some 130 pieces printed in 3D went into the making of the Moon Beast. Image credits: Collide.com

The Moon Beast may have been among the most impressive achievements for the studio, but Kubo also brought about major advancements in terms of character performance quality. The implementation of having individual 3D printed facial features like eyeballs, ears and brows creates flexibility and allows the expressions to become more realistic and sophisticated.

Everything about LAIKA’s production is incredible, both in scale and in intricacy. There are even some elements from origami artwork incorporated in this film. As of now, we’ve hardly any clue on what they’ll be working on next, but looking at the level of a game changer Kubo is, it’ll definitely be one to follow.

 

Inverse 5

Catch the heroes soon in cinemas showing near you! Image credits: Inverse.com

Kubo and the Two Strings premieres in Singaporean cinemas on 8 September 2016 and stars Matthew McConaughy, Charlize Theon and Art Parkinson as Kubo.

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