There was a time when Pixar was viewed as the greatest animation brand in the land — at least as far as American studios go. Then they started making too many sequels, some of them not so brilliant, and diluted their reputation. While that was going on, Laika Entertainment has stepped into the circle of praise. In seven years, they’ve only exclusively produced four features, including the new release Kubo and the Two Strings, but as they aim to amp up their output they still have no plans for any part twos.
Cartoon Brew shares parts of an interview with Laika CEO and Kubo director Travis Knight (son of Nike head Phil Knight, who co-founded the company), and he explains how he wants to start releasing one film per year, though that’s harder to achieve with their physical stop-motion style compared to the computer animation of other studios. But no matter how many get made there will be always be an emphasis on original stories, no Return of Kubo or More Boxtrolls or even Coraline Again.
Knight tells historian John Canemaker:
“I take a firm stand against sequels. My industry brethren are a little shocked at how firmly I’m committed to not doing sequels. Of course there are great sequels. Godfather II, The Empire Strikes Back. But I think if you look at where our industry is going, it’s dominated by franchises and brands, re-dos, re-makes, sequels and prequels, where all these old presents are re-wrapped and offered up as new gifts … The way we approach our stories is we imagine each film as if it’s the most meaningful experience of our protagonist’s life. If that’s your point of view, your sequel is automatically either going to be (A) a diminishment of that – is it the second most important experience of your protagonist’s life? Or, (B) you’ve got to crank up the volume so much, everything’s sensory overload, and becomes comical how much you have to ratchet it up to justify its existence. I’m not interested in that. I don’t want to do that. I want to tell new and original stories.”
You could argue that Laika’s films don’t really make enough to warrant a sequel anyway, especially with Kubo having the lowest opening for the studio yet with only $12.6 million. Another, more positive way of looking at it is Laika is a brand itself and so doesn’t need to create franchise brands within that name. Pixar for the most part still has that kind of branding, but churning out a number of follow ups made it less valuable. Laika is closer to its other big influence, Studio Ghibli, in keeping their name the key, although their main filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki has also always been a big part of that brand.
In the same interview, Knight also talks about how Kubo completes a grouping of movies featuring child protagonists, and they will be venturing more into stories involving adult characters, but still keeping a family friendly tone, and exploring other genres and subject matter. “The handful of films we’ve got coming down the road [are] so totally different from what we’ve done,” he says. “The film following the next one, it’s just so unusual, so interesting.” He also says for now Laika is sticking with stop-motion animation.