Following on from “Coraline,” “ParaNorman” and “The Boxtrolls,” animation house LAIKA is set to unveil their fourth feature “Kubo and the Two Strings”. Like all their previous work, it’s an original – something rare in a field where Dreamworks and Pixar have hooked their wagon trains firmly to plenty of sequel fare to help sell merchandise.
In a new and fairly long statement to Slashfilm, the company’s CEO and president Travis Knight reveals he has no interest in attempting to launch franchises with any of LAIKA’s films as they want to focus on new characters and worlds:
“There is a discussion about it, and there’s a quick discussion about it, which is that we’re not going to do it. I am not even remotely interested in making sequels. I can appreciate from a business perspective why it’s a necessity, I get why companies do it. I certainly understand that those things can be good for the bottom line, once you develop franchises and brands, that can be great for the business. I’m not a Pollyanna, I understand that show business is both show and business, it’s art and commerce, so finding that elusive balance of merging those things together can be a trick.
I think, as an industry, we swing the pendulum way too far into one direction, and it’s taken away from what’s so beautiful about going to the movies. I remember when I was a kid, being in this incredible darkened room with a group full of strangers and looking at this flickering image on the screen and being transported to another world, something I’d never experienced before. That was magic, that was an amazing thing. I loved it. Those were formative experiences for me, really took a residence in my brain, in my heart, and they helped shape who I became.
I think when you see so much of modern cinema, which is franchises and brands and reboots and remakes and sequels and prequels, where we’re dusting off all this old IP and trying to bring it back and taking all these old presents and rewrapping them and offering them as new gifts, there’s little joy in discovery and there’s little opportunity for finding different aspects of what it means to be human when we’re telling the same stories over and over again.
Look, I talk heck about sequels because I hate them, but that’s not to say that you can’t tell a beautiful story in a sequel. Of course you can, and some of the best films that have ever been made are sequels. There’s Godfather 2, The Empire Strikes Back, and on and on and on. Of course there are things like Lord of the Rings which are such big and expansive tales you could never tell that in one film, it’s part of a continuum of a larger overall story.
There are definitely reasons to do it artistically that aren’t driven by finance, but I think generally, by and large, most sequels are a cash grab, and I think audiences pick up on that. It doesn’t stop them from doing enormously well, but I think in the fullness of time, I think the pendulum will slip in the other direction. I think there are people who want new experiences, who want to go to the movies to see stories about who they are, which we don’t really do anymore.
At Laika, we love new challenges and we love to challenge ourselves, and we’re excited by that. We love to tell new stories, we love to explore new genres, we love to examine different aspects of what it means to be human. That’s the core of what drives us, the kinds of films that we make and to make movies that matter. The way we approach our protagonists in our movies is that we really look at these films as the most meaningful experience of our protagonist’s life. If you’re going to tell a story like that, then automatically, whatever your sequel is will be a diminishment of that.
We’re just not interested in going back and treading over the same ground that we’ve already done. There’s so many different stories that I want to tell, why would I want to tell something which is essentially a regurgitation of something that we’ve already done? I basically want to hit every genre in film before I die. Particularly the way we make films, which take forever, we… We only have so much time on this planet; that means let’s put our energy and recourses into something new and exciting, and that’s really what we try to do at the studio, to tell new and original stories. In our modern world, I can appreciate that’s a rarity, but it hasn’t been historically, and I think that the richness of cinema is being taken into new worlds.
“Kubo and the Two Strings” has scored excellent reviews and opens in cinemas today.