Last weekend, the Portland-based stop motion company Laika debuted its fourth feature film, Kubo and the Two Strings, which opened in fourth place with $13.6 million. That tally is roughly on par with the company's first three films, Coraline ($16.8 million opening, $75.2 million domestic), ParaNorman ($14 million debut, $56 million domestic) and The Boxtrolls ($17.2 million first weekend, $50.8 million domestic). While these movies may not be box office hits, they have all been critical darlings, but don't expect the studio to turn their critical hits into sequels.
Laika was co-founded by Travis Knight, the son of Nike founder Phil Knight, who served as an animator and producer on the studio's first three films, before transitioning to direct Kubo and the Two Strings. While promoting Kubo, Travis Knight took part in an in-depth conversation about filmmaking in Los Angeles with filmmaker and historian John Canemaker, where he revealed that his studio will never make a sequel. Here's what he had to say below, courtesy of Cartoon Brew.
"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 pendulum has gone so far in that one direction. We used to go to movies to see stories about ourselves. It would transport us to new worlds and we'd see aspects of ourselves reflected back. As TV has become more like movies, movies have become more like TV. It's gone the other way. There are these serials, these continuing stories that are a regurgitation of the same things we've seen over and over again. And I have no interest in doing that."
It's quite possible that Travis Knight is one of the only heads of a major production company that is entirely opposed to the idea of sequels. Laika re-upped their distribution deal with Focus Features in 2014 for their next three movies, the first of which is Kubo and the Two Strings. Laika hasn't announced what their next stop motion movie will be, but Travis Knight did tease that Kubo will be their last movie that will deal with children, like their previous movies. Here's what he had to say, when asked what his next slate of movies will focus on.
"Adulthood. This film is a good bye in a number of different ways. The themes that it deals with - loss and grief. But it also deals with healing, compassion, forgiveness and empathy. And so, it is, effectively, the end of this first cycle of films that we've done at the studio. The things we've got coming are completely different. Our next film does not feature a child protagonist. I don't even know that there are any children in it at all. I wouldn't say it's adult-oriented. But it's a different kind of a film for us. It's still intended for families, but it's a different kind of a story."
It isn't known when Laika may announce this new project, but the studio has optioned fantasy novels over the past few years, such as Colin Meloy's Wildwood and Philip Reeve's Goblins. Regardless of what's next for them, it's clear that Laika is one of the few companies that isn't particularly interested in building a "cinematic universe" in this franchise-centric day and age. We'll be sure to keep you posted with more updates on Laika's new project.