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Kubo and the Two Strings Actor Art Parkinson

Aug 16, 2016

By: Lynn Barker

14-year-old actor Art Parkinson, who voices lead character Kubo in Kubo and the Two Strings is Irish. He even speaks Gaelic. Art played Rickon Stark in “Game of Thrones” on TV but was killed off in season six. The show is adult-rated so his parents would only let him watch the parts he was in. Not so with “Kubo”. It’s for everybody.

Kubo rises magically over the landscapeKubo rises magically over the landscapeCourtesy of Focus Features

Kubo is a young Japanese boy who summons an evil spirit from the past by mistake. On the run, the boy is determined to solve the mystery of his fallen dad, who was an amazing, legendary samurai warrior. This was Art’s first voice role and he found the fantasy actioner both challenging and fun.

Art: This is my first animation role. I’ve done ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) before but this was the first animation and I was excited for it. It was a great experience for me learning how to channel my emotions into my voice but I’m definitely glad I did it and very happy how it turned out.

Kidzworld: Have you seen the whole film?

  • Art: Yes. Me and my mum went up to Dublin and they screened it for us. I was so happy because I always knew it was going to be a powerful and emotional film but knowing that kids and adults too are going to be able to watch this and take away such a life lesson from it, it’s really great.

Art Parkinson at the Kubo premiereArt Parkinson at the Kubo premiereCourtesy of Focus Features

Kidzworld: For this film exactly what did they show you of the Kubo character in advance and what figurines or maquettes did you have with you in the booth? 

  • Art: They had puppets of every character. Whenever you are doing television and screen, it’s easier to slip into character because you are on set, in costume and immersed in the role and the life of the character but whenever you are in an animation…

Kubo, wearing his dad's armor, must fight an evil kingKubo, wearing his dad's armor, must fight an evil kingCourtesy of Focus Features

Kidzworld: There are no other actors to play off of?

  • Art: Yeah. We did record together sometimes but you need stuff there around you to help you slip into the mindset of the character. The illustrations and the puppets really helped us to do that. I got to record with Charlize Theron but didn’t get to with Matthew McConaughey, George Takei, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara but I did with Charlize and Brenda Vaccaro and they were absolutely brilliant and we got to work off of them. That was really cool.

Kidzworld: How would you compare your character Rickon on “Game of Thrones” with Kubo.

  • Art: It’s too completely different worlds and characters. Rickon was such a feral, wild and mysterious character and Kubo is deep, sensitive, kind and caring. He’s really brave and open.

A younger Art Parkinson as Rickon in Game of ThronesA younger Art Parkinson as Rickon in Game of ThronesCourtesy of HBO

Kidzworld: Kubo is told to learn to control his magical talents. As a young actor are you still working on controlling and improving your talents in both live action and voice roles?

  • Art: For me it’s very important to use method acting when working on TV and film (a style of acting in which the actor stays in character even when not on camera). I like to slip into the character’s mindset and really embrace the character. That helps me to give an honest and pure performance but whenever you are doing voice acting you can’t do that to express yourself so it’s a little bit more difficult. That was the most difficult thing, learning to channel all the emotion and toning into my voice only.

Kidzworld: Did they shoot any video of you while you were recording to maybe use any movements for the Kubo puppet?

  • Art: Yeah. Whenever they were happy with a recording they’d say “Okay that’s great but can we do it one more time and put more expression into it?” You can’t just record with a blank face. You have to put action and expression into it but not too much. We weren’t allowed to wear anything metallic (to bang on the microphone) if we wanted to move and rustle around a lot.

Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) protects Kubo and MonkeyBeetle (Matthew McConaughey) protects Kubo and MonkeyCourtesy of Focus Features

Kidzworld: Which of the many creatures or monsters that Kubo faces is the most frightening to you and which the most fascinating?  

  • Art: I think the most fascinating is the fish just because they can control you. As for ghosts and monsters and stuff, I think the Moon King because he knows where you are.

Kidzworld: Hardest scene to voice and the most fun one?

  • Art: I think the most emotionally hard for me was when Kubo was at the altar and trying to connect with his father and it wasn’t working. I put my head in a place where I was so frustrated. That was quite an emotional scene to record. Then probably the most fun was when they are on the boat eating sushi because on that day they got sushi and we just ate sushi all day and recorded. We were spreading sushi all over the place.

Kubo, with Monkey, is fascinated by strange creaturesKubo, with Monkey, is fascinated by strange creaturesCourtesy of Focus Features

Kidzworld: Yum! Did you get a tour of Laika Studios where they shot the film and, if so, what was the most impressive thing you saw?

  • Art: I think the most exciting thing for me was just witnessing (their work). They were finishing off The Boxtrolls while we were they so we saw them finishing off the very last scene on the street. It was really cool. I’d seen pictures of Travis (Knight) animating but the experience being there was amazing.

Kidzworld: Have you tried folding origami… without magic of course?

  • Art: I have tried but I’m no good at it. My dad, he’s Irish but he grew up in London because that’s where his father worked. He used to pick up boxes off the floor and make origami cranes and put them on the seats (in a bus?) for people.

Monkey (Charlize Theron) guides Kubo (Art Parkinson) on his questMonkey (Charlize Theron) guides Kubo (Art Parkinson) on his questCourtesy of Focus Features

Kidzworld: What did you know about the Japanese culture before playing Kubo?

  • Art: Not too much. I did have to do a lot of research on the Japanese culture to represent Kubo. Everybody at Laika did to. They travelled to Tokyo. The attention to culture on this film is immense from the foliage to the dancers to the kimonos, there is so much detail. There are so many things the colors and folding of the kimonos represent.

Kidzworld: Have you met fellow Irish actor Saoirse Ronan? You two should be in something together.

  • Art: No I haven’t but my brother (Padhraig) was in an Irish film with her. I think she’s a brilliant actress and a brilliant role model as well. She’s an independent woman and I have a lot of respect for that.

Kubo, Monkey and Beetle are off to solve a mysteryKubo, Monkey and Beetle are off to solve a mysteryCourtesy of Focus Features

Kidzworld: You are in a new movie called Zoo where you try to save a baby elephant? Who do you play?

  • Art: I play Tom. It’s what this kid goes through trying to save this elephant during World War II. He makes friends along the way and It’s inspired by true events.

Kidzworld: Why do you think Kubo and the Two Strings will be a great movie for young people?

  • Art: It’s something that every person, old or young can relate to. There are some family scenarios that I can relate to myself and I think every family can relate to. Not just that but there’s a lot about forgiveness.

Kubo and the Two Strings PosterKubo and the Two Strings PosterCourtesy of Focus Features

See Kubo and the Two Strings in theaters August 19th!



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