After the Campaign

After The Campaign: Kubo and the Two Strings

The marketing for Kubo and the Two Strings sold a movie that the audience would love, despite it being a bit out of the ordinary. It sold a story that was familiar – a child travels into danger to achieve some personal goal – and promised to tell it in a new and interesting way.

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In the story, Kubo is a young man who’s been living with his mother his entire life. By day he entertains the residents of the nearby village with his magical stories but by night he hides in a cave, having been told his villainous grandfather is searching for him. One day he strikes out following the death of his mother under the protection of Monkey and Beetle, two guardians designated to keep him safe from all dangers and who, it’s revealed, have very personal connections to Kubo. By the end, secrets have come to light and everyone grows stronger, more compassionate and more wise.

What’s surprising in taking a look back at the trailers and other marketing is just how little of the story is hinted at here. Sure, it provides a look at how Kubo embarks on a magical-filled adventure but that’s about it. Not only is there little here about the way all the characters are connected but there’s nothing about the actual details of the quest he’s in the midst of.That meant it was incumbent solely on the visuals to sell the movie to audiences. While that didn’t turn it into a box-office smash it did wrack up a good amount of positive critical buzz. Still, with no story points to latch on to there may not have been enough substance to the campaign to really hook the audience. The visuals are amazing, there’s no doubt. And the story is wonderful. But the former was the central focus of the marketing while the latter received short shrift to the point of being, in retrospect, almost non-existent.

That meant it was incumbent solely on the visuals to sell the movie to audiences. While that didn’t turn it into a box-office smash it did wrack up a good amount of positive critical buzz. Still, with no story points to latch on to there may not have been enough substance to the campaign to really hook the audience. The visuals are amazing, there’s no doubt. And the story is wonderful. But the former was the central focus of the marketing while the latter received short shrift to the point of being, in retrospect, almost non-existent.

There’s a valid criticism to be made of the movie that it views Asian culture through the lens of white people. Most of the main characters are voiced by white actors, with Asian actors only doing work for some of the villagers. That shouldn’t diminish the quality of the movie, but that perspective is notable.

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