32 years ago today, American audiences were first introduced to the screen versions of Atreyu, Bastian, and Falkor the Luck Dragon, a few of the main characters from THE NEVERENDING STORY, directed by Wolfgang Petersen.
Based on the 1979 novel by German author Michael Andreas Helmuth Ende, this epic, big budget (at the time, the most expensive movie in German history) 1984 fantasy film took audiences to the incredible world of Fantasia, where the mysterious Nothing was threatening to consume the limitless realm of imagination itself!
For many viewers (especially kids), the dramatic loss of Atreyu’s horse Artax in the Swamps of Sadness (spoiler alert!) left deep scars, but despite persistent rumors, no horses (or actors) perished during the filming of that sequence.
THE NEVERENDING STORY starred a young Noah Hathaway (Boxey from the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) and Barret Oliver (D.A.R.Y.L.) as well as a number of other talented performers buried inside suits and under layers of elaborate makeup.
To learn a lot more about this film, check out CINEMA AND SORCERY: THE COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO FANTASY FILM – written by G2V’s very own Scott Woodard (that’s me!) and Arnold T. Blumberg – in either print or e-book!
…And at this point, we’re just assuming the theme song performed by Limahl (lead singer of ’80s band Kajagoogoo) has now found its way back into your brain. “Turn around, look at what you seeeeeeee…”
UPDATE: You can see the film in a special Fathom Events screening on September 4 and 7, 2016, accompanied by an introduction from critic Ben Lyons and a “Reimagine the NeverEnding Story” featurette!
KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS is a sweeping, cinematic adventure that skillfully blends a few bits of biographical inspiration from creator Shannon Tindle (FOSTER’S HOME FOR IMAGINARY FRIENDS, THE CROODS) with a few lesser-known tales from Japanese mythology, gifting it to audiences through the almost mystical art of stop-motion animation.
An absolute feast for the eyes, KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS presents us with sweeping colorful vistas, beautifully designed characters, and one of the largest, if not the largest, stop-motion animated creatures ever devised – a colossal and truly terrifying 16-foot tall skeleton! It also clearly and unapologetically draws upon the work of legendary animator and director Ray Harryhausen. For those unaware, Harryhausen was the artist who populated such films as THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, and CLASH OF THE TITANS with a variety of fantastic beasts never before seen on the silver screen…and never better-presented since, at least in this author’s opinion.
Not only does KUBO lovingly and respectfully present us with homages to that late animator’s work, it also draws inspiration from the structure of some of those classic sword-and-sorcery adventures, framing a series of high-energy set pieces with a lofty quest that also finds plenty of time to remind us that behind the sword fights, the eerie opponents, and the rising threat, it is the bond between our leads that keeps us going and desperately hoping for a triumphant conclusion. As others have already pointed out elsewhere, KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS also tugs at the heart strings, so prepare to shed a tear or two during the course of the film.
Returning to the film’s admirable structure, like those classic fantasy films of old, KUBO takes its time with character development, giving us enough back-story to understand motivations yet deliberately leaving a few gaps here and there that we know from the outset will be filled in as the story goes on. Before Kubo even sets off on his quest, the movie pauses to inform us that this is no normal, one-eyed kid. Kubo is a traditional bard in the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS mold, manipulating reality through a combination of tale-telling and music. He is also not just another whiny, cookie-cutter, entitled kid seen in so many other contemporary films. Kubo is brave, bright, and compassionate – three truly admirable traits for a hero.
Once the journey begins, the Harryhausen influence rears its head as the quest takes us from one encounter to another. Kubo and his anthropomorphic allies – a well-meaning samurai bug (Matthew McConaughey) and a wise, but stubborn monkey (Charlize Theron) – face sorcerous sisters, sea monsters, ghosts, and the aforementioned skeletal guardian. Each set piece is exquisitely presented and edge-of-your-seat exciting in much the same way as the battle with the giant Talos on the Isle of Bronze or the skeletal hordes spawned from Hydra’s teeth, both from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.
While I will stop short of offering an over-all review of the film due to the fact that my wife, TaMara Carlson-Woodard, was on the puppet fabrication crew for two years (mainly on the crew responsible for Monkey), I will say that despite my personal connection to the movie – which provided me with the chance to enjoy a crew screening a few weeks ago – I was blown away by the spectacle of KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS, and I hope that you will be as well!
One last look back at the greatness that was GenCon 2016! Over the course of the weekend, a number of folks tweeted themselves perusing copies of Scott and Arnold’s new book, CINEMA AND SORCERY: THE COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO FANTASY FILM, and herewith we present a montage of all those stalwart adventurers as they pored over the pages of this one-of-a-kind tome! Following that – if ye be brave enough – are all the original tweets embedded below!
Well, GenCon 2016 is in the history books and the G2V Guys are both home in their respective cities on opposite sides of the country, but we’re bringing you this last special audio round-up of their final day at the show as well as their thoughts on the convention as a whole. Below you’ll also find some last looks at the many things they saw on the convention floor and some pics from their final CINEMA AND SORCERY: THE COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO FANTASY FILM book signing at the Green Ronin booth! And stay tuned, because posting soon will be the Doctor of the Dead’s travelogue to Evans City Cemetery and the Living Dead Museum!
As we prepare to head into the last day of GenCon 2016, the G2V Guys bring you this special audio round-up of all the activity they’ve seen at the show so far, including a conversation recorded by the guys Saturday, as well as an interview with SURVIVE THE HORDE‘s Evan Johnson, recorded Friday on the floor of the con!
For those of you that are actually at the con, Scott and Arnold will be back tomorrow at 2pm for one last signing of CINEMA AND SORCERY, so come by the Green Ronin booth (map below) to see them and get a signed book!