A film’s characters have to look the part in order for the story to be believable, meaning costume designer Deborah Cook really had her work cut out for her with “Kubo and the Two Strings,” the animated action-adventure film set in ancient Japan.
The stop-motion film from Laika debuts on Aug. 19. It follows Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson from "Game of Thrones"), a one-eyed boy with magical powers who, after tragedy strikes, sets off on a courageous journey to unlock the secrets of his legacy.
“[The costume] really supports the story of the character. It’s like a secondary narrative. It tells the story too,” Cook told International Business Times.
When designing costumes for a film, Cook, whose past work includes “Corpse Bride,” “Coraline,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “ParaNorman,” begins by reading the script and follows that up with countless hours of research. For “Kubo,” Cook studied and took inspiration from the Heian and Edo periods of Japan.
“Right at the beginning of the film when I’m researching, I bring a whole load of research [to the team] that I think suits the characters after reading the script,” she said.
Cook starts the design process with the film’s main character, which she said is typically the hardest one to create costumes for.
“It’s usually the first because we usually start with our lead character, and everyone’s expectations are so high. There’s definitely a lot hanging on that first character,” she said.
Not only does Cook design the clothes, she also oversees the creation of bespoke fabrics and the etching and laser cutting of those materials, in addition to a slew of other tiny details necessary to make her designs for the film’s miniature characters appear properly on screen.
After nailing down the lead character’s costumes, Cook moves on to the supporting roles, which in this case include a snow monkey (voiced by Charlize Theron) and a samurai beetle (Matthew McConaughey), both of whom Kubo befriends while on his action-packed journey. The trio eventually runs into the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) and a pair of evil twin sisters (both voiced by Rooney Mara) who stir up trouble for Kubo. All the characters are outfitted differently but with the same extreme attention to detail.
“I do so much research. I just want to invest the costumes with everything. To just come full circle and be able to jump into a completely different culture is pretty amazing,” Cook said.