Kubo and the Two Strings Director Addresses Whitewashing Controversy

Kubo and the Two Strings. Photo: LAIKA / Focus Features

Like Doctor Strange and Great Wall, the animated film Kubo and the Two Strings has been criticized for casting white actors in lead roles for a story that takes place in Asia. (Game of Thrones’ Art Parkinson voices the title character, while Matthew McConaughey and Charlize Theron voice his animal sidekicks.) In an interview with the Wrap, director Travis Knight addressed the controversy, arguing that casting is fundamentally different for animated films. “In a live-action film, what an actor looks like is as important, if not more important than what they sound like,” he says, but “while certainly background is absolutely a consideration” in casting animated films, “our prime consideration in casting is the ability to capture emotion with their voice.”

Though Knight notes that the film did cast Asian actors in most of its human roles, he criticizes what he says is the “binary” nature of the diversity debate: “When you look at diversity, it really is a combination of things — it’s the seen and the unseen characteristics and experiences that make us unique. … It’s telling more diverse stories with more diverse characters, and that’s what we’ve tried to do every step of the way.” He also says that Laika, the animation studio that made Kubo, previously cast both Ben Kingsley and Tracy Morgan as white characters in The Boxtrolls. “We’re basically color-blind in terms of how we cast our films,” he argues, “and I think you can see that when you look at the totality of our movies.”

Kubo Director Addresses Whitewashing Controversy