Stop motion movies aren’t meant to be big, epic action-adventures. But Kubo and the Two Strings strives to be just that.

It’s the fourth feature film from Laika Entertainment, the studio that made the 2009 adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.

A fantasy adventure set in Japan, Kubo is “not the kind of story you typically see being told in our medium, in stop motion, and there’s a reason for it, because it’s really hard,” Kubo director Travis Knight (who’s also the CEO of Laika) told HitFix and other reporters visiting Laika’s Portland, OR studio earlier this month.

Knight revealed that the character of Kubo is “essentially a proxy for me. He’s a storyteller. He’s an animator, really, if you think about it.” With his shamisen-shredding and magic telekinesis-esque paper-shredding (and folding) origami powers, the 12-year-old tells stories to his fellow villagers. He soon finds himself using his powers on a quest that has him finishing a fight his father started.

Complete with a magic stringed instrument, samurai fights, lush and detailed forest and village sets, and all sorts of massive monsters, Kubo and the Two Strings, which opens August 19, achieved the sense of great scale by blending stop motion with CGI. The studio used computer animation to fill out crowds and to animate an ocean of chopping waves (albeit modeled on tests of water made with practical materials) and in other places to build out their big world.

Laika also used plenty of impressive in-camera tricks as the animators moved the puppets frame by frame. HitFix learned about some of those behind-the-scenes details during that set visit. Learn about the meticulous making of the movie — including how Laika used a Mylar birthday balloons and a bowling ball for monster characters — in the video and also gallery below.

An enthusiast of time travel stories, film scores, avocados and Charades, Emily Rome is an alumna of Loyola Marymount University and a native of beautiful Washington State. Emily’s writing has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyNRome.