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Everyone knows that when it comes to movies, the score delivers a lot of the magic but in Kubo And The Two Strings (available on digital platforms on January 2nd and on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD on January 16th) the music is quite literally magical. The latest stop motion animation from the critically adored Laika Films (Boxtrolls, Coraline) is at once a thrillingly epic fantasy adventure and an absolutely stunning visual journey that is literally about music; Kubo, a little boy with a flair for storytelling thanks to his magical shamisen (a traditional Japanese guitar-like instrument) searches for three magical items to defeat the vengeful Moon King, using his shamisen to help him complete his quest. Repeatedly, music saves the day as Kubo battles terrifying monsters, conjures a sailboat out of fallen leaves, and ultimately battles the Moon King. But Kubo And The Two Strings isn’t the first instance of music and magic being intertwined across film, literature and even video games, as this handy guide aims to illustrate!

The Pied Piper Of Hamelin – Flute

In the great tradition of all German fairytales, the ‘real’ story of the Pied Piper is dark – a rat catcher with a magical flute leads a town’s children away while all the adults are in church in punishment for the mayor refusing to honour a deal that saw said piper perform a similar act to rid the town of its rat infestation. Various iterations of the story go darker, with the piper leaving behind a crippled boy who couldn’t keep up with the others, a deaf boy who couldn’t hear, and a blind boy who couldn’t see. Safe to say a heart-warming adaptation in the vein of Kubo And The Two Strings has not so far been forthcoming…

Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone – Magical Harp

On a somewhat lighter note, Boy Wizard Harry Potter has a rather more whimsical encounter with a magical musical instrument in the first instalment of JK Rowling’s word-beating book series. The magical harp in question has been enchanted to play a tune that will keep Fluffy (a seriously giant dog) in a peaceful sleep unless the secret entrance to the Philosopher’s Stone’s hiding place is disturbed. Needless to say, our plucky hero and his friends nevertheless manage to circumnavigate this (and many other) threats in order to defeat Voldemort and save the day for the first (but not the last) time.

The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe – Pan Pipes

On a similar theme, duplicitous but ultimately heroic fawn, Mr Tumnus lulls Lucy, the first ‘Son/Daughter of Adam’ to pass through the wardrobe into Narnia, into a magical sleep upon discovering her, using his magical pan pipes to help him with the task. As ever with a CS Lewis story, though, good will out and Mr Tumnus actually turns on the evil White Witch who set him the awful task and ends up being complicit in saving the day when the war between Aslan and the forces of good reaches its peak against the Witch and her nightmarish minions. Essential reading for any child.

Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny – Guitar

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A slightly more oblique entry, Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny sees Jack Black and his musical partner Kyle Glass embroiled in a plot to find and gain control of a supernatural guitar pick (actually a piece of Satan’s own tooth) that affords guitar players a profound gift for music. Plot isn’t entirely central to this cult classic but, such as it goes, the pair end up splitting the pick in two before Satan gets hold of his tooth again and threatens to unleash his supernatural powers against the earth. Fortunately, and as far as any of this makes any sense, the duo challenge Satan to a ‘rock off’ he can’t refuse and save the day thanks to their natural ability to rock. Of course…

The Legend Of Zelda – The Ocarina Of Time

One of many entries into the famous Legend of Zelda games, the Ocarina Of Time is often lauded as one of the best. A complex plot sees our hero, Link, sent back and forth in time in order to free a series of Sages from magical incarceration in order to save the world from the dastardly Ganondorf, the series’ longstanding antagonist. One of the ways in which Link traverses the enormous game area is by using a magical ocarina (a legitimate, real world instrument too) that allows him to teleport and solve certain puzzles. Interesting fact: following the game’s release, sales of real ocarinas apparently shot through the roof.

Game Of Thrones – The Horn Of Winter

In the highly successful book series A Song of Ice and Fire (that spawned HBO’s world-beating Game of Thrones TV series) the Horn of Winter is a legendary horn with magical properties. Legend has it that Joramun, a wildling King-Beyond-the-Wall, blew the horn and “woke the giants from the earth.” It is also widely claimed that blowing the Horn will destroy the Wall, an action that would have devastating consequences and allow the growing army of white walkers to consume all life in the Seven Kingdoms. Let’s see if this particular enchanted instruments makes it into the final two seasons of the show, shall we?

Kubo and the Two Strings arrives on digital platforms from 2nd January, 2017, and on Blu-ray and DVD from 16th January, courtesy of Universal Pictures (UK)

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