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Coraline is a 2009 American stop-motion animated dark fantasy horror film directed by Henry Selick and based on Neil Gaiman's 2002 novel of the same name. Produced by Laika as its first feature film, Coraline stars the voices of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Robert Bailey Jr., Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Keith David, Ian McShane, and John Hodgman. The film depicts an adventurous girl named Coraline finding an idealized parallel world behind a secret door in her new home, unaware that the alternative world contains a dark and sinister secret.
The film was released in United States theaters on February 6, 2009 by Focus Features after a world premiere at the Portland International Film Festival, and received critical acclaim. The film made $16.85 million during opening weekend, ranking third at the box office, and by the end of its run had grossed over $124 million worldwide. Coraline won Annie Awards for Best Music in an Animated Feature Production, Best Character Design in an Animated Feature Production and Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Production, and received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Animated Feature. In retrospective years, the film assured a cult status.
Plot[edit | edit source]
Coraline Jones and her parents, who are gardening catalog editors, move from Pontiac, Michigan, to Ashland, Oregon, at the Pink Palace Apartments. As they struggle to finish their catalog, both parents pay little attention to Coraline, leaving her frustrated and bored. Her eccentric new neighbors include Mr. Bobinsky a circus mouse trainer, and Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, two once-famous actresses. She also meets Wyborne "Wybie" Lovat, the talkative grandson of the landlady. As a present, Wybie gives Coraline a button-eyed ragdoll that eerily resembles her. A black cat, meanwhile, mysteriously follows the pair. Later, the ragdoll lures her to a small door in the living room, which is bricked up and can only be unlocked by a button key.
That night, a mouse guides Coraline through the door, where the bricks have been replaced by a corridor to another reality (dubbed the “Other World”). Upon entering, Coraline meets the Other Mother and Other Father, button-eyed doppelgängers of her real parents, who nonetheless appear to be more caring and entertaining. After dinner, she goes to sleep in her Other Bedroom, but disappointedly awakes in her real one. Her neighbors cryptically warn her about the Other World, with Wybie even recounting how his grandmother's twin sister allegedly disappeared on the premises of the apartment. Despite this, Coraline visits the Other World twice more, where she meets the Other Mr. Bobinsky, the Other Miss Spink and Miss Forcible and the Other Wybie, who is mute. Despite having no Other World counterpart, the same black cat that mysteriously followed Coraline is able to speak in the Other World.
The Other Mother invites Coraline to stay forever, under the condition that a pair of buttons will be sewn over her eyes. Disturbed, Coraline attempts to flee, but the Other Mother has blocked all the exits to the real world. The cat reappears and reveals to her that the Other Mother controls the Other World and that she intends to "eat". Coraline later demands the Other Mother to let her return home but the Other Mother transforms into a taller and more grotesque version of herself and, angry, imprisons Coraline in a chamber behind a supernatural mirror. There, Coraline meets the ghosts of previous victims, including the missing twin sister of Wybie's grandmother. They reveal that the Other Mother, whom they refer to as the “Beldam”, created and sent one by one the same button-eyed ragdoll that resembled them, one after the other, in order to spy on their lives. With this information, the Beldam manipulated the Other World to meet each victims' desires and convinced them to sew buttons over their eyes, in exchange for a better life. Upon agreeing to this offer, the Beldam consumed their lives, leaving their souls trapped in the chamber. To free their souls, their real eyes need to be found. Coraline promises to help.
She is eventually released from the chamber by the Other Wybie, whose mouth has been stitched open into a grimace by the Beldam (in retaliation for his earlier refusal to smile for Coraline). He helps her escape back to the real world, but upon returning, Coraline discovers that her parents are missing. She eventually deduces that they have been kidnapped by the Beldam. Miss Spink and Forcible later help Coraline by giving her an Adder stone before she returns to the Other World. The cat advises Coraline to challenge the Beldam to a game before he vanishes. Coraline sees her real mother in the Other World but it is none other than the Beldam, who locks the door and swallows the key. Coraline takes the cat’s advice and proposes a game to the Beldam: if Coraline cannot find her parents and the ghosts' eyes, she will let buttons be sewn over her eyes, but if she can, they will all be set free. The Beldam reluctantly agrees.
Using the stone, Coraline finds the ghosts' eyes, contained within marbles, from the Other World's now deranged inhabitants. She also discovers that the Other Wybie was murdered by the Beldam (for helping Coraline escaping from her). As she does, the Other Pink Palace Apartments' surroundings gradually disintegrate until only the living room is left. Inside, Coraline sees the Beldam in her true arachnoid form, with a pair of metallic, needle-like hands. Knowing that the Beldam will never accept her victory, Coraline tricks her into unlocking the door. While the Beldam is distracted, Coraline finds her parents trapped in a snow globe, grabs it, and throws the cat at the Beldam's face, ripping her button eyes out. The Beldam furiously converts the floor into a spiderweb, initiating a chase, but Coraline and the cat manage to climb out of it, slam and lock the door shut on the Beldam's hand, severing it.
Coraline’s parents reappear in the real world, with no memory of what happened. That night, the ghosts warn her to get rid of the button key to prevent the Beldam from accessing the real world. As Coraline prepares to drop it down the well, the severed hand attacks her and tries to drag her back to the Other World. Wybie appears and smashes it with a rock, then together they throw the remains and the key into the well and seal it shut to prevent anyone else from entering the Other World. The next day, Coraline and her parents, who have finally finished their gardening catalog, host a garden party for the neighbors. Coraline also prepares to tell Mrs. Lovat the truth about her twin sister whilst the cat disappears behind the pink palace welcome sign.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Dakota Fanning as Coraline Jones, a curious 11-year-old girl with dark blue hair
- Teri Hatcher as Mel Jones, Coraline's mother, and the Beldam / Other Mother, the ruler of the Other World
- John Hodgman as Charlie Jones, Coraline's father and the Other Father
- John Linnell as Other Father's singing voice.
- Keith David as the Cat, a sarcastic, mysterious, nameless black cat from Coraline's world who appears and disappears at will and has the ability to speak in the Other World
- Robert Bailey Jr. as Wyborne "Wybie" Lovat, the geeky, nervous 11-year-old grandson of Coraline's landlady Mrs. Lovat (Wybie is a character introduced for the film adaptation so that the viewer "wouldn't have a girl walking around, occasionally talking to herself".)
- Ian McShane as Sergei Alexander Bobinsky, a former Chernobyl liquidator and one of Coraline's neighbors who owns a jumping mice circus. His nickname is "Mr B."
- Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French as April Spink and Miriam Forcible respectively, a pair of retired burlesque actresses.
- Carolyn Crawford as Mrs. Lovat, Wybie's grandmother and the owner of the Pink Palace Apartments
- Aankha Neal as Sweet Ghost Girl, Mrs. Lovat's missing twin sister, Wybie's great-aunt and the most recent victim of Beldam.
- George Selick as Ghost Boy, the second and only male victim of Beldam.
- Hannah Kaiser as Tall Ghost Girl, the first victim of Beldam interpreted by her Midwestern clothing.
- Marina Budovsky as Photo Friend #1, a friend of Coraline's back home in Michigan.
- Harry Selick as Photo Friend #2, a friend of Coraline's back home in Michigan.
Production[edit | edit source]
- “Coraline [was] a huge risk. But these days in animation, the safest bet is to take a risk.”
- ―Henry Selick
Director Henry Selick met author Neil Gaiman just as he was finishing Coraline, and given that Gaiman was a fan of Selick's The Nightmare Before Christmas, he invited him to a possible adaptation of the film. As Selick thought a direct adaptation would lead to "maybe a 47-minute movie", his screenplay had some expansions, such as the creation of Wybie. When looking for a design away from the style seen in most animation, Selick discovered the work of Japanese illustrator Tadahiro Uesugi and invited him to become the concept artist. One of Uesugi's biggest influences was on the color palette, which was muted in reality and more colorful in the Other World. Uesugi declared that "at the beginning, it was supposed to be a small project over a few weeks to simply create characters; however, I ended up working on the project for over a year, eventually designing sets and backgrounds, on top of drawing the basic images for the story to be built upon.
Coraline was staged in a 140,000-square-foot (13,000 m2) warehouse in Hillsboro, Oregon. The stage was divided into 50 lots, which played host to nearly 150 sets. Among the sets were three miniature Victorian mansions, a 42-foot (12.8 m) apple orchard, and a model of Ashland, Oregon, including tiny details such as banners for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. More than 28 animators worked at a time on rehearsing or shooting scenes, producing 90–100 seconds of finished animation each week. To add the stereoscopy for the 3D release, the animators shot each frame from two slightly apart camera positions.
Every object on screen was made for the film. The crew used three 3D printing systems from Objet in the development and production of the film. Thousands of high-quality 3D models, ranging from facial expressions to doorknobs, were printed in 3D using the Polyjet matrix systems, which enable the fast transformation of CAD (computer-aided design) drawings into high-quality 3D models. The puppets had separate parts for the upper and lower parts of the head that could be exchanged for different facial expressions. The characters of Coraline could potentially exhibit over 208,000 facial expressions. Computer artists composited separatedly-shot elements together, or added elements of their own which had to look handcrafted instead of computer-generated – for instance, the flames were done with traditional animation and painted digitally, and the fog was dry ice.
At its peak, the film involved the efforts of 450 people, including from 30 to 35 animators and digital designers in the Digital Design Group (DDG) directed by Dan Casey and more than 250 technicians and designers. One crew member, Althea Crome, was hired specifically to knit miniature sweaters and other clothing for the puppet characters, sometimes using knitting needles as thin as human hair. The clothes would also simulate wear using paint and a file. Several students from The Art Institute of Portland were also involved in making the film.
Soundtrack[edit | edit source]
The soundtrack for Coraline features songs composed by French composer Bruno Coulais with one, "Other Father Song", by They Might Be Giants. The Other Father's singing voice is provided by John Linnell, one of the singers from the band. They wrote 10 songs for the film; when a melancholy tone was decided, all but one were cut. Coulais' score was performed by the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra and features choral pieces sung by the Children's Choir of Nice in a nonsense language. Selick mentions that the main soloist, "a young girl you hear singing in several parts of the film" is coincidentally named Coraline. Coraline won Coulais the 2009 Annie Award for best score for an animated feature.
Soundtrack list[edit | edit source]
- "Sirens of the Sea" – Performed by Michele Mariana
- "Other Father Song" – Written and Performed by John Linnell
- "Nellie Jean" – Performed by Kent Melton
- "Dreaming" – Performed by Bruno Coulais, The Children's Choir of Nice, and Teri Hatcher
Release[edit | edit source]
Coraline was theatrically released on February 6, 2009.
Home media[edit | edit source]
The film was released in the United States on DVD and Blu-ray on July 21, 2009, by Universal Studios Home Entertainment. A 3-D version comes with four sets of 3-D glasses—specifically the green-magenta anaglyph image. Coraline was released in the United Kingdom on DVD and Blu-ray on October 12, 2009. A 3-D version of the film was also released on a 2-Disc Collector's Edition. The DVD opened to first week sales of 1,036,845 and over $19 million in revenue. Total sales stand at over 2.6 million units and over $45 million in revenue. A two-disc Blu-ray 3D set which includes a stereoscopic 3D on the first disc and an anaglyph 3D image was released in 2011.
Other media[edit | edit source]
The website for Coraline involves an interactive exploration game where the player can scroll through Coraline's world. It won the 2009 Webby Award for "Best Use of Animation or Motion Graphics", both by the people and the Webby organization. It was also nominated for the Webby "Movie and Film" category. On June 16, 2008, D3 Publisher announced the release of a video game based on the film. It was developed by Papaya Studio for the Wii and PlayStation 2 and by Art Co. for Nintendo DS. It was released on January 27, 2009, close to the film's theatrical release. The soundtrack was released digitally February 3, 2009, by E1 Music, and in stores on February 24, 2009.
Reception[edit | edit source]
Box office[edit | edit source]
According to Paul Dergarabedian, a film business analyst with Media by Numbers, for the film to succeed it needed a box office comparable to Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, which grossed $16 million its opening weekend and ended up making more than $192 million worldwide; prior to the film's release, Dergarabedian thought Laika "should be really pleased" if it made close to $10 million on its opening weekend. In its US opening weekend, the film made $16.85 million, ranking third at the box office. It made $15 million on its second weekend, bringing its U.S. total up to $35.6 million, $25.5 million of which coming from 3D presentations. As of November 2009, the film had grossed $75,286,229 in the United States and Canada and $49,310,169 in other territories, making a total of $124,596,398 worldwide.
Critical response[edit | edit source]
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 90% based on 262 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "With its vivid stop-motion animation combined with Neil Gaiman's imaginative story, Coraline is a film that's both visually stunning and wondrously entertaining." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 80 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Accolades[edit | edit source]