Dark animation: Remembering Coraline

When most think of stop motion animation, the first thing that comes to mind is the stop-motion

movies you may have watched as a child. Stop motion, while an arduous and tasking form of

entertainment, is very popular, especially with the coming of one particular director in recent years.

The director Henry Selick, follows the unique, and particularly eerie, style of Tim Burton. He

worked on some of Tim Burton’s first stop-motion films such as “James and the Giant Peach,” and

“The Nightmare before Christmas.” Surprisingly, in the last 20 years, Selick has only made four

different movies, three of which are stop-motion. One of these films is the incredibly detailed, and

surprisingly dark, Coraline.


The film is an adaptation of the book, which tells the story of a young girl with an unusual name

as her family moves into a new home and tries to adjust to it. At the same time she finds an alternate

world with her Other Mother, who offers her everything she’s ever dreamed, but for a price. The

trailers for this movie were delightful to watch, and certainly made me excited to see it. The work did

resemble that of Tim Burton, and to this day many people question if he had a hand in it, though he

did not. The movie did an excellent job at creating characters that were quirky and easy to love. The

building where Coraline and her family move into has plenty of unique personalities, from the man in

charge of the mice circus on the top floor, to the pair of former acrobat sisters below, to the weird little

neighbor boy that keeps annoying our heroine, each character is unique and delightfully strange.


In a video released by Focus Features, they spoke of how the film was made at 24 frames per

second. This means it took the animators about a week just to create around two-seven seconds of film.


The movie is over an hour and a half long. For approximately every five seconds of time on that screen,

it took a group of 10 people a week to make it. For shooting alone, it took them 18 months. The amount

of work that went into this film is very clear, and it shows. Every detail, from the eyes of the animation

dolls, to their long limbs was carefully moved and adjusted so that the perfect scene could be made.


The movie soundtrack is also well done. With all songs composed by Bruno Coulais, the soundtrack

creates incredible atmospheres that can be cheery, eerie or full of intensity. Coulais has been in the

soundtrack composition business since 1986 on his first film “La femme secrete.” In a few of the

tracks, you can hear a French chorus singing, adding even more to the movie than the music would

alone. It makes for excellent listening and does a great job at pulling you even further into the story of

the movie. His hard work didn’t go unnoticed either, as his compositions won him the Annie award for

Best Music in an Animated Feature Production.


I first saw the movie in theaters, and I got the chance to see it in 3D. Most 3D films then had

moments where it was obvious that they were doing special little tricks, playing around with the

audience to make them think it was all jumping out at them. They would have people getting in your

face, or have toys thrown at you. All of it for the sake of making it seem as if it were real and trying to

make it seem more “realistic” when you knew it wasn’t. These would just lower the quality of the films

overall and make it annoying to watch. “Coraline” did nothing of the sort, and could stand on its own

without the need for special 3D effects. Going through the film, there are plenty of adult themes and

jokes to the parents to enjoy. But as the film goes on, there are also incredibly intense moments that

really make you jump out of your seat. However others might find a lot of it to be quite terrifying. I’m

pretty sure the film would have given me nightmares, had I been very young. The moments that show

the Other Mother revealing her true form really stick with you and are hard to forget. So, this film does

have a bit of a creepy feel altogether, but it’s a great movie. If you’re looking for something to freak

you out that’s not a horror movie, or something with detailed animation to admire, this is a great movie

to watch.

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