An Early Look at ‘Coraline’
If you were to ask ten people who directed Nightmare Before Christmas, it’s almost a guarantee that nine of them will come back with “Tim Burton” and those nine people would all be wrong. The film was actually directed by Henry Selick, who’s other works include James and the Giant Peach and Monkeybone. In Laika Entertainment’s Coraline, Selick is stepping in both the shoes of Director and Screenwriter as he adapts Neil Gaiman’s creepy-but-heartfelt 2002 novella.
The film is still in it’s final stages of production, currently working on scoring and sound mixing for a February 2009 release, but Selick, alongside producer Bill Mechanic, lead animator Travis Knight and costar Ian McShane were in New York with footage of the film and a brief Q&A.
The story is of a young girl (Dakota Fanning) who unlocks a mysterious door in her new home, and enters into an adventure in a parallel reality. On the surface, this other world eerily mimics her own life—though much more fantastical. In it, Coraline encounters such oddball counterparts of her real friends and family as the morbidly funny Miss Forcible (Jennifer Saunders) and Miss Spink (Dawn French), and a counterfeit mother (Teri Hatcher)—who attempts to keep her. Ultimately, Coraline must count on her resourcefulness, determination, and bravery to get back home.
The footage ran about 30 minutes and looked amazing. This is one of the first films to be shot in RealD, an innovative new 3D viewing technology. Other films have utilized this method, but only in postproduction like the yearly rerelease of Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D. Coraline, being a stop-motion animated film, was able to shoot with a new form of depth never used in animated films to give audience members a “true 3D experience”. Those who were never a fan of the red and blue plastic glasses can finally enjoy a real 3D film as the only tool needed are a pair of slick black glasses which won’t give you a headache.
The film looks like it will certainly draw in any fans of Selick’s Nightmare Before Christmas, as it gives the same warm feeling. This film, being a Gaiman book, does become very dark in the second act, which doesn’t get balanced out by some Broadway-style music like in Nightmare. Selick’s method to animating and now screenwriting brings a whole new dimension to animated film and certainly comes through in Coraline.
After the footage, a brief Q&A took place where Selick mentioned how well he and Gaiman communicated often and positively on the project, which is refreshing knowing that Gaiman is almost as belligerent as Alan Moore when it comes to adapting his books. Gaiman was on the set often and all of his notes were “easy to fix and completely justifiable” according to Selick. Producer Bill Mechanic also went on about how the film has been in production since 2001, when the duo originally planned to shoot the film as live-action with computer-generated counterparts. They ultimately decided to go with stop-motion, and the cast and crew seem to be happier for it. Overall, the film looked amazing and will do great things for animated films and certainly for 3D, which was thought to be a dying trend for decades.