<i>Coraline</i> clip <i>Coraline</i> clip
Feature Film

Coraline clip


Our buddy Ward Jenkins has a holiday treat posted up at Drawn!

It’s a tiny mouth-watering clip from the new Henry Selick/Neil Gaiman stop motion film Coraline, now in production at Laika. The film is on track for release (in 3D) in late 2008 from Focus Features and should be one of the highlights of the year. Can’t wait!

  • Hooray!!

  • Pedro Nakama

    That looks good. I wonder if they are using film in their stop-motion or if the are recording each frame digitally. There seems to be no film grain in that clip.

  • Wow. That’s some of the best stop-motion I’m ever seen.

  • Benjamin DS

    It looks great.

    I would assume they use digital cameras, as was done on Corpse Bride. It just seems like a better decision to use high-quality digital photocameras to shoot stop-mo, both in terms of quality and budget, and perhaps even in movability of the camera.

  • It is stereoscopic digital. Two Digital cameras. Neat, eh? Looks interesting.

  • I was at the Laika open house where they showed almost ten minutes of “Coralineâ€? shots and they were magnificent! You will be amazed. They have managed to get some nice squishiness into the characters so they don’t appear as doll like. The art design and animation is gorgeous and I’ve never seen anything like it. It also looks very different from “Nightmare Before Christmasâ€?.

  • dcuny

    Very nice – I like the fluidity in the face, especially with the eyebrows. Any idea how they’re doing it? The mouths look like replacements, but they expression looks like it’s sculpted.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing more.

  • my head just exploded!

  • *ahem* Well, I’ll have to give that clip a big, giant, internet “meh”.

    Coincidentally, I read this earlier tonight on the film blog Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule”, and I feel it it terribly, violently appropo to the clip I just watched. (The bold emphasis is mine):

    24) Your Ray Harryhausen movie of choice


    To go all-meta and shit, and also because I’m lazy, I’ll paste what I wrote about a year ago on the subject: “Jason and the Argonauts is great because of Ray Harryhausen’s special effects, a herky-jerky blend of stop-motion animation, puppetry, models, and elaborate set design. By today’s standards, the effects are dated, but that’s part of the appeal—they feel homemade, personal, almost done by happy accident. I sat on the living room couch with my stepdad, watching this movie more times than I can count. The story’s trite, the acting mediocre, and the writing is a little thin, but it’s a blast that’s soured me on the modern CGI that aspires to photo-realism and has inured me to the ‘authenticity’ of the effects behind current, trillion-dollar summer blockbusters.â€? (Walter)

    And no, I’m not Walter.

    But his sentence “By today’s standards… …almost done by happy accident” is EXACTLY how an adaptation of CORALINE should feel to the audience.

    And 99.472% of the audience simply does not care how technically advance, proficient or intricate the animation is that the production team has accomplished.

    Remember the audience? We’re the portion of the business model where your producer attempts to recoop some of their investment.

    How to end my comment here? I simply don’t know. I don’t want to be a pessimist, nor do I wish to hurt feelings, cause derision or minimize people’s applied talents. It was just a short, out-of-context film clip. Maybe stylistically it is ahead of the curve and I’m behind the curve.

    You have superior, top-shelf source material here in the Gaiman novel. Novels are like car accidents — everyone will remember and envision it somewhat differently, sometimes radically so! Every reader will have a different mental image of the overall look.

    Does it ring true to the mind’s eye?

    It (the content of the clip) just felt false, wrong and of untrue tone to me based on my memory of the essence of the book.

    p.s. Please tell your producer not to fret, for my family will spend our hard-earned money to see CORALINE on the big screen. Will we a second? A third? Will we buy the dvd? Certainly…. if it appeals to our hearts, mind & memories.

  • Go stop-mo!
    Notice how the action is well “directed”, there is none of that incessant flailing which seems to be mandatory in cg. animation. (just because you can.) In stop-mo, you have to be very efficient with your keys.
    Also, it’s cool how in stop-mo, lighting falls naturally on the subject, so you’re lighting like in live action. Sometimes I think that it’s the exessive lighting that causes lack of weight, or poor contact with characters in cg.
    I love the way they’ve animated Coraline breathing, and there’s a definite feel of squishiness in the character.
    Very Cool, I certainly look forward to this one!

  • Can somebody send me the translation of what the heck ErosLane was going on about?

    Oh, and it looks quite interesting. Nice to see something that looks like it has an original premise/story.

  • Kevlar

    I think I know how they’re doing the faces. Too expressive for the Corpse Bride mechanized heads. Too smooth for sculpted replacements or clay. I think they’re animating the faces in Maya or another 3D app. and doing rapid prototyping to output near finished perfectly registered heads.

  • tom

    I just rented “Stardust”, which was awful. Please, Henry- adapt the story to the movie’s purpose. Stardust was so empty and twee and generally purposeless that having Gaiman be a hands-on creative partner in a film seems to be the kiss of death. Last year Mirrormask was released with his excited involvement and THAT was a dreary pointless mess too. He was one of the Beowulf writers (according to IMDB) and THAT was a self indulgent, syrupy mess. A few years ago, he was involved with a mini series he wrote called “Neverwhere”, which was just terrible. To have a knee-jerk excitement inspired by Gaiman’s work being filmed seems as premature and willfully blind as it could be.

    I’m not just being difficult; although I haven’t enjoyed his work in years I’d be the first one to say that a film he was involved with was good. If anyone can do it, it’s Selick, but I worry that he may be too much of a fan to properly smith a movie out of Gaiman’s source material.

    Fingers crossed, I guess.

  • Nate, I totally agree. I have no idea what Eros is trying to say, but I’d like to try and address those comments anyway.

    So Eros… I’m trying to figure out what it is you don’t like about the clip. It seems like you’re reading quite a lot into a very short clip. I also don’t think you can compare this clip to the style of animation of the skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts.

    The skeletons, in the context of the Argonauts, are there to attack Jason and the Argonauts. That’s it; and Harryhausen achieved that brilliantly. We don’t care how they feel. The audience doesn’t need to know if they’re sad or happy.

    However, when you’re animating a little girl, especially if she’s the main character, a more involved performance is required. The audience does to need to know how she feels and why she feels that way. And that sometimes requires that the character uses subtler smaller movements.

    Coraline can’t be “herky-jerky” just for the sake of the nostalgia you seem to connect with that style of stop motion animation. I think if the animators had made that decision, they would be doing the audience as much of a disservice as if they had relied on technology just for technology’s sake (which is what I think you were talking about when you talked about the audience not caring about the tech aspect of the film).

    Having worked on the film I do know that Henry didn’t want the animation to feel as slick as some other recent stop mo films. He wants people to know it was made by hand. However, no matter what you do, I think most people will still think it’s CG. People think everything is CG nowadays.

    From what I’ve seen of the film, I think Henry and the crew have achieved the perfect balance of old and new in the film. It’s the best and most passionate crew I’ve ever worked with and I can assure they’re making something really special.

    As to your comment about this clip not being true to your memory of the essence of the book or false in some way, Neil Gaiman certainly disagrees with you there. I personally would rather see a film that is closer to what he feels is the`essence of his book.

    You also refer to the “audience” several times and your concern about what they audience feels when they see the movie. Unfortunately, you seem to think the “audience” consists of just you and your family. And I’m pretty sure the producers won’t lose any sleep if the film doesn’t live up to your particular tastes.

  • Faces definitely look like replacement “masks” of the kind used for Sally in ‘Nightmare’. Though some of them might possibly be malleable for small in-between movements. On certain frames you can tell when they’ve replaced an entire face, but on others, it seems they’ve only replaced the bottom half but the eyebrows hold, and vice versa. That part is a bit puzzling. I doubt they are using any 3D software to create the animation in the face, but possibly using some blurring tools here and there to smooth out the shifts between faces?

  • Hey guys,

    Is it just me, or does stop-motion shot digitally look kinda cg-ish? I had the same problem with Corpse Bride.

    Don’t get me wrong, the animation itself looks nice and smooth, and practically flawless, but I feel like maybe stop-motion loses its charm when it’s done so meticulously?

    For example, comparing Nightmare Before Christmas with Corpse Bride, there’s something about NBC that’s so much more… organic? That’s most likely NOT the right word to describe it.

    I worry stop-motion is trying to compete with cg according to cg’s strengths, rather then stop-motion’s own strengths.

    Regardless, I’m happy stop-motion films are still being made! Lets see some more!

  • Paul N

    Eros makes a valid, if misguided, point when he says:

    “99.472% of the audience simply does not care how technically advance, proficient or intricate the animation is that the production team has accomplished.”

    No general audience ever cares about that – they care about being entertained.

    The people that DO care about how technically proficient and intricate the animation is are the animators working on the film, and those that study the work done. That’s as it should be, and if they can achieve a new level of proficiency and intricacy while staying within their budget and producing a good film, then everyone wins – those who care and those who don’t.

  • Coraline’s face replaces in several pieces, like the mayor in Nightmare. The seams are removed digitally. The footage I saw at Platform in June still had seams.. which I didn’t think looked so bad actually.

  • AND Jason and the Argonauts had an awesome script.


  • dcuny

    Thanks, Alisa! That clears things up (and makes a lot of sense).

    Posters on another forum were pointing out that Coraline appears to have been shot in twos (except for the faster bits). This has been done by Laika in commercials (such as the Mac one), but isn’t typical for feature films.

  • Hard to tell from such a short snippet, but I like the idea of combining puppet animation with a more naturalistic style of acting, in the young girl.

  • greg m

    I think they missed the mark with this clip. it doesn’t draw me in and make me want to want to see this at all. For this being their first Feature release I would have expected Laika to hit us with a captivating clip or teaser.

  • Looks very exciting! I can expect no less from Henry Selick, even Laika, the works of which I am consistently impressed with. I can hardly wait to see this film when it gets released!

    Stuff like this shows where even stop-motion can go as a medium.

  • The idea of shooting on twos and ones (or, rather, a combination of both) is really as old as the hills, and not necessarily done by any one company. Even in the old Rankin/Bass specials, you’ll find both twos and ones in effect. It’s just standard animation practice — HOW you use them is the difference.

  • I think Eros wanted to say “this doesnt look like how I imagined it” but decided to write a long pompous essay instead.

    Anyway, a movie will never satisfy the fans of a book entirely because everyone imagines the events in the book in their head differently than the other readers and filmmakers do.

    Closest book-to-film translation made is probably Lord of the Rings, and they still changed some large chunks of the story for that as well so bleh. Who cares? It’s a stop-mo film by the Skellington gang. Enjoy it.

  • Chuck R.

    Jay Taylor sums up my feelings exactly. This is a bit too much craftsmanship for my tastes —why not just do it in CG? This is also the first time stop-motion animation reminded me of flash animation. Must be the geometry in the face.
    I’ll still go see it. I love Henry Selick’s work.

  • Zany
  • Chuck R. — I hate to hear “why not just do it in CG?” as if it’s a time and money saver, when quite often it’s not. Plus, aesthetics come into play here. I think doing this movie in stop-motion with honest-to-goodness puppets is quite a challenge. That’s why Henry’s doing it that way. And more power to him.

    Zany, did you notice that that first link was to an article that’s 10 years old? Lots of things have changed since then. Lots.

  • Zany

    The 1997 link is from when he was CEO of Nike.

  • Chuck R.

    Ward: “Time and money” wasn’t what I was implying at all, and it’s really beside the point. There are gobs of films out there with a polished CG look. As Jay stated, there’s an inherent charm to stop-mo puppets and real 3D sets that you can’t get any other way. Coraline (in this clip) has less of that tactile, puppet-y quality that James and the Giant Peach had. She does seem more alive though, which is a good thing.

    I’m not trying to disparage the film based on the clip, and I appreciate that you’re trying to be a good ambassador for your company, but it’s leading you to make funny comments. You’re offended that someone would imply that CG is a time saver, and then you pretty-much admit that Selick is attracted to stop-motion because it is a “challenge”.

  • I’m not going to do any back-and-forth here, but if you went to Platform this year, you would’ve gotten a pretty good idea of why Henry was animating Coraline in stop-motion and not CG.

  • Hey guys,

    We’re not saying that it should’ve been cg. I’m absolutely thrilled that it’s not! And I’m not saying this clip looks 100% cg, because it obviously doesn’t! This clip shows that it does in fact have that extra something you get with stop-motion, as opposed to cg.

    However, I understand it’s being shot digitally. Corpse Bride was shot digitally, and if you’ve ever frequented cgtalk, you’ll remember that everyone over there thought CB was cg when the trailer was first released! Shooting something digitally automatically adds this artificial slickness to everything. Apparently, most people seem to love this look. I personally can’t stand it!

    Obviously, there’s certain advantages to shooting this way, particularly for animators. They can see exactly what they’re getting right away. This seems to lead to much smoother animation. Which is great! It is indeed extremely smooth!

    But this is exactly why it almost tricks someone into thinking it’s cg. Super smooth animation, and that certain “slickness” are two obvious characteristics.

    I’m not knocking the effort that’s going into this film! I can’t wait to see it, and I’m certainly impressed by the skill that’s gone into it!

    I should mention that in the clip, after she pounds the wall, she takes some deep breaths, and they are indeed shot on twos. I hope there’s more of this in the film!

    Personally, I guess I just crave seeing some animation that isn’t so polished. And when are we ever going to see something shot on those wonderful Mitchell’s ever again?

  • Juno

    If anything, it seems like they are taking all the good things that we associate with CG technique, like smoothness and performance and keeping it stop motion, using real puppets on real sets, giving it a more real feel.

    The animation is smooth and real, but still stop motion. Anthony Scott, the animation supervisor said on his site that it was an animator from the Corpse Bride, Chris Tootell.

    All credit to the team at Laika, I look forward to seeing more.

  • Am I the only one who thinks that the design of Coraline’s face is very primitive? “On the level of soap commercials” indeed.

    The animation is good, but I get bad vibes from the thing because of the artistic carelessness that I can see in such a vital piece of the whole…

    No, when it comes to stop motion, the Czechs are yet again at the top:
    (yes I did see that film, and I loved it, as did my whole family. It’s a shame that it didn’t get any kind of non-festival theatrical release here)

  • Chuck R.

    Niffiwan, I’m going to ask you to define “primitive.”

    I looked at your link. I liked the animation, but…..even though I haven’t seen the entire film, I noticed: No attempt at lip-synching, no attempt to move the camera or shoot from a dramatic point-of-view. No character design that pushes the boundaries of what can be shown on a wide screen or transcends gravity. Even the lighting isn’t particularly artistic nor dramatic. All these things Henry Selick explored in spades with Nightmare before Christmas —15-plus years ago!

    There are people far more qualified than I am to elaborate on the technical and aesthetic challenges faced by the Skellington crew on that film, but I think it’s safe to say that Selick pushed the medium farther than anyone since Walt Disney in his heyday.

    Now, you can rightly say that I need to see the entire Czech film in order to pass judgement, and you may be right. But doesn’t Coraline deserve the same?

  • Juno

    here here, Chuck.

  • Sure, Chuck. But it seems that we’re talking about two different things here. I agree that the lighting, camerawork, and animation in Coraline is pretty damn good. It is simply the design of her face that I think is quite primitive. Someone on another board mentioned, after seeing the following screenshots:
    …that it looked like yet another bland, primitively-designed CGI film. After being told that it was in fact stop motion, not CGI, he proceeded to be amazed at how smooth it looked. But I ask you, which of his two reactions were the most genuine? Puppetry does not deserve to be treated like the retarded little brother of computer graphics, as in “well, that’s good-looking for a puppet”. It is a different artform with different characteristics and strengths, and it can achieve impressive heights of its own without being unfavourably compared to something else.

    Anyway, me and a lot of other people on that Russian-speaking forum seem to think that the design of the puppet is pretty bland and tasteless. Maybe it’s just a Russian-sensibilities thing, and Americans won’t agree. Judging from the reactions here, that’s quite possible, and the producers should take heart.

    For me, unfortunately, this is a vital element of the whole and it spoils the other achievements to some extent.

    We’ll see how “Coraline” holds up. However, from what I’ve seen, I am pretty certain that the Czech film will still be better from an ARTISTIC point of view, no matter how far above it “Coraline” flies technically. “One Night in One City” comes directly from the tradition that brought us Jiri Barta’s 1985 film “Krysar” (aka. “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”). There is weirdness and darkness, but always with taste. There is gritty realism and glimpses of beauty. There is no dialogue except grunts and “mhmm”s. There isn’t even a single story, but a collection of many intertwining, amusing little stories that are more than the sum of their wholes. And consider also that the film cost just $700,000US to make, and even that took them 6 years to get together. And yet… even my 70-year-old grandmother loved it.

    Technical achievement without artistry is next to worthless. I once thought otherwise, but fortunately I’m a bit wiser today.

    By the way, what do you mean by “character design that pushes the boundaries of what can be shown on a wide screen or transcends gravity”? I trully don’t understand.

    And finally, no, I don’t think it’s “safe” to say that “Selick pushed the medium farther than anyone since Walt Disney in his heyday”. Why would anyone get that notion? Seems like wild hyperbole to me.

  • Chuck R.

    Niffiwan: You speak of technical values and design values as if those are animation’s only concerns. Most Hollywood filmmakers put both into the service of entertainment. Neither are end goals in themselves.

    There was a thread months ago about Pixar’s design, and lots of folks complained that it was bland, yet most people agree that Pixar can draw audiences into a story like no one else. There are films that provide eye-candy and those that make you forget you are watching art in motion. Up till now, Selick’s films have leaned heavily toward the former (ever see “Slow Bob”?) In Coraline, we have yet to see what he’s going for, let alone whether or not he’s achieved it. I have my own knee-jerk reaction to the clip (above) but I’ll trust Ward and hold-off further judgement until I’ve bought my ticket.

    “Nightmare” is a design-lover’s film. Jack Skellington posed a problem compositionally, because he was so thin and vertical, he was bound to cut the screen in half every time he appeared. Casting a thin grey line as a lead character was a gutsy move. One that is hard to appreciate today, because it was pulled off so well. Many of the characters (eg. Sally) are very top-heavy, and were probably very hard to keep in place especially when the scene called for her to lean and sway. The way off-screen computers were used to record and check poses was also (to my knowledge) unprecedented. All this stuff shows on screen and enriches the moviegoing experience.

    No hyperbole here. Nightmare runs roughshod over it’s stop-mo predecessors: Its radical design, precision of movement, sense of detail, size of sets and cast —everything about it is monumental. Other animation milestones (Snow White, Toy Story) at least had a string of shorts as technological testing grounds. In terms of story, it falls short of Pixar’s standards (who doesn’t), but it has plenty to warrant repeat viewings.

  • Thanks, I see what you were getting at now, particularly about the character design. It’s been some years since I watched “Nightmare” last… I’ll have to try and see it in theatres if they show it again next Halloween.

    And yet, I still wouldn’t put Selick in the position of one who “pushed the medium furthest”, even if we were only talking about stop-motion rather than animation as a whole. I’m not even entirely sure that Walt Disney did the most to advance it. The thing is, animation is a wide field that is rich in innovations and different directions, most of which are invisible if you’re standing on the wrong vantage point! Asking me “who pushed the medium of animation furthest” is akin to asking “who pushed the medium of MUSIC furthest”. Damned if I know. But if I’d listened only to rock music my whole life, I’d surely say “Elvis Presley”. And if I’d seen only Disney and Disney-derivative films, I’d surely say “Disney”.

    That very diversity is one of the reasons that I love animation so much. It is one of the most versatile artforms, and I constantly find pleasant surprises and things that I never imagined.

    If we’re talking about just stop motion, there was Ladislas Starevich who invented it… there were Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen who pioneered its use in live-action films (well, Starevich did that as well, but only once and not as famously)… there were a whole bunch of inventions and developments in Eastern Europe after the 1950s (particularly in Czechoslovakia)… there was Will Vinton, who made the world’s first claymation feature film in 1985…

    and if we include 2D stop-motion, the list widens to include Lotte Reiniger and her revolutionary shadow puppets, Karel Zeman, and of course Yuriy Norshteyn (you need to have seen his unfinished “Overcoat”, and read certain things he’s written, to understand why).

    “Nightmare” was a first, no doubt about that, but it was one of MANY “firsts”, the vast majority of which aren’t so widely known in the land where it was made simply because they happened far away. In terms of radical design, for example, I’d say that it gives way to this feature film released in Czechoslovakia in 1985:

    I wouldn’t say that Pixar is the last word in story sophistication either, though I think they’re good… but I guess it depends on preference…

  • Ewww…what’s with the puddle of liquid on the bed? If I were Coraline, I’d be a little more disturbed by the whole thing.

    All of the dark creepy-spooky stop-motion features, starting with Nightmare, are fantastic, amazing, unforgettable and loved. But that’s really been the only tone in the goings, right? (big budget stop-motion features since Nightmare, that is) Can stop-motion puppet features have a lighter feel and still captivate a large audience? Is there anybody working on such projects, or even interested in an alternate tone? Will the lack of lighter tones, besides the already stereotypical stop-motion Christmas, create a stereo-type for American stop-motion features? Methinks a parody on dark stop-motion films could exist somewhere in the future if the dark trend goes too much further. As much as I love parodies, I’d hate to be parodied.

    I think Coraline will be a beautiful film and I can’t wait to go and see it.

  • Juno

    Aardman do a pretty good job at lighter stop motion. Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, and they have some pretty big things happening with sony pictures this year.

  • Juno, very true. Aardman has had fantastic exposure in America, I guess I just wish there was more in the American features (besides quality, got that already). If Ward is right that stop-motion features can compete with CG in production cost, why is there so much created in CG and so little in stop-mo? Because the interest isn’t there? My point is that stop-motion has an aesthetic appeal similar (in the eyes of the average viewer) to CG, but no American producers are putting out lighter stop-motion features. It is an almost untouched part of the market, and I wonder how long it will be until it is finally tapped.

    I’m glad to hear Aardman has more work on the way. I think their style and sensibilities are great, but I still yearn for variety in American styles and sensibilities. Or, are we just that dark?

  • regina arkwright

    Good to hear from you Chris, glad to see things are going so well too.
    Yes do call in when back in England.