The first animated feature out of Laika, Henry Selick’s Coraline, opens in theaters today. Jerry loved the film, I haven’t seen it yet. The overwhelming critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes is that it’s a solid film with a nearly 90% positive review rate. Personally, I can’t wait to see it. It’s so rare for any animation studio to start out of the gate with a film that looks and feels this different from everything else out there. Selick and company have created a gutsy film that appears to take risks and doesn’t repeat the tired formulas and conventions that make most animated features such a chore to watch. For that alone, the film deserves the support of the animation community, and you can be sure that I’m going to be planting my butt into a theater seat this weekend.
There are plenty of interviews with director Henry Selick appearing online. One of the smartest series of questions, especially as it relates to the techniques used in the film, can be found in this chat with the A.V. Club. Selick has this to say about the continuing relevance of stop-motion in a CG-dominated world:
“You know, I love stop-motion. I’ve done almost all the styles of animation: I was a 2D animator. I’ve done cutout animation. I did a CG short a few years ago, “Moongirl,” for young kids. Stop-motion is what I keep coming back to, because it has a primal nature. It can never be perfect. There’s always something like–[Points to the Coraline puppet on the table.] Coraline’s sweater, you can notice here that it’s sort of boiling. And that’s because people are touching it and moving it for every frame. There’s an undeniable reality that I don’t think any of the other mediums give you. You know these things are real even if you don’t know exactly how they move, how big they are. It’s something I got when I was 4 or 5, and I saw my first Ray Harryhausen film. I saw some monsters he created. So why still follow that in this day and age? Well, it has certainly been the age of CG, and the hits keep coming. You know, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s company [DreamWorks], they seem to have a formula. Pixar as well. And they make very, very well-made films with maybe the best story department in the world. But I do think there’s a part of everyone that likes to see handmade stuff. That’s what we offer. It’s never going to be the dominant filmmaking style. It’s always going to be the cousin off to the side. You know, the more eccentric relative of yours that some of the kids like.”
Another fun interview peppered with insider details about the production is this one which appeared on Ain’t It Cool News a few days ago. There’s also a profile of Selick in the LA Times in which he points out Laika’s questionable plans to build a new studio campus from the ground up. Those plans have temporarily been put on hold, and that’s fine with Selick, who’d like to see the company spend its money elsewhere: