Coraline Opens Today

Coraline

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:

“I’m in favor of no campus — let’s use our resources to put the movies on the screen. You build a campus after you’ve had five hit movies. And without a doubt, ‘Coraline’ will have an impact on the number of films put into production. If we do a little business, it will be a good first film — because then it will have proven its worth.”

As Selick alludes to in that last sentence, expectations are modest for the film’s opening weekend with forecasts in the $9-12 million range. One of the reasons that could prevent Coraline from becoming a smash hit is also the reason that it’s such a promising film: the fact that the original vision hasn’t been watered down so that it attempts to appeal to each and every member of the audience. Any animated film that takes chances also carries with it the risk of failure, especially with a general public that still assumes every animated feature is designed for four-year-olds. Films like Coraline will eventually broaden the audience’s palette for different approaches to animated storytelling, but they don’t guarantee instant piles of money like your average Kung Fu Panda does. Coraline‘s creator Neil Gaiman had the best retort about whether Coraline is appropriate for every child in America; in an interview with Canada’s National Post he said:

“Someone asked me last week if Coraline would be an appropriate film for their six-year-old son. I don’t know. That’s like asking me if their six-year-old would like mushroom soup. I don’t know the kid and so I have no idea what is appropriate for him.”

This article from The Oregonian offers the most detailed look at the business side of Laika and what Coraline means to the fledgling studio’s prospects. Nike co-founder Phil Knight, who started Laika, is upbeat and tells the paper, “Even if nobody goes to see it, we’re going to make another couple of movies at least.” But the reality is that no follow-up film is currently in production at the studio and, according to the article, their next feature might not premiere until 2014. To be fair, this lag is not uncommon in a start-up studio; there was a three-year lag between Pixar’s first feature, Toy Story, and their follow-up A Bug’s Life. According to the article, the film’s $60-70 million production cost went over-budget by more than 12 percent and the film was completed a year late. “We really got surprised a little bit on the production, on how complicated that was,” says Knight. “We were going along fat, dumb and happy.”

Fans of stop-motion (and intelligent animated filmmaking in general) have a lot to look forward to in 2009 with another major stop-mo film scheduled for November–Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox–and hopefully the wider releases of two indie films, Tatia Rosenthal’s $9.99 and Adam Elliot’s Mary and Max.


  • http://animationonbluray.com Tommy Day

    I am so pumped to see this tonight, thanks for the post Amid, hopefully it makes the workday go by a little faster.

  • http://daryl-rhystaylor.blogspot.com Daryl T

    When’s it out in the UK? I can’t wait.

  • Joel Brinkerhoff

    I thinks it’s brilliant that Henry used the computer to revitalizes stop-motion.

    The thing that has kept stop-mo looking like toys to me has been overcome and now the range of performance can carry through to the face as well as the body. Well done.

  • Charles

    I’m really excited to see this movie. The dominance of CG animation was starting to get me down.

  • http://amymebberson.blogspot.com Amy Mebberson

    Well the TV spots are certainly coming thick and fast, so who knows, we may be surprised with a good opening weekend! I’m certainly going to see it and drag along everyone I know. Portland being so artisan, it’s no surprise how beautifully-crafted this movie is.

    At absolute worst scenario, it’ll be the next Iron Giant – not in the sense of shuttering a studio because LAIKA’s not done by a LONG shot.. but a high-quality film with a devoted cult following among an older audience and animation fans.

    Tweens and teenagers will eat this movie up, I’m sure – the Nightmare Before Christmas connection will draw them.

  • http://www.daintyproductions.com Chris Dainty

    I saw the film last week at an advance screening and thought it was really good. Visually it’s amazing. The story is very original, but very scary for kids. I’d say it’s a 10 and up type movie. Little kids would have crazy nightmares after watching it. I also recommend seeing in in 3d. Its worth the extra few bucks. My girlfriend wasn’t as keen on the movie. In her words “the plot was missing something”. I’d give the movie a 3 and a half stars out of 5.

  • http://lovehatecartoons.blogspot.com Ted

    I notice that there’s no place within 25 miles of me (closest is 25.7 miles away, bout 15 theaters closer than that) with the movie in 2D. That’s fine for me, as I want to see it in 3D, but it’s limiting the movie to one screen per theater, and I believe the 3D movies are always more expensive, which is going to cut into the numbers (altho I suppose if people are oging out, there isn’t a like option that they could go to instead…).

  • http://None Dan

    I can’t wait to see this tonight! Though something that deeply upsets me is that it is only playing in 1 of the 4 theaters in my area, on only one screen and only 5 showtimes?!?!?!

  • Stop-motion

    Henry Selick’s work looks nice, but he’s horrible to work for. He’s also in the process of running Laika into the ground. The Phil Knight should get rid of him before he sinks the entire studio.

  • Brad

    I’m jaded enough on this tired CG stuff I won’t hardly even give any of them a chance anymore. But THIS I am excited to go see.

  • Scott Harpel

    Unfortunately as its often to happen the UK release date is May 15th, but hey at least we get Watchmen on the same day, otherwise I would of lost my mind.

  • http://www.fantazmigoriuh.wordpress.com Charles K.

    @Ted
    I’ve got the opposite problem. There’s no cinema within 30 miles of me showing it in 3D. That’s not really a problem, but I live in Baltimore! The metro area population is 2.7 million. There’s a lot of people who are going to miss out on an experience.

  • Steve Gattuso

    I saw this this past Tuesday and it is amazing. A great start for the year in feature animation.

  • Brian Kidd

    No, the *worst* thing is that in just two weeks, the freakin’ Jonas Brothers 3D movie opens. That means that any area that is only showing the 3D version, like mine in Cincinnati, will only have it for two weeks before it’s shoved off by a stupid tween cash grab. Now what kind of studio would want an unusual and well-reviewed animated film to leave the theaters quickly so that a Jonas Brothers movie can open??? Walt… hmm. Nevermind.

  • http://checkeredgeekcartoons.blogspot.com Zach Cole

    Huh… I live near Hillsboro, where that warehouse is. I guess I’d better get that portfolio together as soon as possible, at least before the third movie they make comes out.

    Of course, that’s kind of like the guy at Starbucks who says his screenplay/novel is going to be out next year.

    ‘Chya…

  • Douglass Abramson

    Coraline is wonderful little gem of a movie. If you want to take kids with you, you have to go on a kid by kid basis. I could have watched this in a theater when I was four, my youngest sister wouldn’t have been able to handle it until she was twenty.

  • http://tomboycomics.blogspot.com Emily

    I saw Coraline at the ASIFA screening Wednesday night. This is such a unique film–it can’t be missed. What’s most surprising about it: the 3D aspect feels a part of the film, and not tacked on. And what an amazing fantasy. Really beautiful. Congrats to Laika, Henry Selick, and everyone who worked on this film.

  • AdrianC

    I haven’t seen this film but I, too, look forward to watching it.

    At least one critic feels this film has universal appeal. Check out the first three sentences of this review: http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20256793,00.html

  • http://jgchan.blogspot.com/ Jerry Chan

    I just saw the film. Granted, it was in a plain ol’ movie theater (no 3D glasses. Drat!). The theater had a bunch of young (maybe 5-14 year old) kids in there with their parents… one kept on checking his cell phone during the beginning parts and I could tell the kids were getting antsy.

    But towards the end when the movie started getting REALLY DARK everyone shut up. It was magical; I could feel the parents asking themselves “What the heck is it that these kids watch these days?” and I could feel the kids sitting on edge because it was so intense.

    The human touch, be it through hand drawn, cutout, stop motion, sand et all will always have so much more charm to them because of the imperfections. I did notice a lot of boiling (in fact, if I had to do paint fixes for this like they do in 3D stuff, I’d go NUTS with all the sizzling in there) but it added that much more to the film because it’s a reminder that this artistry is what actual people are capable of. That’s what makes animation so magical, I believe.

  • http://jmdurden.blogspot.com Justin M. Durden

    I finished watching the film about an hour ago.

    The movie was wonderful. I thought the 3D was great. It brought you more into the movie, and it didn’t feel like a gimmick.

    I suggest to anyone who is a fan of animation to go and see this film.

  • http://paulallenanimation.blogspot.com/2009/02/saw-coraline-today.html Paul

    Saw it today, loved it! I put a longer post on my thoughts at the link on my name, no spoilers.

  • Blasko

    Just saw it in RealD in Coon Rapids, MN. It was visually wonderful — so tactile and tempting. Others have said it, and it’s so true: this film stitches it’s style, design, story and tone together so perfectly. What a joy. I’m pulling for Laika so strongly — my thanks to this talented team of artists there who deserve every word of praise.

  • http://bobbypontillas.com Bobby P

    I loved Coraline. It looked and moved beautifully, the storytelling and pacing was unique , and all of the characters w/ their respective sets were extremely memorable for me. Hats off to Laika. Its a great film to debut with and stand out from the crowd. More please!

    I also loved that the artists (partcularly the animators) were listed first when the credits rolled.

  • http://www.scuzzbopper.blogspot.com Ken Priebe

    Just got home from Coraline in 3D and my mind is reeling….don’t even know where to start. Like Coraline herself, as someone who moved from Michigan (close to Pontiac & Detroit even…my heart leaped at the Detroit Zoo fountain) to the Pacific Northwest, I felt a particular personal stake in the story. It has that misty Twin Peaks vibe that oozed BC/WA/OR out of its very sprockets. The circus scenes and eccentric characters were very David Lynch-esque (and also very Henry Selick!) My comment to my friends walking out of the theater was that you could totally tell it was made in Portland.

    Everything about this film was exquisite…very deep and beautiful on many levels. It may or may not connect with most modern audiences looking for mindless kiddie fare…for that reason it’s a film that deserves to be paid attention to and thought about.

  • http://www.autodaddy.blogspot.com tom

    For some reason I’ve been under the mistaken impression that Laika was the outfit handling The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Any information on that project?

    My fingers are x’d for Coraline and for Laika, but honestly, how can this lose?

  • Frame Thief

    As another former Laika employee, I have to agree with “Stop-Motion”. “Henry Selick’s IS HORRIBLE to work for!”

    The guy has all the slick charm of a grinning ghoul. (And long creepy teeth set into a false smile to match) He even had the gall to change the story by adding his own character to the story. Mr Gaiman should be insulted.

    I worked mandatory, yes MANDATORY six day weeks for 10-12 hours a day, to help one of the world’s richest men, Phil Knight and his son, get even richer. Several of my co-workers took this time to get pregnant, just so that we could take leave of a bad situation, now we’re all back on the street with no jobs! (Did I mention that we didn’t have health care while on the job either?)

    Sure Travis is talented. He’s just like us folks, except at the end of the day, he can fly to Japan in his private jet at the Hillsboro airport for sushi.

    Down with this shoe maker billionaire and his animation factory purchased for his bratty little son!

  • http://trnorton.com Tennessee

    I had the pleasure of seeing the sneak preview and I was BLOWN AWAY. This movie will hold up well in 2D but if you get the chance see it in 3D – to my mind this is the greatest use of Stereoscopic storytelling I have EVER seen – and believe me I have seen em all being a 3D fanatic!
    I was also INSANELY IMPRESSED with the animation. My biggest fear was that it would look to ‘slick’ and ‘smooth’ – to close to CGI – but boy were my fears ungrounded because this movie FELT like stop-motion ! It has a tactile look and feel – you can FEEL the humanity of those amazing hands of the artists that brought it to life !!!
    Bless all of you that gave up several years to make this masterpiece !! From the interns all the way up the chain to the director you all should be really, really proud !!!
    Now I am off to go see it again at a matinee !!!

  • http://agoynamedjew.blogspot.com Anson J

    I saw this last night. Pure cinema magic! Kudos all around to the people who made this wonderful film!

  • Ultra

    Hey Frame Thief, I worked on Coraline as well. I’ve also worked on many other films and I’ve had to work OT on every single one of them. It’s part of the business. I’ve also been in situations where OT was demanded even if I had all my work finished and I simply refused.

    Everyone who worked on Coraline that I know of, including myself, received health benefits 30 days from our start date. All of these things should be discussed before you accept a job on a film. Way too many times, people never negotiate these things up front and then complain about it later when the film is complete.

    Also, if you plan on working consistently for several years at one place; the film business, and in particular the stop motion film business is the wrong place to go. The only way to ensure a guaranteed term of employment is a contract and those aren’t even full proof.

    I knew when I moved to Portland to work at a brand new studio (without a contract) that there was a very real possibility that I would be laid off at some point.

    As for working with Henry, I will say that it was very tough at times, but at the end of the day he pushed me to do the best work of my career.

    In the end it’s always unfortunate when people are laid off or pushed to the limits on a film. Several friends of mine were recently laid off from Laika. However, they all knew this was a possibility. Laika is a young studio and they will/have made mistakes. However, it’s your responsibility to get what you want from a company.

    Whenever I negotiate, I always go in with the understanding that it’s the studio’s job to get me for as cheap as they can. It’s MY job to get as much as I can.

    When the film has wrapped and you’ve worked those countless hours without benefits and never made a complaint; you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.

  • tom stazer

    It was the greatest stop motion experience of my life, and maybe the best 3D too, which I’ve been watching since Arch Obler’s The Bubble!! It is an astonishing masterwork; perfection in design, execution, script, pacing, editing, well, EVERYTHING. I am not an easy critic, either.

    It felt like history – was this complete sense of delight and astonishment what people felt when Snow White opened? King Kong.

    I swear, they went out of their way to complicate (beautifully) every shot with animation and details a lot of folks won’t see till 6th viewing.

    And woe to anyone who didn’t stay for the final, final frame – the blue screen mouse silhouette demo. OMG. I eagerly await the 12-disc collectors edition dvd!!

  • http://www.taberanimation.com Taber Dunipace

    Saw the film at the ASIFA screening on Wednesday and it was amazing! I must admit that I was a bit over awed by the animation at first, and missed some parts of the story. I was told by my guest that the intro seemed a bit disjointed. Either way, this is a FANTASTIC movie and everyone should go see it.

    Really glad someone is breaking formula and making a unique, beautiful film like this one!

  • http://ryuuseipro.deviantart.com/ John Paul Cassidy

    I’ll be going to see CORALINE tomorrow. I’m very excited to see it, ever since hearing about it!

    Henry Selick sounded very intelligent and thoughtful in his interview, without sounding like an angry Luddite, who’s afraid that “old” mediums like 2D will disappear forever because of computers. He puts it so eloquently that there’s a place for all animation mediums, and that people still like to see something that’s handmade, like stop-motion and 2D. Even Tim Burton’s stop-motion movies (which Selick made) are still a big hit with the newer generation! So it’s not going anywhere.

    Neil Gaiman has said exactly what Pixar’s been saying for years: Children are not all alike, but they’re not stupid, either (just the overprotective parents). Even if some movies are not suitable for younger or more sensitive children, there’s no reason to have to water down everything for them.

    I think it’s healthy for Laika to slow down their output, so that it doesn’t burn itself out like Imagi (a fairly new company), which has huge projects up the wazoo, especially in our current economy.

    There’s no doubt that CORALINE is quite relevant to today’s audience, so I think it will do very, very, very well at the box office, even if it doesn’t become #1 (which would be great if it did). It’s getting very good word of mouth, and there’s plenty of advertising (especially on TV) that even I can’t escape!

  • steppo

    Agreed, Ultra!

    The senior staff (leads) etc got to where they are on their own steam. Those are the folks who have proved their worth and stood up for their deserved positions. No one coddled them out of the blue. The relationship between production and artist is a symbiotic one. I’m sorry you didn’t get any benefits as I assumed everyone did from DP all the way down to the runners.

    As for your other comments about the director – I find them inappropriate, exaggerated, and unprofessional. I know this is the internet – but this is a very unclassy way to spew out the bar room gossip.

  • http://www.coffeeroll.com JPDJ

    Saw “Coraline” last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. The 3D wasn’t as gimmicky as I feared, the visuals were breathtaking and the story was genuinely creepy! Well done!

  • Brian Kidd

    I just got back from seeing the film with my wife and five-year-old son. We had prepared Max for the creepiness we knew was in store and the last thing he said to me when the movie started was, “Daddy, I’m scared!” I thought, “Oh no. He won’t make it through the film.” You know what? There wasn’t a peep from him during the entire film. Another little boy sitting beside me was literally dancing in his seat during some of the scenes. When it was all over, my son turned to me and said, “I want to see it again!” It’s a treasure; the kind of film that sears itself into your brain and never leaves. Today was a good day.

  • Fatty Lees

    I know I am in the minority here, but…I really didn’t like the movie. I really wanted to though!

    Granted I saw it late at night after a few drinks, but man I fell alseep for about 5 minutes! Some of the animation was awesome, some of it was just alright. The visuals were stunning and the mood was great.

    ok here come some spoilers, so stop reading if you want….

    I thought the pacing of the film was very very slow, some of the acting choices I felt were odd…for instance, the mom wears a neck brace, but that didn’t impede her movements at all. In fact I thought her performance was OVER animated. Also, I get it that the boy “Wybe”, is shy and odd, but his whole performance was spent bent over with his head cranked so far over to the side, that it was almost funny. They set up the parents to be kinda dicks for a reason, but don’t give the audience much of a reason to like them even a little, so when it comes time for Coraline to save them, you could almost care less. Also there were some sequences that I felt were just weird for the sake of being weird and didn’t push the story forawrd…the old lady in the bikini part for instance.

    I wanted to like this film…maybe I hyped it up too much in my head, but man….ugh I just didn’t dig it and found it boring….very very pretty but boring.

  • Zork Nemesis

    I wouldn’t call it boring. The story is actually really really awesome. But you’re right about one thing, the storytelling is really clumsy and awkward. Spoilers ahead.

    It doesn’t help that the movie stumbles right out of the gate. The dousing rod scene makes no sense whatsoever and is a bad introduction to the main character, and the manner in which the other characters are introduced feels like scenes accidentally got jumbled out of order. I never got a handle on Coraline; she dresses and behaves like a rebel but her personality doesn’t match her appearance.

    I also feel like the points of the movie could have been delivered better. The concept of the other world being appealing doesn’t really make sense at first, because it’s not really explained very well why the original world is unappealing in the first place. Coraline’s parents appear in all of one scene before the other world is discovered, and they don’t act particuarly cruelly to me, just pre-occupied. They focus too much on the Whybe character, which is goofy to me. The original parents couldn’t possibly have been in the film for longer than 8-10 minutes (out of 100), and something is really wrong about that when you consider the subject matter of the story.

    ALL THAT SAID, Coraline is ABSOLUTELY WORTH WATCHING if you love animation. It looks FANTASTIC, 3D or not, with great sets, outstanding acting, lots of little details, and it is clean without looking cleaned up. The story artists did a great job, the designs are awesome, and the scary creepy aspects of the film come across PERFECTLY. Your kids will want to play Silent Hill after watching this. They’ll also want to keep the light on in their room for the next 2 weeks.

  • corey

    I have to agree with Fatty Lees.

    It was definitely pretty to look at though!

  • http://gabedozer.blogspot.com Gabe Fullilove

    Awesome job to all folks who worked on this beauty. I loved it and will likely see it a couple more times to revel in the stop motion coolness.

    There was pretty steady clapping in the audience at the end of the film, which is something I’ve not heard at a movie in ages. I think it was well deserved.

  • Michael Sheehan

    I’d be surprised if this doesn’t beat expectations at the box office. It was all but sold out all day here in my town, and there’s no animated picture in theatres to compete right now. My audience, of families and couples, loved it and there were audible gasps and “wows” throughout. The pacing almost put my little one to sleep, but he’s only four. It didn’t freak him out any, but he’s a bit of a veteran movie-goer, believe it or not.

    Surprised nobody here — in particular — mentioned the surprise appearance of a much-beloved, much-missed animation story legend and his brother. A wonderful little easter egg for the animation fans in the audience.

  • BT

    I’m afraid the lack of 3-D screens will hurt the box office. In Seattle there’s a grand total of 5 showings a day in one of the smaller auditoriums of the Regal Cinemas. Other recent 3-D movies like Bolt played at the competing theater, which I think has more than one 3-D capable projector and for sure has it in a theater with 2 or 3 times as many seats. When I showed up 40 minutes early for the 10 pm show last night it was already sold out and the lobby was filled with other people milling around trying to decide what to do instead.

    The good news is that there are plenty of people trying to see it, but if the future of the studio hinges largely on the opening weekend it’s too bad it has to suffer from the chains underestimating its appeal.

    But I loved the movie and I hope I can see it in 3-D one more time before that Jonas Brothers thing. But it would definitely hold up in 2-D.

    And is Fantastic Mr. Fox really coming out this year? If so they’ve been very secretive about it, there have been no photos or anything released, have there?

  • http://reanimate.ca Chris L

    Loved this, thought it was totally beautiful. Creeped me out and had me engaged the whole time.

    I disagree about the 3D being a boon, though – I would’ve preferred to watch it in 2D. It’s not that the 3D was used distastefully (it was about as natural as you could expect), the problem is when objects are extremely ‘close’ to the camera, or when they move very fast. An animator’s eye will catch a lot of strobing in the images (a function of the glasses, I suppose) – which is quite distracting. The contrivance of it all is especially noticeable when objects get cut off by the screen. Everyone I was with had the same reaction. I also found it bothersome that the glasses dimmed out the colour (it’s possible that the saturation and brightness was boosted to compensate, but I don’t know).

    Having said all that, the film succeeds at being totally beautiful in spite of the 3D gadgetry. Well worth seeing.

  • http://www.mynameispj.com PJ

    My wife and I saw this yesterday and we both loved it. I thought the story was great and had no qualms with the pacing, or with anything really–and that’s really saying something, because after suffering through the absolute train-wreck that was Anansi Boys I’ve become extremely critical in my judgment of Neil Gaiman stories.

    I’m glad one of you brought up Silent Hill because there were plenty of parts in this movie that made me think of that series. Like most of those games, this movie could completely unnerve you without having to become graphic or violent, and I loved that. There was just something masterful in how well the film pulled off that sense of “off-ness” that set you on edge and disturbs you in a quiet, subdued way. For a children’s morality tale such as this, I think it was 100% appropriate. This film also benefits from its originality and uniqueness (both in an artistic sense and, hopefully, a financial one). People don’t even write many grim morality tales like this for children anymore let alone animate or film them. I really feel like this movie is currently sitting alone, at least in a contemporary sense, in a void that maybe a lot of other people are too afraid to fill.

    The animation was absolutely fantastic, and of course beautiful to watch, and when they showed Joe Ranft at the beginning my wife had to calm me down and tell me to be quiet because I was freaking out about it a little too much. Something tells me we were the only ones in our crowded theater who caught that easter egg, but in way that’s okay–to quote my wife, they way they honored Ranft like that was “beautiful.” I never knew the guy, but I’ll bet that wherever he is, he loved it.

    All that being said, I wish all the best of luck to the Laika studios. They’ve obviously got some balls to set this beauty as their maiden voyage, and I think that’s a good quality to have in a fledgling studio. I look forward to seeing what they give us next.

  • http://animationonbluray.com Tommy Day

    Saw Coraline Friday night in 3D here in Indianapolis, and was completely blown away. Awesome animation, story, and music. Can’t wait to see it again.

  • http://ryanmcculloch.com Ryan McCulloch

    Make sure to watch for a cameo by the late Joe Ranft at the beginning of the movie, and also make sure to stay through the end credits.

    Was very pleased to be in a packed theater, hope the film performs well, would love to see more stop-mo features!

  • http://hand-drawn-animation.blogspot.com David Nethery

    I thoroughly enjoyed it ! Art direction and animation are jaw-dropping beautiful.

    I saw it in conventional projection , but will see it again this week in 3D.

    Can’t wait to see it again.

  • http://segaltoons.com Steve Segal

    I loved the movie. The 3D was fantastic. The theater was as packed as I’ve seen for an animated movie in years.

    I thought that moving guy was Joe Ranft, but I wasn’t sure since he was asking for a tip, Joe would have done the moving for free.

    Congratulations to Selick and Laika.

  • Andy B.

    Gaiman’s language is very pretty, perhaps a bit twee like an e.e.cummings poem, but his stories are disturbing and not in a good way.

    His characters are passive (unless they’re whining), don’t believe in anything or want anything and rarely learn anything. The stunning animation would have been served better by a polished screenplay like the near perfect Spirited Away.

    Gaiman’s novels and screenplays read like first drafts, he is obviously talented, but he can’t be bothered to find the real heart of his characters, so they are too often annoying, helpless and forgettable.

    The problem with stumbling into film-making with a horde of comics fans in tow is it props you up artificially. Despite being involved in multiple films that have tanked at the box office, Gaiman doesn’t seem to learn or even examine why these films aren’t working for a wider audience.

    I seriously think the fact that Gaiman is a Scientologist has effected his writing. His work reflects a bizarre detachment that I chalk up to about a million hours of auditing.

    As far as not knowing what is appropriate for kids, I think any young human being would like to have hope and perhaps even fight for a better world, not just survive and learn to fit in with the status quo.

  • Mando

    I found “Coraline”‘s pacing and dialogue to be a bit awkward, but it did make for a refreshing and unique movie experience. Stereoscopically speaking, I was blown away. I never thought 3D cinema would ever be able to move me, for it is easy to get distracted by the visual carnival of 3Dness, rather than the nuances of storytelling and animation. In a way, “3D” reminds me of amusement park rides, which tend to be a bit superficial, but in terms of Coraline, it was beneficial for it added another level to the aesthetics of a stop motion film. I hope it blows Pixar out at the Academy Awards because frankly I am sick of their system and repetitive aesthetic; they seem to be more grounded in storytelling than trying to improve and be innovative in the field of animation. It seems that Selick may be “hard to work for” but he seems to understand that the future can be found in the past.

  • Celia

    Coraline was a visual feast! My nearby Brooklyn theater was packed with adults, emo/goth teens, and parents. Plenty of children, and this was a 9:40pm show on a Saturday!

    Seeing Coraline brought back memories of seeing “Triplets of Belleville”. Both are films are so refreshing and original, it’s unfair they only come around every 6 years!

  • ST

    I have to agree with Fatty too. I loved the book. Read it the week it came out. I loved the “look” of the movie too. I was way into to for about the first half hour. I think I started losing interest about the time when Coraline woke up in her room the second time. At this point I was squirming in my seat. I really wanted to love this film. But I can’t get past some of the “randomness” and odd pacing. Unfortunately this film will go the way of James and the Giant Peach and soon be forgetten.

  • Gill

    Andy B., Neil Gaiman is not a Scientologist.

    He has appeared on lists of “confirmed Scientologists” because either family members of his are part of it or those sharing the name “Gaiman” are. In the highly improbable event he is a Scientologist, he’s a very bad one. He never mentions it on his blog, does nothing to promote it in his public appearances, and refers to himself as ethnically Jewish and nothing more.

    Now, on to my disagreements with your points.

    His characters may not always believe in something, but they always want something. “Want” is an imperative quality for a fictional character. Shadow, in “American Gods,” wants to escape his life; Dream from “The Sandman” wants to do his job and have everything in his world under control; Coraline wants to have better parents. Their needs drive the narrative.

    You wrote, “Despite being involved in multiple films that have tanked at the box office, Gaiman doesn’t seem to learn or even examine why these films aren’t working for a wider audience.”

    Lots of people make a film. Screenplays are edited, as you may notice if you have read the “Beowulf” script book. Not entirely sure why you brought up this point, though. “Coraline” was adapted by Selick. Gaiman just wrote the novel. The idea was Gaiman’s, but the film was all Henry Selick.

    “I think any young human being would like to have hope and perhaps even fight for a better world, not just survive and learn to fit in with the status quo.”

    Coraline does fight for a better world. She goes up against a monster who kidnaps and eats children, if you haven’t seen the movie. She often feels defeated, but never compromises for big things. Also, I’m not sure she learns to “fit in” as much as “find her niche” among her family and friends.

  • http://highlyrecommended.blogspot.com Satorical

    It’s magic. It’s worth $15, and I want to see it again. I agree that the dowsing rod is a weird introduction, but that is an incredibly minor criticism. It reminds me of how everyone hated the songs in Nightmare Before Christmas when the movie first came out. Now there’s a cult that has them memorized.

    So many character designs were unrepentantly weird/gorgeous. And there was a sustained sense of wonder. I *really* hope the movie does well, so we can have more imagination food to counter the legions of pap.

    I just want to know how long the stop-motion animation took. I can understand why some of the animators were not happy to put in the hours on this thing.

  • http://www.ambienceofmedia.com/ DW

    Loved it.

    I suspect I’m one of the very few that went out of his way in order to see it in 2D. Yes, that’s right, 2D. I gave Bolt a try in 3D and came away believing that the effect was downright detrimental to cinema and works against its strengths. One of film’s greatest assets is that it’s framed, which leads to the importance of using the frame and the composition of elements within it to deliver literal and metaphorical meaning to viewers. Because everything that is on screen is physically 2D to our eyes, our eyes can roam the image and take in that information, even if the objects our eyes fall on are represented as being out of focus.

    In 3D however, there is an actual voluminous space that our eyes are exploring and to our eyes there is only one focal point within it. Our eyes aren’t designed to traverse the rest of what is being projected except as periphery. It’s completely unnatural, and in this simulated 3D space, when your eyes move as they do in real life to check out the periphery, they find a literally out of focus space, and with that weirdness our eyes track back to the safety of the natural focal point since that’s what our eyes can make sense of. All of that leads to an elimination of the importance of framing and composition, since it’s only really the in focus stuff that matters to our eyes. The rest is forcibly made pure periphery. Of course in 2D we can’t make other parts of the image turn in focus either, but the difference is that our eyes have no desire to do so, since all of the information is on a single plane.

    I firmly believe that 3D won’t be constructive in any meaningful way until virtual reality applications that will actually track eye movements to give us the ability to change the focal point within what we’re being shown. Sure, 3D film titillates the eyes more, but it does less for my brain. I truly fear this trend.

  • http://www.elliotelliotelliot.com Elliot Cowan

    I saw this last night in non magic special 2D and liked it a lot.
    I have no particular compulsion to seek it out in extra dimensions.
    As much as I liked it I did think it was paced a little leisurely.
    It’s well made and doesn’t insult your intelligence unlike most animated films these days.

  • http://www.mynameispj.com PJ

    Andy B, I disagree with a lot of what you said as well. While most of Gaiman’s heroes are without a doubt whiners, to say they dont believe in something, don’t want something, and don’t learn anything is just inaccurate.

    Now, if you were to criticize Gaiman for following pretty much the same plot trajectory in a lot of his works (but not all), then I’d say you have a point. Many of his stories follow this path: normal every-day person gets pulled into a fantastical world against his will and spends most of the story fighting tooth-and-nail to get back to his normal life–only to find by the end of the story that he’s changed and is in fact better suited for the fantastical life of adventure. Neverwhere, American Gods, Anansi Boys, Stardust…..different people and events, same general structure. But each of these heroes wants something, does things to get that something, and changes greatly by the end of the story.

    Coraline stands apart from a lot of Gaiman’s novels because it doesn’t follow this formula. Coraline largely has her own selfishness to blame for her predicament. But she ends up redeeming herself and fighting to defend her normal life and the people in it, because she learns to appreciate all of it.

    To call Coraline passive is to ignore the entire last act of the movie, when she resolves to fight the monster. She doesn’t just learn to survive, and she doesn’t just try to return to the status-quo by rescuing her parents–she goes out of her way to help the ghost-children too. She turns out to be quite brave, not passive at all.

  • Hannah

    I think my friend said it best as we were walking out of the theater, it was “hauntingly beautiful”.

    Loved the Joe Ranft nod at the very beginning. It made me feel like I was certainly in for a treat, and I was.
    The whole thing of them being from Michigan was hilarious, because when Coraline declared she was from Pontiac, Michigan, the whole audience cracked up. Yeah, that’s not supposed to be a funny line, but that city was 15 minutes away from the theater.

    It was an intelligent and moving film, no less. I’m hoping for the best for this film and Laika!

  • http://ryuuseipro.deviantart.com/ John Paul Cassidy

    Saw the film on Sunday, as planned, and here’s my review (go under my review of BOLT):

    http://ryuuseipro.livejournal.com/181128.html

    Suffice to say, I loved it! A beautiful and superbly creepy film. Despite my animosity towards the Academy Awards, CORALINE is definitely a shoe-in for Best Animated Picture (even though the other contenders don’t look half-bad, either).

  • Andrew

    I saw it in 3D. I would’ve made the extra effort to seek a 2D version, but this was a planned outing with co-workers, so it was fine. This is something I did with BOLT. 3D normally doesn’t interest me, and I stated before that I highly doubt it will catch on to the point where it’s the only way to see a movie, but in this case, Coraline seemed perfect for this medium.

    I have agree with that one comment that it was “hauntingly beautiful”. The only flaw, the ONE flaw, was that by the third act, it was horribly predictable. The first idea that came to me was “video game”. The one bit of solace was that you knew by the end that Coraline would take matters into her own hands and get her parents back… and hopefully learn a lesson about her views and attitude… thus proving herself a completely appealing character. My favorite characters had to be the Cat, and the two old former vaudvillian ladies. All were animated according to their personalities, they all moved in a unique way, in a language each of their own- I loved Wybie’s tilt of the head. I found the giraffe joke to be the funniest of the evening.

    I really wanted to see her hug her parents at the very end, or vice versa, but we didn’t see that. I then realized that in terms of the story, this is something the Other Parents would do, not her own. :)