Notes on Coraline

One of the items on my infinitely long to-do list is to write some thoughts about the exquisite artistry behind Coraline. While the film is flawed, it still ranks as one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in some time watching a mainstream animated feature. It pleases me to no end to see that the film has been a box office success (as far as stop-motion animation goes at least). It currently ranks as the third-highest grossing stop-motion feature of all time, trailing only Chicken Run and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

A large reason for the film’s financial success has been the deep pockets of Laika owner Phil Knight. As much as I’d like to believe that audiences will discover good films if they’re made, the truth is that despite a film’s quality, investing money into its promotion is a necessity lest one ends up with an Iron Giant. I’m not sure that Knight even understood what he was doing when he put his fortune behind this film, but I can’t think of a recent debut film by a major animation studio that has been bolder, riskier and more imaginative. Laika has the opportunity to carve out a niche as a truly unique animation studio, and I sincerely hope they continue following this path that they’ve embarked upon with Coraline.

In today’s Variety, Laika took out a two-page ad thanking the people who made Coraline. The first page was dedicated to the film’s crew, the second page thanked individuals. My digital photo of the ad is a bit funky looking but at least you can see what it looks like. Click on it for a bigger version:

Coraline

In other Coraline news, a stage musical will open this May at the MCC Theater in Manahttan. This musical has been in the works long before the film came out so it has little to do with cashing in on the success of the movie. Not to mention that it’s opening at a smaller off-Broadway theater that prides itself on taking “risks on plays that the commercial theater often ignores.” The musical version features music and lyrics written by Stephin Merrit (Magnetic Fields) and direction by Leigh Silverman(Yellowface, From Up Here, Well).


  • http://markpudleiner.blogspot.com/ pudleiner

    ‘ Your Loving hands have made a classic. ‘

    Great quote.
    Very true. :-)

  • Charles

    “While the film is flawed…”

    Oh come on, did you really have to throw that in there? Now I have to wonder, what do you consider “flawless”?

  • Robert Barker

    I have seen Coraline 3 times now, all within a period of a week. I kept dragging people to it after seeing it on my own. The feeling that you are watching an underappreciated film you have to promote to your friends, is the exact feeling I had when I saw Nightmare Before Christmas. It is no coincidence that these two films are related. The spider web at the end is reminiscent of Oogie Boogie’s final push to conquer Jack Skellington.

    Coraline is now the standard. Monster vs. Aliens, and Up, at least the preview, appear lame by comparison. The initial garden scene in the other world is an absolute flowering, no pun intended, of everything that came before, including Fleischer 3-D sets.

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

    It is indeed rare that an animation producer puts so much money into something like CORALINE.

    It kind of reminds me of the post you made a couple months back:

    http://www.cartoonbrew.com/ideas-commentary/frank-zappa-explains-why-cartoons-today-suck.html

  • Paul N

    Can’t help but notice the ad doesn’t congratulate the production crew. Anywhere.

  • http://chrisbattleillustration.blogspot.com/ Chris Battle

    … Except for on the left where it says “A message to the Coraline crew, the best in the world. Thank you.”

  • AdrianC

    I agree with Amid. While the film has its flaws, it is a visual treat and it just felt fun and refreshing to watch. Kudos to everyone who contributed to the movie.

    I do hope Laika continues to try to avoid running with mainstream animation pack.

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

    Charles:

    I’m not sure why, either, but I respect Amid’s opinion. That said, as some people already know, I absolutely adored CORALINE. It’s become one of my favorite movies, and seeing this ad by Laika made me feel even more proud. I’m just glad the movie performed as well as it did, and managed to climb up to #2 at the box office at some point! This movie put up a pretty tough fight at the box office, even in the face of WATCHMEN-mania.

    I also share Robert Baker’s feelings. No matter how good the trailers for MONSTERS VS. ALIENS and UP were, they kinda’ soured in comparison to CORALINE, and for a while, I couldn’t look at Pixar or Dreamworks the same way again! Laika has shown that it truly is a force to be reckoned with! This might inspire Pixar and Dreamworks to diversify into other animation mediums, or they’ll fall behind if they stagnate (especially as Pixar promised that it would produce more 2D animation).

  • Animator

    Coraline would have been even more profitable without some of the INSANE decisions made by Henry Selick. The film went over budget and over schedule. Great crew, horrible director. The sooner Laika gets rid of him the better.

  • Cameron

    Animator, it seems quite a few of the great films go over budget and over schedule. Look at David Lean.

    Not to mention a crew’s only as good as the director who puts them where they are for the purpose of his vision.

    I can’t wait to see Henry Selick go over-budget in the future.

  • Jay E

    Is Coraline a “financial success”? Did it meet or exceed expectations?

    I absolutely loved the movie and want nothing more for it to succeed, but so far it has made quite a bit less than than Tales of Despereaux and Bolt, and I haven’t found too many industry types who consider those movies a financial success. Maybe there is a different meter to rank stop-motion movie success, but considering all the reports of going over budget and production troubles, I was worried for Laika.

    Maybe someone who knows more about studio expectations can enlighten us on if Coraline, Despereaux, and Bolt are successes…

  • Paul N

    “… Except for on the left where it says ‘A message to the Coraline crew, the best in the world. Thank you.’”

    Whoops – how did I miss that? :0(

  • Animator

    Cameron, Istar went over schedule and over budget too

  • Cameron

    Your point?

  • Roger Thornhill

    Everybody knows that technically perfect stop-motion films with no personality are sure-fire blockbusters!

  • Animator

    My point (check out my original post) is that Coraline could have been MORE profitable if it wasn’t for some insane decisions made by Selick that added several millions to the budget and several months to the schedule. Decisions that added zero production value.
    It makes it harder for Laika to get the next project off the ground.
    Bad directors sink studios, which puts hundreds of people out of work, and in this economy that’s not a good thing.

  • Steve Gattuso

    Animator, Titanic also went over budget. And Happilly N’Ever After was on target. I’m not seeing any correlations with all of this. The final quality, or profitability, of a movie isn’t determined by the accountants.

  • s porridge

    At least in SE Florida, “Coraline” proved a rarity: A 3D movie back for numerous return engagements (albeit sharing screens with one or two showings of Jonas Brothers).

    The recent LA Times article “Movies With ‘Legs’ Keep Industry Running Strong” also listed “Coraline” among recent surprise hits drawing business long after opening weekends.

  • soundgiant

    2 Things.

    1. I live in Michigan and was delighted by all of the references- anyone know why?

    2. I really need to meet a member of the opposite sex that is as excited by animation as me. Does the website cartoonlovers.com exist?

    Ha!