Coraline, the Horrific Claymation Classic.

Angel Gabriel Merino, site manager

A large window slowly opening to reveal a human like doll, a thin hand grasping the tools that take apart and reconstruct the doll to look like a different unsuspecting girl, beautifully constructed music to follow the flow of the needle like hand, sewing and stuffing the doll, replacing its eyes with newly darker buttons, taking each strand of hair off in one swift motion, and a bright hue of blue on top of the once brunette frizziness of the other dolls hair, after polishing the coat and boots the window is once again opened and the blue haired doll drifts away into the star like void.
Images of evil mothers, buttons sewn into children’s eyes, a great transformation that turns a sweet looking mother into a spider like monster, these are the kind of things that fueled my nightmares as a kid. In 2009, Laika Studios released their first feature film by the name of Coraline, this claymation classic is about an 11 year old blue-haired girl whose cat-like curiosity almost ends up killing her. The film is based on Neil Gaiman’s novel by the same title released in 2002, but what are the origins of such a dark themed children’s book? According to an interview from HarperCollins Publishers with Neil Gaiman, his daughter Holly would come home from kindergarten and dictate “stories about young girls…who would normally have evil witches pretending to be their mothers, and the witches would lock the little girls up, and the girls would escape.” These seeds started the roots of Coraline but it wasn’t until Gaiman went out to look for horror books to read to his four year old that he realized he “couldn’t find anything”, and so Gaiman set out to write a 2,000 word short story, gathering pieces from his childhood like the layout of the flat he grew up in. After gathering so much information, Gaiman realized Coraline would be much more than a short story, and in 2001 Gaiman spoke with his publisher about getting Coraline adapted into a claymation film. With great admiration toward Henry Selicks work on James and the Giant Peach, Gaiman asked his publisher to send a copy of his book to Selick. A week later Gaiman received a call from Selick, he wanted to adapt Coraline into a film. It then took Selick seven years to create the movie.
Coraline is a film about a girl who does not appreciate anyone in her life, She neglects her parents’ efforts to manage their work and lifes all at once, she is needy but seeks a normal amount of attention any child her age would. She is a mean, grouchy, bossy girl who has it out for every character introduced in the first ten minutes of the film. She only learns to accept the people in her life, once someone a lot more mean than her, tricks her and kidnaps her parents. The other mother is an evil witch, an ancient soul referred to as the Beldam. When she feels all alone, when the beldam has destroyed most of her hope, three of the beldams past victims as well as an alternate version of Coraline’s neighbor Wybie, help her find the hope and determination that defeat the witch and get her parents back. Coraline finds her parents and children’s souls when she accepts Miss Spink and Forcible, Coraline’s downstairs neighbors and they give her a small triangle shaped item that shows her lost items. It was only through isolation that Coraline learned to appreciate the people who once were, fighting for their return and fighting for the freedom of the souls the beldam had trapped so long ago.
When I was 5-6 years old my mother bought a copy of Coraline on DVD. Thus began my horrifying experience with this amazing claymation film. The dull colors of the real world are a great contrast to the bright and colorful scenes of the world Coraline visits when she goes through a peculiar door. Toward the climax of the film, the colors all fade away and the world starts to crumble around coraline, the color choices in each scene really carry the movie towards its unique style. The soundtrack in this film is incredible, with tracks such as “Dreaming” and “Exploration” adding an old, ancient tone, and mood that is unique to this film alone. To think back at everything I saw when I was younger, I really came to realize that Coraline is exactly what Neil Gaiman and Henry Selick set out to create, a children’s horror novel/film that does every part, from the lights to the characters, from the colors to the music, perfectly.