Drawn That Way


By Daniel Pellegrino

January 14, 2010

This must be what Blue Velvet Vertigo feels like.

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Art is a feeling. Coraline is a feeling. The moment the credits begin to play, the viewer is in a world that evokes such an eerie disposition, it's amazing the film succeeded on a financial level the way that it did (over $75 million domestically). The film opens on a rainy day. Grays and blues saturate the screen as a melodic song reminiscent of something off a novelty Halloween compilation fills the air. Most viewers expect a children's movie. I picture many parents getting seated in a crowded theater, waiting for bright colors, a sarcastic animal sidekick, or the vocal stylings of Randy Newman. It never happens. The closest they get is a sadistic black cat. Based on the book by Neil Gaiman, Coraline is the story of a quirky blue-haired girl who searches for an adventure and gets more than she bargained for. Usually, this type of story is reserved for young boys searching for mischief. However, in 2009 audiences were taught a couple lessons about women: 1) Teri Hatcher could find herself in a good movie before Eva Longoria. And 2) Young girls could be just as tough, curious and smart as young men.

Coraline is different than most animated films. Unique. Creative. Eerie. When you're a child, your mind is constantly making up scenarios, turning a few sleeping bags and a kitchen table into a cavernous maze. Somewhere around the awkward introduction of facial hair and the social politics of the tenth grade, we lose the ability to let our minds create new worlds. It's a shame because around this time we are also learning the tools to help us create and do whatever profession awaits our future. A select few individuals are able to do both. Able to be a child and a grown-up. Able to create new worlds and share them with others. Neil Gaiman, writer of Coraline, is one of these people. Henry Selick, director of Coraline, is also one of these people. Together they were able to craft a fantastic film using stop-motion animation.


Going into the plot of Coraline would be spoiling it for those who know nothing about it. One of the amazing things about the film is discovering the eccentricities as it goes on. Furthermore, I don't know that I can successfully describe the film without diminishing some of its wonderment. Released in 3-D theaters early in 2009, the film went on to gross over $121 million worldwide, despite a shoddy advertising campaign. Many film buffs recognize it as one of two 2009 films that must be seen in 3-D (the other, Avatar). Both are feasts for the eyes, but Coraline can be enjoyed just as well on standard DVD or BluRay. Certainly the film benefited from the timely popularity of 3-D as it was released in theaters. But it was word-of-mouth that kept the film grossing money after the special effect novelty wore off.

Disregarding the added dimension, after about two minutes, you forget that the film was crafted using tiny models that were moved ever so slightly to create single frames of the movie. The viewer becomes part of this world. We root for Coraline to defeat her "Other Mother". We accept the buttons for eyes. We believe it. Did you feel the same way watching Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs? The ability to enter the world that animators create separates the Planet 51s of the world from the Ups. Enter Coraline's world and maybe, just maybe, you will have a desire to build yourself a fort on the next rainy Sunday.

I can't wrap this up without mentioning Neil Gaiman's current bestseller, The Graveyard Book. It's a fantastic story in the same vein as Coraline. It seems stop-motion animation would be perfect for the graveyard setting and ghostly characters. If you get a chance, pick up the book from your local library or Borders. It's exactly the kind of story that will open up your imagination, to help you be a kid again. Perhaps the high sales will ensure a Halloween release date in Imax 3-D for 2011? Fingers crossed someone like Henry Selick will take hold of the story and craft a film as wonderful as Coraline. In the meantime, I'll stack up my Coraline BluRay next to my other favorite animated film from the 2009, Up.



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