Stop-motion animation is very much a lost art today. So few films are made using this technique anymore. The days of the great Harryhausen films are over. But Harryhausen did leave us memorable moments in films such as Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts. It was those films that influenced Tim Burton to make Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. Now, in 2009, another film will attempt to take this mantle.
The film is Coraline, an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novella of the same name. From the look of the film, you’d swear Tim Burton has done it again. But it’s not a Burton picture. Henry Selick, who also directed Nightmare Before Christmas (a Burton production), is taking the reigns on this one. But the semi-dark, almost-gothic look remains. Seriously, you’ll almost swear it’s Tim Burton.
Neil Gaiman, the author of the source, is a literary genius in his own right. He has given us stories that forge memories in our minds, while using existing bridges to get us there. In the Sandman stories, he takes us through the worlds of dreams and consciousness itself, but he shows us figures from classical history and mythology, thus weaving a new tale on established characters. In Stardust, he takes us into the world of Faerie, a completely original story that uses elements of many classic fairytales.
Coraline is a bit different. The plot tells the story of a young girl who finds a door to an alternate reality in her new home (an apartment). The new world is a vibrant opposite of her native home, with parents much more loving and accommodating then her own. Or so it seems. Through the course of the novel, the new world unravels, nearly taking Coraline with it.
The film promises to follow the source material. With a fairly obscure source, and a familiar visual style, Coraline may very well make it. The film casts Dakota Fanning in the lead role and features Lois and Clark favorite Teri Hatcher as both the Mother and the Other Mother.
At one time, the producers intended to use stop-motion for the real world and CGI for the parallel one, hoping to achieve the same magical feel that Wizard of Oz achieved in the 30’s with a sudden switch to color. This turned out to oppose the creative direction they intended to take the film.
Coraline is set for release on February 6. If you like that mixed-up, almost crazy reality and life commentary that Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride offered, you’ll want to give this one a look.