Coraline – did you see it yet?

Posted by on Feb 9, 2009 in Industry Events | 19 Comments


Coraline debuted this weekend at #3 at the box office, making 16.3 million in its first weekend.  Did you see the film yet?  What were your thoughts?  Let us know in the comments area!


  1. :: smo ::
    February 9, 2009

    loved it! and i’m really glad that the union square screenings have been selling out! makes me feel like an interesting stop motion movie can maybe compete with all the obnoxious cg movies coming out.

    i never realized how similar pan’s labyrinth was to coraline until i saw it in a visual medium, that was kind of strange, but they’re both sort of through the looking glass inspired anyway so whatev.

    good times, enjoyed the subtle use of 3d. everyone giggled in the beginning when the needle came toward the screen. people seemed to really dig it in the theater i was in!

  2. Elliot Cowan
    February 9, 2009

    I think that on the whole it was very fine film making.
    It created a sense of place that most animated films can’t seem to manage (CG films all seem to take place in the same universe).
    I did think the pacing was a little relaxed for my liking, though.
    The second best animated film I’ve seen in years.

  3. Rich Gorey
    February 9, 2009

    Loved the stop motion, was delighted by the elegance and oddly creepy sense of decay and melancholy of this film. The storytelling, to my way of thinking, was a bit cluttered and more complicated than it needed to be, and I did feel the film took a while to get where it was going. As an animator, I was impressed with the scale and the opulence of the sets, the fluidity of the characters’ movements, and the design of the film. The voice acting was nicely done, and the strange cast of supporting characters was intriguing. I saw the film in 3-D, but the effects were subtle: not a lot of things flying at the screen, so I’m not sure I’d insist fans rush to the 3-D auditoriums. I suppose “Coraline” is more of an experience than an example of strong storytelling, though the kids in the audience I saw it with seemed to love it unconditionally, and they were able to manage around the movie’s several disturbing and frightening images.

  4. Elliot Cowan
    February 9, 2009

    I didn’t see it in 3D and I can’t say I’m especially interested.

    The “frightening” aspect of the film is an interesting topic.
    I wouldn’t say it’s any scarier than Time Bandits – a film I consider to be one of the finest examples of family entertainment ever.

  5. Richard O'Connor
    February 9, 2009

    I wrote a little about it:

    Elliot, its good for you that you didn’t see it in 3D. It was painful and made the slow pacing turn tedious.

    I had to shut my eyes (sending me to a dreamland where I had cool parents…)

    Time Bandits is fun, and there’s something joyless about Coraline -that’s the great distinction.

    A friend made the astute observation that instead of a narrative story structure, Coraline has a video game structure. She’d do something, return to “base”, then do the same thing again but advance a level.

    And in terms of the animation itself, I wouldn’t say it was particularly impressive -but only due the high standards that have been set (and the painful difficulty of looking through neutral density glasses at an already dark picture). The Corpse Bride, for instance offered more virutoso animation in this medium which for the rest of time will be seen as the ugly stepsister to CGI.

    One last thing, Coraline herself is a lousy main character. She’s whiny and uninteresting.

  6. Elliot Cowan
    February 9, 2009

    Harsh critisism, Richard, but not entirely unfounded.

    I agree with your comments about the video game story telling for example.

  7. Tim Rauch
    February 9, 2009

    I enjoyed it (in 3D). The visuals were fantastic and I enjoyed the drama and humor. Still, there was a little something off for me, the end felt slightly anti-climactic, and I think Richard’s point about it being sort of “video game-like” could be the reason. I was also a bit turned off by the constantly upturned lips and scrunched brow on most of the characters… why is this so popular in animation design? Still, lots of fun, hopefully it will be a hit. The side characters were particularly enjoyable. I’m hoping animated films for “young adults” will help start the transition to animated films being made with more complex and “adult” themes. Bravo to everyone at Laika, and Neil Gaiman and Henry Selick in particular.

  8. Joy Vaccese
    February 9, 2009

    i loved the book by Neil Gaiman! he’s amazing. so far from what i’ve seen from the teasers, it looks just how i pictured it when reading the book. i didn’t get a chance to see it over the weekend but i can’t wait.

  9. Richard O'Connor
    February 9, 2009

    I didn’t mean to sound harsh, it’s notable that this a film which doesn’t care about Hollywood convention and follows the author’s muse.

    It’s unfortunate that it doesn’t provide for a better way of telling a story. It puts Spectacle (opsis) first and Narrative (mythos) last followed closely by Character (ethos).

    Also telling -for me -is that the one moment of cinematic excitement was the TMBG song. Typically, such things are cringeworthy, here is was the only moment of true magic.

  10. Will Krause
    February 9, 2009

    Something seemed strangely video-game to me too… especially with the gathering of three special objects as a final test.

    Also, the music seemed kinda disjointed – why is the story of a girl who has moved from Michigan to Oregon set to a few French-language songs along with one from They Might be Giants?

    All in all, I liked many bits and pieces of the film, (light-up bugs! the degeneration of the button-eyed father!) but not the story, which was too choppy to let it all hold together.

    The 3-D effect was fun when the camera was staying still, or when the action wasn’t especially fast, but on moving-camera shots the images would strobe in a way that left my eyes pretty exhausted by the end of the film. Maybe it was partially due to the way that traditional stop-motion animation doesn’t have blurred shots since each frame is taken with a stationary camera. All of that detail moving in 3-D was a lot to take in!

  11. jake armstrong
    February 9, 2009

    I agree with Richard on a few points, namely, the video game scenario I think stood out for most people I’ve talked to. That felt a little contrived, but I thought that was the only real bad thing to it, which was nice.

    But I disagree that corpse bride was animated better. Corpse bride had a much more involved attention to having things move absolutely perfect, which I think was a downfall, most non-animators I talked to about Corpse Bride thought it was CG. Also, didn’t they use the turnkey-face puppets on it, that made their face positions seem stiff? I thought Coraline had more life to it, and way more rubbery faces. Personally I thought it was probably my favorite stop-motion in the technical aspect.

    I kind of agree with everyone about the 3D thing. I saw it in 3D, and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would, but still I can’t wait to get it on DVD so I can watch it without the 3D. It was distracting, and it did make me dizzy ultimately. I thought it was sad that they feel they need to jazz up stop-motion with 3D, though there was incredible innovation in how they forced the depth in set-building.

    Overall, I totally recommend it. it was a pretty awesome looking movie.

  12. Emmett Goodman
    February 9, 2009

    I saw it in 3D at the Pavillion in Brooklyn, where screenings were selling out fast this past weekend. All I can say is this was an outstanding piece of work. I have to admit, I never knew of Neil Gaiman before I learned of this movie, but I have been checking out his stuff since August. The story has the feeling of a fairy tale, albeit modern day, but still timeless and accessible.

    The stop-motion was fantastic to watch, and had a real sense of invitation that the best stop-motion tends to induce. The characters were all fully formed, and put to good use throughout the piece. Henry Selick has outdone himself.

    The voice acting was pretty spot on too. Dakota Fanning did an excellent job. And kudos to Ian McShane as the Great Bubinsky.

    And I am sure that a lot of other animators are saying this, so I will say it too. THIS is the kind of animated feature I want to see more of. It was done the way most of them should. Free of Hollywood cliches. I must be pretty cliche to say it, but it is true. I want to make movies like this (I feel the same way about Nightmare Before Christmas for that matter).
    I do not, however, understand what’s being said about the timing of the film. The timing was excellent, and I don’t understand what’s wrong with the relaxed timing. For me, that’s only a complaint when it drags on a scene a lot longer than it needs, which is something common in a lot of 3D movies.

    There are just a couple of quips. One is the use of 3D. Well first off, 3D glasses are still a pain in the ass if you wear real glasses. The Real 3D specs don’t obstruct my view too much, but they tint the screen a little darker than necessary. And I am sure I will come up with a second quip soon. It is an outstanding movie, but like every other movie, it isn’t perfect.

  13. Charles K.
    February 10, 2009

    I saw it last night and thought it was amazing. It was just as wonderful as I thought it would be. Visually it is absolutely top notch; it really does give CGI a very good run for the money. In regards to the story, I thought it was fine at the time, but looking back, it does seem a little flat. There’s not a lot of character development. Although this doesn’t harm the film per se, it does make memories of it a little less vivid.

    I didn’t see it in 3D (that projection method must be banned in Baltimore or something) and all I can say is that I could tell which sequences were shot with 3D in mind. Again, it didn’t detract from my viewing, but I am curious to see how well it satnds up on the home screen.

    Solid effort by the crew at Laika though, I think it’s already a classic.

  14. Mike Overbeck
    February 15, 2009

    I just saw it and really enjoyed it, and I loved the pacing. One of my favorite parts is the sequence where Coraline wanders bored through the house. There are some really nice moments there, like stomping out lump in the floor runner. It’s so refreshing to see something that almost dares to bore the audience. One movie I’d compare this to in contrast is Meet the Robinsons. There’s something that just bugs me about those Disney adult characters that have waaaay too much energy. I love that the we end up loving the frumpy parents, the REAL ones. Such a great job of building that gloomy environment, and such ugly yet endearing characters. My neck even hurt from watching characters with such bad posture.
    I saw it in 3D and loved it! I do not think 3-D is just a gimmick. It only makes the imaginary world more immersive and tactile. I think it is something to keep people coming to the theater in the age of surround sound systems and blu ray DVD’s.
    Yeah, the ending did feel like a Zelda game. But man, the visual imagery and experience of this film overwhelms any story problems that I could find.

  15. Elliot Cowan
    February 15, 2009

    Mike – you say “It’s so refreshing to see something that almost dares to bore the audience.”

    How is this refreshing?!
    Deliberately being dull is not good film making (unless it’s trying to be funny).

  16. David Levy
    February 15, 2009

    A problem in the animation community is that we give so many points for craft that we excuse lackluster storytelling and problematic writing. Coraline IS stunning to look at. Did you expect anything less? I know the top stop motion artists from around the world were cherry picked to work on this movie, but did that mean they had an inspired script on which to hang their talents? That’s up to debate, but my vote is “no.”

    The story goes where many stories have gone before (Alice, Spirited Away, Beetlejuice, James and the Giant Peach, etc..) and I can’t say that Coraline is an improvement on those.

    I could tell five minutes into the film that they already weren’t going to bother to establish the audiences’ bond with the lead character. So, all I had to cling onto were the visuals. Its like a mediocre live action film that happens to have amazing cinematography.

    There were lots of loop holes in the story and “pull a rabbit out of a hat” solutions to any problems that came our heroine’s way.

    And, why should there be so much rich fantasy already in Coraline’s world before she even experiences the fantasy? And, what is with her friend’s head? Was his neck broken? I find it very distracting to look at him.

    I found the filmmaker’s very uninterested in spending any time with character moments that might actually make the audience care. There’s a very brief moment when Coraline puts herself to bed with fake parents on either side of her and then she quickly cries and goes to bed. The whole effect came across rushed, and a real chance for a connection with the character was wasted.

    I was happy to see this film in 3D on the big screen, but in my opinion, it was far from a masterpiece…

  17. David Levy
    February 15, 2009

    Also, there was lots of over-done animation. For example, I saw the movie with a non-animation person who remarked afterwards, “why does character’s arm always have to do a circular flourish when it simply is grabbing a door knob? Why can’t they just grab the door knob and tug?”

    I couldn’t agree more, and over-done animation is the sad by-product of the wonderful principles of animation developed so long ago.

  18. Elliot Cowan
    February 15, 2009

    Although I don’t agree entirely with all your points.

    This however:

    “And, what is with her friend’s head? Was his neck broken? I find it very distracting to look at him. ”

    is something I agree with entirely.

    I actually found him uncomfortable to watch.

    I like that you didn’t especially like it, though.

  19. Steve McGinnis
    February 16, 2009

    It made a pretty picture….not so much a pretty film. I found the pacing slow, and I agree with the video game quality (though I figured “meh it’s like Alice in Wonderland, Spirited Away, Pan’s Labyrinth and other such films…it just doesn’t work as well as those others”)
    I found myself not caring for the characters…The part where she’s in bed with the parent dolls…..could have been such a GREAT moment…but alas it wasn’t…

    Personally I think this was a film that I’m happy I saw….but probably won’t have the craving to see it again for at least 6 years from now.