Article written by Emmett Goodman.
On November 17, a private screening of Coraline in 3D took place in New York. Taking place with the film, director Henry Selick made an appearance for a Q&A. I have known Henry Selick’s name since The Nightmare Before Christmas (directed by Selick, produced and conceived by Tim Burton). He has come to be known as one of the patron-saints of stop-motion animation. Actually, he is one of the finest directors animation can hope for.
A weird choice for a venue, the screening took place at the Union Square Stadium 14. This choice for a private screening in a very public multi-plex seemed unusual to me, and it still does. None of the regular employees knew anything about it. Still, those who knew about it managed to get all the info needed from security.
All invitees had to wait outside. People passing by the line asked what this was for, and seemed confused as to why there was a line for a film that finished its theatrical run eight months ago. But with award season in full swing, Coraline is a movie that needs to re-enter everyone’s psyche to get its due consideration. And I am assuming that is why Mr. Selick is taking the movie on a small promotional tour.
The screening took place in Theater 12. There were no previews or introduction. Watching a movie in 3D can go any direction. I happen to enjoy the idea of 3D, even though it is still weird needing to wear 3D glasses over your regular glasses. Also, I found with the last few 3D movies I have seen, there is confusion as to why the movie is 3D in the first place.
Watching Coraline in 3D makes a big difference. Because it is stop-motion, the objects photographed are (mostly) physically real, and the 3D really brings that out. That’s not to say it is better with or without 3D. It’s still a damn good movie. It is beautifully written, and the use of stop-motion brings out a feeling of awe. When done right, stop-motion can be very rewarding, as can 2D animation.
Finally, the highlight for those of us who have seen the movie. Henry Selick appears, answering questions about the process of Coraline. Mr. Selick has a peculiar personality, one you would expect from someone so devoted to delicate, painstaking stop-motion. His eyes seemed closed most of the time, and he was always waving his hands. When asked a question, he always seemed to be deep in thought, slowing down his speech while finding the right words to answer with. He still manages to come out with a full and clear answer to each question.
Among the questions asked, a woman interested in stop-motion asked “How does one become Henry Selick?” This came after Mr. Selick proclaimed his admiration for Ray Harryhausen. He re-iterated how he started as a 2D animator at Disney, and during his down-time, he did all sorts of experiments. He firmly stated that when directing a film (long or short), you have to make it great and to really put yourself into it. That last part says a lot to me, as most of the best movies come from people we don’t know, and therefore, are presented in ways we never imagined (as opposed to movies made up of worn-out ideas and pop references).
At the end of the Q&A, I headed into a line waiting to grab an audience with Mr. Selick. I was last in line, but managed to do a quick drawing of him. Upon meeting him, he signed the drawing, and I got to ask him a couple questions. He was very warm and very thorough with his answers. I got to walk out of the theater with him, and later congratulated him on the movie. It was hours later, I realized he still has one of my pens! Oh well.
Mr. Selick ended his Q&A wishing us all the best of luck in making great films. Mr. Selick was at CAL-Arts with a group inspired by Disney’s Nine Old Men, the golden age of animation and Ray Harryhausen. Now we have animators who are inspired by Mr. Selick, Tim Burton, Brad Bird, John Lassetter, John Musker and Ron Clements, among others.