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Coraline (film)

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Coraline and her cat crawl over an open doorway with light coming from it. The film's tagline reads "Be careful what you wish for" which is written on the wall. On the film's logo, a button is used for the "O" and a cat with a tail sticking out as an "L", with another door with light coming out.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byHenry Selick
Screenplay byHenry Selick
Based onCoraline
by Neil Gaiman
Produced by
  • Pete Kozachik
Edited by
Music byBruno Coulais
Distributed by
Release dates
Running time
100 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$60 million[3][4]
Box office$131.8 million[3]

Coraline is a 2009 American stop-motion animated film written and directed by Henry Selick, based on Neil Gaiman's novella of the same name.[5] Produced by Laika, as the studio's first feature film,[6] it features the voice talents of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Keith David, John Hodgman, Robert Bailey Jr., and Ian McShane. The musical score is by Bruno Coulais. The film tells the story of its eponymous character discovering an idealized alternate universe behind a secret door in her new home, unaware that it contains something dark and sinister.

Just as Gaiman was finishing his novella in 2002, he met Selick and invited him to make a film adaptation, as Gaiman was a fan of Selick's other stop-motion projects, The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and James and the Giant Peach (1996). When Selick thought that a direct adaptation would lead to "maybe a 47-minute movie", the screenplay was expanded. Looking for a design different from that of most animation, Selick discovered the work of Japanese illustrator Tadahiro Uesugi and invited him to become the concept artist. His biggest influences were on the color palette, which was muted in the real world and more colorful in the Other World, as in The Wizard of Oz. To capture stereoscopy for the 3D release, the animators shot each frame from two slightly apart camera positions. Production of the stop-motion animation feature took place at a warehouse in Hillsboro, Oregon.

The film was theatrically released in the United States on February 6, 2009, by Focus Features after a world premiere at the Portland International Film Festival on February 5,[7] and received critical acclaim. It grossed $16.85 million during its opening weekend, ranking third at the box office,[8] and by the end of its run had grossed over $124 million worldwide, making it the third-highest-grossing stop-motion film of all time after Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The film won Annie Awards for Best Music in an Animated Feature Production, Best Character Design in an Animated Feature Production and Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Production, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and a Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film. It has developed a cult following in the years since its release and is considered one of the greatest animated films of all time. With Coraline, Laika became the first company to make a feature-length film using replacement faces made by a 3D printer.[9]


11-year-old Coraline Jones has to adapt to life in the Pink Palace apartments, an old house in Ashland, Oregon, after moving from Pontiac, Michigan. Her work-at-home parents, Charlie and Mel, are preoccupied with completing a gardening catalog. She crosses paths with a black cat and Wyborne "Wybie" Lovat, the landlady's grandson, who leaves her a lookalike ragdoll. It leads Coraline to a small door with a brick wall behind it. That night, a jumping mouse leads Coraline back to the door, which leads to the Other World, an alternate universe where her parents' button-eyed Doppelgängers lavish her with food and attention.

Upon waking, Coraline finds she has returned to the real world. She meets the other residents of the house: the "Amazing" Mr. Bobinsky, an eccentric Russian liquidator-turned-gymnast who owns a mouse circus; and retired burlesque performers April Spink and Miriam Forcible. Bobinsky and Ms. Spink warn her about the Other World, and Wybie tells Coraline how his grandmother's sister disappeared one day.

Coraline goes back nonetheless. The Other Wybie, who is mute, accompanies her to watch the Other Bobinsky's dancing circus mice. When Coraline returns to the Other World yet again, this time during the day, the cat arrives and tells her he can traverse the two worlds and warns her about the Other World. She watches the Other Ms. Spink and Ms. Forcible perform. Afterward, the Other Mother offers to let her stay permanently, on condition that she has buttons sewn over her eyes, which horrifies Coraline. She desperately tries to fall asleep, but even after waking remains in the Other World. When she tries to escape through the door, the Other Mother half-transforms into an arachnid---like form and imprisons her by throwing her through a mirror into a dark room.

There, three ghost children tell Coraline how the "Beldam" (Other Mother) used ragdolls to spy on them and use what she learned to lure them into the Other World; they accepted her invitation to stay and had buttons sewn over their eyes. Coraline can free them by retrieving their "eyes". After she promises to help them, the Other Wybie helps her return home.

Coraline cannot find her parents, forcing her to return to the Other World, taking along a Ouija planchette-like a stone from Ms. Spink that is "good for lost things". The cat suggests Coraline propose a game: if she can find her parents and the three "eyes", the Beldam will let them all go free; if not, Coraline will accept her offer. As Coraline finds each "eye", a part of the Other World turns lifeless as the entire dimension gradually disintegrates.

The Beldam assumes her final form, a broken-doll-faced arachnid. The ghost of Wybie's great-aunt warns Coraline that the Beldam will not honor her bargain. Coraline tricks her into opening the door to the real world by claiming that her parents are behind it. Coraline throws the cat at her and takes the snow globe with her imprisoned parents, and the cat claws out the Beldam's button eyes. The Beldam creates a giant spider's web on the floor. Coraline narrowly escapes through the door, severing the Beldam's hand, which slips through to the real world unnoticed.

The snow globe back home is broken, and Coraline's parents are freed. They have no recollection of the ordeal, but having finished their work, they spend more time with Coraline. That night, the freed ghosts warn Coraline that the Beldam is trying to get the key to the small door. When Coraline goes to the well to dispose of it, the Beldam's severed hand attacks her, trying to drag her back to the Other World. Wybie smashes it with a large rock. They throw the fragments and the key into the well. The next day, all the Pink Palace residents come to a party. Wybie brings his grandmother so that Coraline can reveal her missing sister's fate.

Voice cast[edit]


"Coraline [was] a huge risk. But these days in animation, the safest bet is to take a risk."

Henry Selick[10]

Director Henry Selick met author Neil Gaiman just as Gaiman was finishing the novel Coraline, and as Gaiman was a fan of Selick's The Nightmare Before Christmas, he invited him to make a film adaptation. As Selick thought a direct adaptation would lead to "maybe a 47-minute movie", his screenplay had some expansions, such as the creation of Wybie, who was not present in the original novel. When looking for a design different from that of most animation, Selick discovered the work of Japanese illustrator Tadahiro Uesugi and invited him to become the concept artist. One of Uesugi's biggest influences was on the color palette, which was muted in reality and more colorful in the Other World, as in The Wizard of Oz.[11] Uesugi said: "at the beginning, it was supposed to be a small project over a few weeks to simply create characters; however, I ended up working on the project for over a year, eventually designing sets and backgrounds, on top of drawing the basic images for the story to be built upon."[12]

Coraline was staged in a 140,000-square-foot (13,000 m2) warehouse in Hillsboro, Oregon.[10][13] The stage was divided into 50 lots,[14] which played host to nearly 150 sets.[10] Among the sets were three miniature Victorian mansions, a 42-foot (12.8 m) apple orchard, and a model of Ashland, Oregon, including tiny details such as banners for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.[13] The Amazing Garden scene was the most complicated set created for the film. The hundreds of handmade flowers were created to grow and move accordingly for when Coraline entered the garden.[15] More than 28 animators worked at a time on rehearsing or shooting scenes, producing 90–100 seconds of finished animation each week.[16] To capture stereoscopy for the 3D release, the animators shot each frame from two slightly apart camera positions.[11]

Every object on the screen was made for the film.[11] The crew used three 3D printing systems from Objet in the development and production of the film. Thousands of high-quality 3D models, ranging from facial expressions to doorknobs, were printed in 3D using the Polyjet matrix systems, which enable the fast transformation of CAD (computer-aided design) drawings into high-quality 3D models.[17] The puppets had separate parts for the upper and lower parts of the head that could be exchanged for different facial expressions,[11] and the characters could exhibit over 208,000 facial expressions.[17] In the "Hidden Worlds: The Films of LAIKA" exhibit at Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture, the sign for "Replacing Faces" display said there were 207,336 possible face combinations for Coraline and 17,633 for her mother. There were 28 identical puppets of Coraline. Each one took 3–4 months to make and usually took 10 people to construct each one.[18] Computer artists composited separately shot elements together or added their elements, which had to look handcrafted, not computer-generated; for instance, the flames were done with traditional animation and painted digitally, and the fog was dry ice.[11]

At its peak, the film involved the efforts of 450 people,[10] including 30[13] to 35[10] animators and digital designers in the Digital Design Group (DDG), directed by Dan Casey, and more than 250 technicians and designers.[13] Principal photography took 18 months. One crew member, Althea Crome, was hired specifically to knit miniature sweaters and other clothing for the puppet characters, sometimes using knitting needles as thin as human hair.[10] A single garment could take anywhere from six weeks to six months to complete. The clothes also simulated wear using paint and a file.[11]


The soundtrack for Coraline features songs by Bruno Coulais, with one ("Other Father Song") by They Might Be Giants. The Other Father's singing voice is provided by John Linnell, one of the band's singers. The band was hired to write an entire soundtrack for the film, but according to John Flansburgh, the production team "wanted the music to be more creepy", and only one song was ultimately used.[19] Coulais's score was performed by the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra and features choral pieces sung by the Children's Choir of Nice in a nonsense language.[20] The main soloist, a young girl heard singing in several parts of the film, is coincidentally named Coraline.[20] Coraline won Coulais the 2009 Annie Award for best score for an animated feature.


Box office[edit]

According to Paul Dergarabedian, a film business analyst with Media by Numbers, for the film to succeed it needed a box office comparable to Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, which had grossed $16 million its opening weekend and ended up making more than $192 million worldwide; before the film's release, Dergarabedian thought Laika Studios "should be pleased" was Coraline to make $10 million in its opening weekend.[21] In its US opening weekend, the film grossed $16.85 million, ranking third at the box office.[8] It made $15 million during its second weekend, bringing its U.S. total up to $35.6 million, $25.5 million of which came from 3D presentations.[22] As of November 2009, the film had grossed $75,286,229 in the U.S. and Canada and $49,310,169 in other territories, for a total of $124,596,398 worldwide.[3]

The film was rereleased on August 14, 2023, where it grossed $4.91 million over two days.[23]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 90% based on 271 reviews, with an average rating of 7.80/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "With its vivid stop-motion animation combined with Neil Gaiman's imaginative story, Coraline is a film that's both visually stunning and wondrously entertaining."[24] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 80 out of 100 based on reviews from 38 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[25]

Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, calling it "a beautiful film about several nasty people" as well as "nightmare fodder for children, however brave, under a certain age."[26] David Edelstein said the film is "a bona fide fairy-tale" that needed a "touchless entrancement and a touch more ... story."[27] A. O. Scott of The New York Times called the film "exquisitely realized", with a "slower pace and a more contemplative tone than the novel. It is certainly exciting, but rather than race through ever noisier set pieces toward a hectic climax in the manner of so much animation aimed at kids, Coraline lingers in an atmosphere that is creepy, wonderfully strange, and full of feeling."[28]


Awards and nominations
Award Category Recipient(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Animated Feature Henry Selick Nominated
American Film Institute Awards Best 10 Movies Won
Annie Awards
Best Animated Feature Nominated
Best Directing in an Animated Feature Production Henry Selick Nominated
Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production Dawn French Nominated
Best Music in an Animated Feature Production Bruno Coulais Won
Best Character Animation in an Animated Feature Production Travis Knight Nominated
Best Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Shane Prigmore; Shannon Tindle Won
Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Production Christopher Appelhans; Tadahiro Uesugi Won
Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production Chris Butler Nominated
Annecy International Animated Film Festival Best Feature – Tied Won
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Animated Feature Nominated
BAFTA Awards Best Animated Film Nominated
British Academy Children's Awards Best Feature Film Bill Mechanic, Henry Selick, Claire Jennings, Mary Sandell Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Animated Feature Nominated
Cinema Audio Society Awards
Lifetime Achievement Henry Selick Won
Career Achievement (sound designer/re-recording mixer) Randy Thom Won
EDA Alliance of Women Film Journalists Award
Best Animated Female (the character of Coraline) Won
Best Animated Film Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Animated Feature Film Nominated
Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing: Sound Effects, Foley, Music, Dialogue and ADR Animation in a Feature Film Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Awards Best Animated Film Nominated
People's Choice Awards Best Animated 3D Movie of 2009 Nominated
Producers Guild of America Awards Producer of the Year in Animated Motion Picture Nominated
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards Best Animated Feature Won
St. Louis Film Critics Awards Best Animated Film Nominated
Visual Effects Society Awards
Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Claire Jennings, Henry Selick Nominated
Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Coraline – Lead Animators Travis Knight and Trey Thomas Nominated
Outstanding Effects Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture John Allan Armstrong, Richard Kent Burton, Craig Dowsett Nominated
Outstanding Models and Miniatures in a Feature Motion Picture Deborah Cook, Matthew DeLeu, Paul Mack, Martin Meunier Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Animated Film Nominated

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United States on July 21, 2009, by Universal Studios Home Entertainment. A 3-D version comes with four sets of 3-D glasses—specifically the green-magenta anaglyph image. Coraline was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United Kingdom on October 12, 2009. A 3-D version of the film was also released on a 2-disc Collector's Edition. The DVD opened to first-week sales of 1,036,845 and over $19 million in revenue. Total sales stand at over 2.6 million units and over $45 million in revenue.[4] A two-disc Blu-ray 3D set, which includes a stereoscopic 3D on the first disc and an anaglyph 3D image, was released in 2011. A new edition from Shout! Factory under license from Universal was released on August 31, 2021.[29] The film was released on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray on December 13, 2022.[30]

Video game[edit]

The website for Coraline involves an interactive exploration game where the player can scroll through Coraline's world. It won the 2009 Webby Award for "Best Use of Animation or Motion Graphics", both by the people and the Webby organization. It was also nominated for the Webby "Movie and Film" category.[31] On June 16, 2008, D3 Publisher announced the release of a video game based on the film. It was developed by Papaya Studio for the Wii and PlayStation 2 and by Art Co. for Nintendo DS. It was released on January 27, 2009, close to the film's theatrical release.[32] The soundtrack was released digitally February 3, 2009, by E1 Music, and in stores on February 24, 2009.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hudetz, Mary (February 8, 2009). "Made in Oregon: animated 'Coraline'". KVAL. Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
  2. ^ "Coraline rated PG by the BBFC". BBFC. January 29, 2009. Archived from the original on April 24, 2009. Retrieved April 5, 2009. Run Time 100m 19s
  3. ^ a b c "Coraline". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 17, 2023.
  4. ^ a b "Coraline (2009) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved August 1, 2021.
  5. ^ Savage, Annaliza (November 14, 2008). "Gaiman Calls Coraline the Strangest Stop-Motion Film Ever". Wired.com. Condé Nast Digital. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  6. ^ "Who We Are - LAIKA Studios". Retrieved October 20, 2023.
  7. ^ Turnquist, Kristi (February 5, 2009). "'Coraline' premiere offers Portland some Hollywood glitter". OregonLive.com. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  8. ^ a b DiOrio, Carl (February 8, 2009). "Moviegoers into 'Into You'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
  9. ^ "Coraline - LAIKA Studios". Retrieved August 16, 2023.
  10. ^ a b c d e f McNichol, Tom (February 2009). "Hollywood Knights". Portland Monthly. Retrieved February 15, 2009.
  11. ^ a b c d e f "The Making of Coraline", Coraline DVD
  12. ^ Desowitz, Bill (January 23, 2009). "Tadahiro Uesugi Talks 'Coraline' Design". Animation World. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
  13. ^ a b c d Mesh, Aaron (February 4, 2009). "Suspended Animation". Willamette Week. Archived from the original on February 8, 2009. Retrieved February 10, 2009.
  14. ^ "Backstage view (19th of 21 backlot production photos)". David Strick's Hollywood Backlot. Los Angeles Times. August 7, 2008. Retrieved February 15, 2009. Backstage view of the facility in which Coraline's stop-motion animation is filmed in Portland, Oregon. The Coraline stage is divided into approximately 50 units separated by black curtains. Each unit contains a different set that is in the process of being dressed, lit, rigged, or shot.
  15. ^ Coraline - LAIKA Studios. www.laika.com/our-films/coraline#:~:text=over%20four%20years.-,Principal%20photography%20alone%20took%2018%20months.,printed%20on%20a%203D%20printer.
  16. ^ J. McLean, Thomas (September 16, 2008). "On the Set with 'Coraline': Where the Motion Doesn't Stop". Animation World Network. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
  17. ^ a b Objet Geometries (February 5, 2009). "Objet Geometries' 3-D Printers Play Starring Role in New Animated Film Coraline". PR Newswire UK. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
  18. ^ "Coraline - LAIKA Studios". www.laika.com. Retrieved October 31, 2023.
  19. ^ Martin, Spencer (January 16, 2009). "They Might Be Giants (Almost) Entirely Cut Out Of 'Coraline'?". The Playlist. Retrieved March 8, 2024.
  20. ^ a b Capone (February 2, 2009). "Capone Talks with Coraline Director and Wizard Master Henry Selick". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
  21. ^ Cite error: The named reference week was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  22. ^ Brandon Gray (February 17, 2009). "Holdovers Live Under Killer Friday Debut". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  23. ^ "Coraline's Box Office Behind Only Barbie & Oppenheimer This Week". Gizmodo. August 16, 2023. Retrieved August 16, 2023.
  24. ^ "Coraline (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 23, 2022.
  25. ^ "Coraline Reviews". Metacritic. February 5, 2009. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  26. ^ Roger Ebert (February 4, 2009). "A beautiful film about several nasty people". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 30, 2021.
  27. ^ Edelstein, David (February 1, 2009). "What You See Is What You Get". New York Magazine. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  28. ^ Scott, A.O. (February 6, 2009). "Cornered in a Parallel World". The New York Times. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  29. ^ "Coraline Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com.
  30. ^ "Coraline - 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray". Amazon.
  31. ^ "13th Annual Webby Awards Nominees & Winners". The Webby Awards. Archived from the original on March 7, 2013. Retrieved June 13, 2009.
  32. ^ Remo, Chris (June 16, 2008). "D3 Announces Coraline And Shaun The Sheep Adaptations". Gamasutra. Retrieved June 16, 2008.

External links[edit]