Off The Shelf: 20 Random Observations About ‘Coraline’

I have to say that I’m very excited for Tim Burton’s new stop-motion animated film ‘Frankenweenie’ that will be released later this year. Anticipation for that got me thinking about how much I love the stop motion format, so I revisited Henry Selick’s masterful ‘Coraline’.

The Details

Director: Henry Selick
Blu-ray Release Date: July 21, 2009

The 20 Random Observations
  1. Stop motion really is a dying art form. I’m glad that Burton and Selick are keeping it alive with their quirky stories that they tell every so often, but it’d be nice if we had more stop-motion movies.
  2. A couple minutes into ‘Coraline’ and I’m already thinking that this animation offers a much more interesting aesthetic than CGI. It’s more lifelike, but still very whimsical. There’s a depth and dimension here that even the best CG feature would have trouble duplicating.
  3. Scary, spindly, spider-like metal hands tearing the stuffing out of a doll? Yeah, right from the beginning, you can tell that ‘Coraline’ really isn’t a movie for young kids.
  4. The opening scene could easily be edited into a horror film. Take out the happy, dream-like music and replace it with scary, screeching violins and you’d be well on your way to creating quite a terrifying thriller.
  5. Another reason that young kids shouldn’t watch ‘Coraline’ is that Wybie has terrible posture. That kid’s back must be killing him.
  6. There are quite a few parallels to be drawn between ‘Coraline’ and ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. A young girl basically ignored by the world around her looks to escape into a fantasy that may not be as happy as it once seemed.
  7. Coraline’s dad must be the only guy in the world who can turn his head and be able to look at the back of his own neck.
  8. As a stay-at-home writer, I can tell you that the picture the movie paints of Coraline’s shut-in parents and their wild-eyed, disheveled look is completely accurate.
  9. As soon as Coraline finds herself crawling through the tunnel to her Other House, I found myself thinking that this storyline seems like it’s been ripped straight out of a ‘Silent Hill’ video game. I know it wasn’t, but they do seem eerily the same.
  10. The attention to detail is fantastic in this movie. You can tell they went to painstaking lengths to get Mr. Sergei Alexander Bobinsky’s chest, shoulder and belly hairs just so.
  11. I honestly want a “No Whistling in the House” doormat, because I can’t whistle.
  12. Miss Miriam Forcible has the largest pair of breasts to ever appear in a PG-rated movie. That I’m sure of.
  13. The part of the movie where the fog rolls in just looks so darned cool. It’s so interesting to watch how the fog plays off of the characters.
  14. The garden scene is brilliant animation. Its illuminated plant life puts James Cameron’s Pandora to shame.
  15. There are tiny details that may go unnoticed if you’re not watching closely, but the chicken-pooping popcorn machine in Bobinsky’s apartment is hilarious and something I’m adding to my Christmas list.
  16. I’m reminded of the time my friend and I made a stop-motion movie with Beanie Babies. It wasn’t nearly as cool as this movie, but it did feature one Beanie Baby scaling the fireplace mantle with a rope as the ‘Mission: Impossible’ theme played in the background.
  17. Back to the giant boobs! Holy moly, they’re huge. I wonder who was assigned to make sure that her breasts had significant bounce every time she takes a step. I didn’t see boob-jiggler in the credits.
  18. Okay, the part when Coraline is shoved into the mirror prison by her Other Mother is creepy. Those kid ghosts are scary, I don’t care what you say. I keep having flashbacks to the very first ‘Silent Hill’ videogame I played.
  19. The lack of a musical soundtrack is interesting. Yes, there’s music for the musical numbers and some light accompaniment, but much of the movie is set against a silent backdrop. It gives off a feeling of unease, but I like it.
  20. The scene where Coraline visits the Other Bobinsky and his circus suit is moving without anyone inside is probably the creepiest moment of the movie. Remix that with a horror soundtrack and you have a great scary scene.
Favorite Previously Forgotten Quote

Said by one of Coraline’s Other Toys, the octopus: “I wanna hug yo’ face!”

Final Thoughts

It’s a kiddie horror movie, if there is such a thing. ‘Coraline’ is very creepy in parts, but the fact that it’s the same animation as ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ helps a lot. Selick is a master of his craft, and I hope that he and Burton continue to champion the effort of stop-motion animation. Once they’re done, I’m afraid that no one else will pick up where they left off.


  1. EM

    While Coraline is not one of my favorites, I would agree that it is a well-made and just plain interesting film. I look forward to more of Selick’s work, and I am hoping for good things from Frankenweenie.

  2. JM

    Would you want Smaug in ‘The Hobbit’ to be stop motion animation?

    Would all the Pixar films be better in this style?

    Maybe SM is so interesting, aesthetically, because it’s so rare.

    It feels like all CGI kiddie films are starting to look the same.

    I don’t know if it’s the limits of computer technology, or the limits of Hollywood creativity, but when will movies stop looking like video games?

    • EM

      I’m waiting for movies to start looking like video games—not like the contemporary games that I presume you’re referencing and that I all but ignore, but rather like the video games that I grew up with. Even Tron and its sequel barely touched on the esthetic. It’s not one that I’d want for every CGI movie, but surely some great art could come of it.

      When you survey hand-drawn animation, you have the Disney feature fairy tales, UPA limited style, Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, and so much more—a universe of styles. I’ve been disappointed by the dearth of variety in CGI cartooning. Mavericks like The Adventures of Tintin and 2000’s Dinosaur have been both encouraging in their nonconformity and discouraging in their greater adherence to photorealism. And it seems that the whole computer-animation field cleaves far too tightly to Euclidian/Cartesian/Newtonian spatial relationships, though I appreciate the baby steps that Pixar’s “Presto” (released with WALL·E) took toward the spatial lunacy of many a Road Runner adventure.

      There shouldn’t be just one style of stop-motion, either. Check out some of Jan Švankmajer’s work. I especially like his 8½-minute “Spiel mit Steinen” (“A Game of Stones”), which is a beautiful abstract ballet of developing visual themes and constrasts…with rocks.

    • Aaron Peck

      It’s definitely the limits of creativity.

      It seems like you can do so much more with stop-motion than you can with CG animation just because I think stop-motion really pushes the limits of hands-on creativity.

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