Thoughts on… Coraline (2009)

Coraline, 2009.

Directed by Henry Selick.
Featuring the voice talents of Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher.


A spine-tingling tale about a curious young girl who unlocks a mysterious door that leads to an alternate version of her life.

On the surface Coraline looks like any other children’s animation, telling the tale of a girl who teams up with her new neighbour to explore the apartments in which they live. The plot holds glimmers of a Pixaresque premise so you would be forgiven for relaxing in anticipation of a jaunty tale. However this isn’t any animation, it is the brainchild of The Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick and writer Neil Gaiman, famed for his dark and unconventional tales.

Rather than create a film based on cartoon characters, Selick has chosen to stick with his traditional stop motion models for which he has made his name, rather than opting for the modern techniques. While some may feel that this vent of animation is no longer needed, I feel that in using these charismatic characters, lovingly crafted and animated by hand, he has added an element of realism that could never be achieved by the likes of Pixar, and one that is sadly being lost into a world fuelled by technology.

The film is expertly cast with quirky kid Dakota Fanning voicing the extrovert Coraline, giving another dimension and enhanced strength to the character, which can be seen to build throughout the narrative. Teri Hatcher performs beautifully as the mother; her treacly sweet tones giving the ‘other mother’ a delightfully sinister quality and rousing our initial suspicions over her motives.

We see Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders co-star as a pair of eccentric retired actress’ which – along with Mr Bobinsky and his trained circus of mice – adds to the dreamlike feel of this other land; a theme that shows links with tales such as Alice in Wonderland where – just like Alice – Coraline falls down the proverbial rabbit hole into a land which, despite it’s exotic appearance, is not quite what it seems.

This new land is distinguished by a vibrant change in colour, removing it from the dull monotony of reality. This technique has been used throughout science fiction and fairytales, such as The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy is swept from the monochrome Kansas into the Technicolor Land of Oz. Just like Coraline, Dorothy soon learns that all is not what it seems in this world, leading both characters to the final conclusion that there really is no place like home.

In a world full of possibilities, Coraline soon learns the daunting truth that her other parents want her to replace her eyes with buttons, striking fear within both Coraline and the viewers as this bright and happy land descends into darkness. This beautifully constructed piece holds suspense throughout, as we fall further down the rabbit hole in an animation that will leave you ever exhilarated, yet unable to look at a button in quite the same way again.

Rosie Cammish