"You know, you could stay forever, if you want to. There's just one tiny thing we have to do first..."
— Other Mother
The Film of the Book of Coraline, with Henry Selick of The Nightmare Before Christmas fame as director and writer. It was released on February 6, 2009 and it's the first Stop Motion movie filmed with a 3-D camera (however, the 3-D viewings were in limited locations for a few weeks).Coraline Jones moves from Pontiac, Michigan with her mother and father to the Pink Palace Apartments in Ashland, Oregon: an old house subdivided into three residences. With her parents frantically working on a gardening catalog in order to make ends meet and paying little attention to her, Coraline begins to feel neglected. While exploring the house, she discovers a small door with a brick wall behind it. That night, she is awoken by a mouse in her room, which she chases to the small door. She opens it, but instead of a brick wall, she finds a long, glowing passage, leading to another world.At the other end, Coraline finds herself in the "Other World", which is inhabited by her "Other Mother" and "Other Father", who are perfect, idealized doubles of her real parents, except with black buttons in place of their eyes, and they pay close attention to Coraline. After enjoying a home-cooked meal made by the Other Mother, she spends the night in the Other World and awakens back in her bed in the real world.Coraline continues to go to the Other World at night and is entertained by the various delights present, including idealized versions of her neighbors, a beautiful garden built in her image, and delicious food. Coraline begins to prefer the Other World to her real one, finding that she is receiving the love and attention from her other parents she is lacking at home. Eventually, the Other Mother offers to let Coraline stay in their world forever, on one condition:That she has buttons sewn into her eyes.When she refuses, the film takes a dark turn as the Other Mother attempts to force Coraline to stay in her world, and Coraline must rely on her bravery and wits to get back home.
The film contains the following examples:
3D Movie: Actually used to great effect in distinguishing the normal world from Other World. The 3D effects in the normal world are generally very subtle and only crop up when they make sense. The Other World uses it to jack up the already surreal nature of everything even further.
Accidental Misnaming: In the real world, all the neighbors call the titular girl "Caroline", which she hates. One of the more slight diferences of the Other World is that everybody says her name correctly.
Acting for Two: Every voice actor whose character has real-world and Other World versions.
Except for Other Wybie, whom the Other Mother has rendered mute because Coraline finds the real Wybie obnoxious.
Adaptational Attractiveness: In the film, the Other Mother starts off looking exactly like Coraline's mother, but with button-eyes, then transforms into a creepier, taller, skinnier form. The book has her in the latter form from the start.
Inverted later in the film as well. The Other Mother's final form doesn't look anywhere near so monstrous in the book.
Adaptation Dye-Job: Literally. In the book, Coraline has brown hair. In the film, her hair is blue, but a picture of Coraline when she was younger has brown hair, implying it's dyed in-universe, which seems consistent with her fashion sense.
More backstory is given to Coraline and her parents, explaining why they ignore her so much and why she would be willing to abandon them for a dream world so casually.
Apparently Gaiman himself requested this trope. He saw that the original script was almost exactly like the book and told them to make some changes. After all, if someone wanted something exactly like the book, they had the book.
Also, since exposition doesn't work quite the same way in movies as in books, the addition of Wybie was sort of necessary, as Gaiman himself has said.
Adults Are Useless: Averted. Bobinsky, Spink and Forcible, and later, Coraline's mother, each give Coraline warnings against danger (it's only because she ignores them that the warnings amount to nothing), and Spink and Forcible give Coraline an important piece of Applied Phlebotinum that turns out to be a useful tool in finding the ghost children's eyes.
Wybie's grandmother also suspects that the house had something to do with her vanished sister and thus tries to keep other children from staying there.
The Other Father also tries to fight The Other Mother's control because he doesn't want to hurt Coraline. Before he plummets to his death, he tosses her one of the souls she needs to escape.
Adult Fear: The chilling, very real fear of many working parents is that harm could come to their child because they're too busy to pay attention to them. Coraline's parents aren't purposefully neglecting her, but it is their lack of attentiveness that leads to their daughter getting into some serious trouble...
Wybie's grandmother had a twin sister who mysteriously disappeared, and we find out that the sister was killed by the Other Mother. She than spends presumably Wybie's whole life (until the end of the movie) afraid that he's going to wander into the Pink Palace despite her warnings and disappear forever. Poor Grandma...
Amazing Technicolor Population: Mr. Bobinsky. It is implied via the medal he wears that his blue skin (and possibly eccentric disposition) is due to being one of the Liquidators who cleaned up Chernobyl.
Ambiguously Brown: Wybie is a very pale African-American with brown curly hair. It's possible he's actually mixed-race; his grandmother is more obviously black.
In a deleted scene Coraline asks Wybie if his grandmother is black, which Wybie confirms.
Big Damn Heroes: Subverted. Wybie comes in at the last minute to save Coraline from the Other Mother's hand but crashes his bike.
Big Eater: With the exception of her father's cooking, Coraline eats quite a bit throughout the film.
Big "NO!": Charlie Jones does this when Coraline accidentally erases all of his work on his computer.
Bigger on the Inside: The Other Spink and Forcible's theater is absolutely massive compared to the exterior size of the house. Of course, the Other Mother created it, so normal laws of physics need not apply.
This also applies to the Other Mr Bobinsky's circus tent.
Cats Are Superior: Bingo, black cat. Snarky, deadpan, aloof, insulting, arrogant - but willing to help in Coraline's time of need and vital to her confrontation with the Other Mother.
Cerebus Call Back: Mr Bobinski's circus is one of the things that wows Coraline on her second visit and is the sight of some amusing moments. When she looks for the second ghost child's eyes she ends up getting attacked by everything in the circus. And the cute jumping mice turn out to be rats in disguise.
Character Exaggeration: In the book, Mr. Bobo simply happens to be Slavic (Russia isn't even mentioned, actually); it's not even implied that he has an accent until Misses Spink and Forcible happen to talk about him near the end of the book. However, the movie makes Bobinsky extremely weird and extremely Russian.
Conspicuous Gloves: Wybie (and the Other Wybie). In Real Wybie's case it may be down to the fact he's seen riding a bike most of the time. That and there's a poison oak bush near the Pink Palace. Later in the film Other Wybie removes his glove to show Coraline he's just sawdust.
Dark Is/Is Not Evil: Both tropes come into play here: One the one hand, the Other World is in a constant state of nightfall, which makes things look pretty threatening later on, and the buildings are more dimly-lit in the climax than they were earlier. On the other hand, it is a black cat who helps Coraline the most while she's in the Other World.
Coraline: Wybie's got a cat like you at home. Not the quiet Wybie, the one that talks too much. You must be the other cat. The cat: No, I'm not the other anything. I'm me. Coraline: Um, I can see you don't have button eyes, but if you're the same cat, how can you talk? The cat: I just can. Coraline: Cats don't talk at home. The cat: No? (sarcastically) Well, you're clearly the expert on these things.
They made about 20 puppets for every character, each one of them taking months to make. And they replace the mouths between shots.
The garden scene, the mice circus, the theatre, the Other Mother transforming and the other world disintegrating... they're not CGI. They're done with stop-motion. The mice are animated by replacement parts; every single movement needs an entirely new, sculpted mouse figure.
The characters' hairs have to be "injected" one by one.
The costumes are made by an impossibly patient lady with needles as small as human hairs. That lady's name is Althea Crome, and her part in the making of the film is detailed in this video.
Dye Hard: Coraline herself; an old family photo reveals that her real hair colour is a medium-brown, close to her dad's colour.
Eye Scream: "Black is traditional... But if you'd prefer pink... or vermilion... or chartreuse... Though you might make me jealous!" The fact that there's a needle next to the buttons makes it that much worse...
The Fair Folk: The Other Mother, just human enough to know she's a mystery.
Fake Nationality: Ian Mcshane as Mr Bobinsky - Bobinsky is Russian while Mcshane is British.
The beginning half of the other Spink and Forcible's stage play... ugh. Both of the old women are practically naked, with only their nipples and crotch covered up. No amount of Brain Bleach will ever clear that out of your mind.
The last part of their routine is pure Fanservice though.
Also, when the Other Mother transforms, her shirt becomes very low-cut, but since she's so hideous you don't even want to see it.
The words in the Other Father's song become much more sinister and foreboding once you find out they want to put buttons in her eyes.
It very vaguely regains its happiness when you realize it was a warning to Coraline of what was coming to her. Didn't go through, but hey, he can say he tried...
The Other Mother refers to her husband as "Pumpkin". She turns him into a pumpkin-like beast to fight Coraline. Poor guy can't catch a break. It's most likely that the Other Father was originally a pumpkin from the garden that gradually reverted back to its true form as the world started to unravel; most other creations of the Other Mother ended up being shown as being appropriated from various flotsam like the rats and bugs.
In the Other House's dining room there's three frames, each with the silhouette portrait of a child in them.
Very subtle, but the Other Spink and Forcible's highwire act is performed to the famous "Can-Can" song. For those in the know, that piece is from the operetta "Orpheus in the Underworld", based on a Greek myth about a young man who crosses into the underworld to plead with its ruler for the life of a loved one.
One of the Ghost Children says, as Coraline is collecting their eyes, "Hurry girl, her web is unwinding!"
And the most obvious one has to be the hand in the tea leaves. That's just Spink. Forcible sees the toy giraffe that tries to convince Coraline she's losing it when she tries to escape from the other world.
:"This piano... plays me."
The very subtle split-second sign of the Other Father's stitches coming loose in the piano scene.
The Other Mother's outfits begin to have a certain resemblance to a black widow spider.
Coraline's first visit to Other world, after she asks "What rain?" there's a lightning flash with the Other Mother's real hand on the end.
The other Spink and Forcible do the "What A Piece Of Work Is Man" monologue. Hamlet was a tragedy.
Hamlet was mocking humans during that speech. Anyone familiar with the speech has to wonder why they stopped before getting to its conclusion.
A possible one, depending on how you take it, is the Other Mother telling Coraline "It's all made up" on her first visit. The Other World certainly seems to be.
At the beginning of the movie, Wybie tells Coraline that his grandmother doesn't normally rent to families with kids. Why would that be, one wonders...?
Wybie mentions that the cat usually gives him little treats of dead animals every now and then. Those wouldn't happen to be rats from the Other World, would they?
Apparently there was a lot of discussion about the famous naked Spink and Forcible scene, specifically exactly how much they could get away with. Selick said he convinced the company to let it slide because Forcible was not only covering her naughty bits, but was also spoofing a socially acceptable, famous painting.
The soundtrack for that bit is even better. For some reason, they left in Spink and Forcible's exclamations at the end of the first act, where the scenery collapses. Stripped of its context, they sound, er, like something else.
How about that fact that when we first met Spink and Forcible we find (by way of all of the posters) they are ex-burlesque dancers? Kids may not get it but the parents (or grandparents) must have been thinking "How did that get there?"
It's worse than that. As the posters are all references to Shakespeare, this is quite likely a reference to a strip club that got around a city's attempt to ban stripping by having the girls perform Shakespeare in the nude. So it's basically a reference to actual stripping instead of just dancing around in your undies.
To give it all perspective, the movie was rated PG in theaters, but is tagged with a TV-14 on U.S. television airings, although the heavy doses of Nightmare Fuel surely aided that decision.
The Other Wybie qualifies as well. He had a smile sewn into his face for Coraline. Then his hand dissolved. Then he knowingly helped Coraline out of the mirror, into the parlor, past the bug thing, and into the tunnel, putting a good deal of effort into it all, while knowing that the Other Mother would kill him for it.
Hypocrite: The Other Mother cheats like crazy and wouldn't have let Coraline go whether she'd won the game or not, but is furious when Coraline throws the cat at her to turn the tables; "You horrible, cheating girl!!!"
Hypocritical Humour: "I'm way too old for dolls". Cue her immediately playing with the doll all day and naming it "Little Me".
I Do Not Drink Wine: The Other Mother is a fantastic chef, but while the Other Father and Coraline pile their plates with her food, we never see a speck on the Other Mother's plate. We find out her diet later...
This was actually a later addition as early ads only billed it as "from the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas" most likely in the hopes that people who only know Nightmare as being a Tim Burton film would assume he directed it.
Coraline suddenly gets grabbed by the Other Spink and Forcible monster.
A more mild one when Coraline is approaching the real world Spink and Forcible's apartment and the dogs jump up suddenly, complete with their "infernal yapping."
Know Your Vines: The title character brushes some leaves off a stick and uses it as a water rod. She meets Wybie, and has a fairly long conversation with him, and at the end he throws in that the stick she's holding is poison oak.
Mood Whiplash: The film is famous for transitioning from fantasy to horror at the halfway point, when the true intentions of the Other Mother are revealed.
Mysterious Animal Senses: The Cat was able to talk to Other Wybie, even though he couldn't speak. He even told Coraline that cats have far superior senses than humans, at which the Genre Savvy Coraline immediately rolled her eyes. There's also his ability to get between worlds on his own, which is pretty impressive.
Mysterious Protector: The Cat followed and watched over Coraline for some time before making himself known to her.
Network to the Rescue: Initially, no studio showed interest in the film. Then producer Bill Mechanic (who also believed in James Cameron and Titanic at Fox) showed interest and jumped on as a financier, which got the film made and a distributor in Universal. The movie became a Sleeper Hit, director Henry Selick got a deal at Pixar and the animation studio now works full-time with Universal.
Never Trust a Trailer: Many people thought that the movie looked too "cutesy", judging by the trailer. Oh, how wrong they were.
Coraline is as thin as a rod, but many other characters, like her father and Ms. Spink, are short and squat.
Mr. Bobinsky is a borderline example - he's round and rotund, but with spidery legs.
The Other Mother starts out looking like Coraline's mother, along with her legs. Gradually, she morphs and transforms throughout the story into a wizened, vaguely human creature with four spidery legs and arms made out of sewing needles.
Real Is Brown: The colors of the real world are incredibly dull and jaded, which is to contrast for the other world's vibrant and cheery colors.
Reality Is Unrealistic: Several people on IMDB complained about Coraline's Jerk Ass attitude. Ever seen an upset 12-year old? Ever seen a 12-year old who's gone through a long road trip to move into a house in the middle of nowhere, gets stuck with annoying neighbors and ignored by their parents? Yeah...
Funnily enough, Coraline herself embodies both onis in different mediums: British book!Coraline is more stoic, mature and cerebral while American Movie!Coraline is more belligerent and snarky.
Red Right Hand: But really, are you gonna look at someone's hands if their eyes are buttons?
Refuge in Audacity: The theater scene, the proof that Henry Selick knows children better than anyone else in Hollywood.
Retreaux: The entire movie, from the clothing, to the hairstyles, to the gigantic, baby-crushing CRT monitor on Coraline's dad's computer is steeped in The Nineties, which is strange, since the book is was based on came out in 2002. Overall it seems to be a Genre Throwback to Nickelodeon shows and their imitators from before Nickelodeon sucked, complete with snarky, pubescent female protagonist.
May cause a bit of Anachronism Stew; Coraline's mom has a flip-phone that looks more like it's from the early 2000s.
To The Nightmare Before Christmas: The pumpkins in the other mother's garden look like the Mayor of Halloweentown, and the tallest of the three Ghost Children resembles Shock. The cat is the same sort of black, scrawny specimen seen in Halloweentown. A bowl that Other Mother uses resembles Jack Skellington. Similarly, when Wybie has his facemask/helmet on, he bears a strong resemblance to Barrel. There also might be one to Pixar, as one of the Shakespeare players has a baby in a backpack that looks a lot like Jack-Jack.
The ball that the rats were playing with was the one from Luxo Jr.
The movers at the beginning were the "Ranft Bros.", caricatured after Jerome Ranft and the late Joe Ranft, who worked on The Nightmare Before Christmas and several Pixar films.
Also, at one point the other mother cracks an egg yolk into a bowl that yields The Nightmare Before Christmas lead character Jack Skellington's image.
The other father's slippers look an awful lot like Monkeybone...
Not surprising. He has his own line of slippers as part of his cartoon show's marketing gimmick.
The piano in the other study has the gold word "Tadahiro" on it. Tadahiro Uesugi was a concept artist whom Henry Selick adored.
Probably unintentional, but two that sprung out in the movie were the father's name - Charlie Jones, aka "Chuck" Jones, and the "Tall, handsome beast" that Miss Forcible saw in Coraline's tea leaves could have referred to the cat - who's voiced by Keith David, who also provided the voice of Goliath. Then again, both may simply be an Epileptic Trees moment. On the other hand, Keith David himself is a tall, handsome beast.
Wybie shares the same last name of a runaway black child named Jessie Lovat in American Gods.
When the other world is getting destroyed, it just white with some black outlined objects. It very similar to Super Paper Mario.
Much of Other Father's creepy Dialogue when Other Mother isn't around seems similar to Psycho.
Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Quite a lot. The poster in the old ladies' apartment reads "King Leer". The boy in the uniforms store yelled "My kingdom for a horse!". Several lines from Hamlet were quoted during the theater scene. And to top it off, Oregon natives will recognize the city the titular character's family moved to as Ashland, Oregon, where the Shakespeare Festival is held annually.
"What a piece of work is a man; how noble in reason; how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable in action; how like an angel in apprehension; how like a god." Done awesomely. Especially since they were saying it sarcastically, though Coraline and unfamiliar viewers wouldn't know it at the time.
Sirens Are Mermaids: During The Other Spink and Forcible's song, The Other Spink describes herself as "The siren of all seven seas" while dressed as a mermaid.
Sleeper Hit: When the film came out, stop-motion animation was considered dead and the film was expected to die a quick death at the box office against Pink Panther 2 and the My Bloody Valentine 3 D. After a better than expected opening, the film kept on going until finally becoming the highest-grossing stop-motion animated film of all-time.
Something Only They Would Say: Sort of. When Coraline and the cat first have a conversation, Coraline is initially skeptical that the cat is the same one from the real world (as opposed to a copy in the Other World). The cat quickly puts an end to the skepticism, with a casual Call Back to an earlier scene where Coraline referred to the cat as a "Wuss puss."
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: Coraline never finishes a single meal throughout the entire movie. When the first meal gets replaced by cake, she doesn't eat that either. And she tosses away a bag of popcorn in the Other Mouse Circus.
This Was His True Form: When the cat delivers a killing bite to one of the Other Bobinsky's circus mice, it turns into a rat.
One TV spot for the film shows the other mother giving Coraline the gift box with the buttons meant for her. Another TV spot had the other father being held up by the evil mantis thing and swiping at Coraline, and had the other Wybie's stitched smile. A third featured Bobinski's rat-clothes slithering around.
Although spoilers were to be expected when the HBO Special on Coraline aired, some of them were a bit too big. Mainly the fact that the other Wybie dies and has all that's left of him, his clothes, hung like a flag. Granted, one of the five Behind the Scenes videos hinted at the possibility of this, but no one expected what actually occurred. It kinda reduced the shock value.
The other mother's second form is on the back of the DVD box. The spoiler status of this could be argued though, as that's how she's described in the book from the beginning, as opposed to starting out as identical to Coraline's real mother.
The Fairy Ring of mushrooms around the abandoned well is a huge Chekhov's Gun to anyone who knows the appropriate folklore; to everyone else its just added scenery.
The stone that Spink and Forcible give Coraline? It's an adder stone.
Also, how many viewers recognized the speech the other Spink and Forcible were reciting during their trapeze act? It's from Hamlet. And it has especially interesting plot-correllations when you recall that when he originally spoke it in the play, Hamlet was being sarcastic.
Especially when you also notice that they stop right before "And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me."
A phrase which can be interpreted as, "Everything I have for the one thing I don't"... just apassing gag, eh?
Villainous Breakdown: The Other Mother's Glamour Failure happens gradually throughout the whole film, but she completely loses it when Coraline sees through her tricks and gets the cat to claw out the Other Mother's eyes, complete with a heaping helping of Hypocrisy.
Voice of the Legion: For most of his last scene, the Other Bobinsky speaks with his normal voice, but for a single, horror-filled line, he uses this trope to great effect.
The Watson: The movie-original character Wybourne "Wybie" Lovat, who gives a reason for Coraline to give the exposition told in the book through narration.
We All Live in America "Hand-pulled taffy from Brighton!" 'Hand-pulled taffy' is so meaningless to most Brits, this trope probably goes over their heads. In Britain it's 'toffee', it's not associated with seaside resorts (that role is taken by rock candy) and it's never 'pulled' at all. (Though some Fridge Brilliance ensues- if you let toffee get cold and damp, then it really will fuse into a single lump that's easily that hard.)
Weird Moon: As time wears on through Coraline's hunting game against the Other Mother, the moon is steadily eclipsed, and the shadow has an inner circumferential line and four holes (i.e., the shadow of a button). Coraline seems to take it as a time limit; at one moment the shadow notably (and audibly at that) grinds to a halt when the final Ghost-Child's eye/soul is won.
Where The Hell Is Springfield?: Some people recognized the town that Coraline's family moved to as Ashland, Oregon. The banners for the Shakespeare festival can be seen in several scenes. The studio is based in Portland.
Coraline's friends in the picture on her nightstand, in the otherworld, said "Gone to Oregon" didn't they?
You Have to Believe Me: Coraline should probably explain it to Wybie coherently; throwing shoes at him isn't going to make him believe you. In fairness to her, however, she just narrowly avoided having her eyes poked out by a demonic copy of her mother. Coherency is optional after that.