Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Detailed Look At Art of Coraline

I think enough online mud has been slung at the Coraline "art of" book, without me adding to it.

Rather, here is a very nice link that shows you more art, online.

Thanks to that Mark Mayerson character for the link!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Congrats To Coraline!

I recently blogged about my emotional response to Coraline. Now allow me to don my businessman hat (that makes me shrewd, calculating and completely cold in my assessments).

In its opening weekend, Coraline struck GOLD at the box office. Check the numbers for yourself, here.

Check here to compare its opening numbers to other stop motion features. Ta-da! Number One (not sure where NBC would fit in, it's not rated).

Looks like Laika has successfully positioned itself to be the go-to studio for stop motion features. Let Pixar be Pixar... let Dreamworks be Dreamworks. Do ONE thing (one very important thing), better than anyone on the planet. You simply can't overstate how important these opening weekend numbers are for Laika, and for stop motion.

Wow. A wonderfully inventive and technically remarkable film, made with love, that oozes REAL charm and imagination KICKED ASS at the box office.

Pinch me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Round Up: Coraline Boxes

Want to see what was inside all the wonderful Coraline mystery boxes sent out to the public as a marketing promotion? Click here, and enjoy.

Thanks to Mark Mayerson for the link, even though he's not QUITE the fan of the film I am (be sure to read his Coraline entry).

Monday, February 9, 2009


A certain amount of spoiling exists in this post, so read with caution...

Imagine finding a handmade doll under your bed. It's charming, delightful, it inspires you greatly, it touches you deeply, you fall in love with it immediately. It speaks to you in a deeply personal, but also universal fashion.

Sure, there's a few threads loose on your discovery, here and there. Loose threads that if you pulled upon too hard, bad things would happen. The wonderful thing you'd just discovered would start to unravel, its seams loosening, its shape softening... its stuffing dripping out in sad little tufts.

So you'd be mad to pull those threads, wouldn't you, when you love the thing as it is. Nothing is perfect.

There are loose threads in the story of Coraline that I don't want to pull on, but can't resist, in the few days since I've seen it. I've no desire to go into them all, but there are many.

I will offer an example. At one point, Coraline states that the doll version of herself has been created by The Other Mother to spy upon her (Coraline), in order to discover what it is that she (Coraline) wants most. With that knowledge, The Other Mother can fabricate a world that will appeal deeply to Coraline, in order to trap her in it. Fair enough. A rule of the world of this film has been established. The function of the mini doll is to spy.

In the course of the film, Coraline's real parents disappear. Coraline finds a mini doll version of them (the mother on one side, the father on the other- a two sided doll), under the bed of the parents. Later, we see the parents trapped in a frozen realm.

What is the spied information that the mother/father doll transmits to The Other Mother? From that, how does she use that information to trap the parents? I can't accept the defense (if it was offered) that "In the book, it all makes sense." This is not a book, it is a film, and it has to make sense on its own.

These loose story elements abound, but they come fast and hard and you have no time to consider their consequences and interconnections, because you are wonderfully overwhelmed by all the OTHER amazing things that are occurring- visually, thematically, and metaphorically.

I think these problems are in part the result of the ambition the film exhibits. Technically, and in terms of performance, the film has clearly raised the medium of stop motion animation to a new height. As director Henry Selick points out in an HBO featurette on Coraline (find it on youtube), this film does things in stop motion that have never been done before.

This desire to reach higher ALSO shows itself in the story, and its here that the unfortunate loose threads reside. The film tries for so very much in terms of weaving story elements, some get away.

Do these loose threads diminish the film for me? As I said in the intro, I loved this film. I loved entering the world (all the easier for its mature use of 3D), I loved the characters, the design, the pace, the mood, the charm... this film EMBRACES stop motion, by allowing things to really look handmade. It doesn't try to hide the effect of human hands. I wasn't bored for a moment, I was engaged and enchanted... and the maturity of themes impressed me deeply. This film in very few ways talked down to the audience, or insulted its intelligence.

At least not in the heat of the moment. The rough spots only show up later.

So you have the doll you found under you bed. You are amazed at your discovery, you have fallen in love with this new friend, that you can imagine whole worlds with, that you can bring to life in your imagination. You are awe-struck by how wonderfully its constructed, the sheer beauty of it as a thing of art. And on top of ALL that, it has charm. Real charm, that hooks you (and is why you have fallen in love).

In time, you see a loose thread, here and there. But you will never forget that first moment of discovery, how magical it was. Flaws exist, but your love remains.

Coraline is the most wondrous, magical, engaging, and breathtakingly beautiful animated feature film I can recall.

I love Coraline, full stop.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Coraline Arm Dissection

Couldn't resist another small post. Mike Brent at darkmattr.blogspot.com (see my link at the side) is giggling like a school girl about being 1 of 50 recipients of a Coraline Box that contained, among other things, a puppet arm used on the film. Like any true stop mo maniac, he couldn't resist cutting the arm open, to see how it works.

He's posted the results here. Have fun!

Stop Motion: Passion, Process and Performance

Barry Purves is an Oscar-nominated stop motion animator. His work is technically a pleasure to watch, but more interesting for me is the complexity of the ideas he grapples with in his films (several of which can be found on youtube). His animated films tend to concern themselves with layers; layers of masks and costumes and sets, but also layers of narrative, stories within stories. Whereas a majority of animated shorts go for stories that are more overtly crowd-pleasing and heart-warming, Purves' work isn't afraid to deal with more mature realms. In short, his films push beyond the average, in every way possible.

So I was very happily surprised when I discovered he has moved from the role of filmmaker to author as well, with his recently published book Stop Motion: Passion, Process, and Performance.

The book is a wonderful success.

Whereas there is no shortage of instructional, "How To" books on stop motion, there has been very little written work on the less external aspects of the medium. How does it feel when you place hands on a puppet, and breath life into it, frame by frame? What sort of relationship begins to grow between a puppet and an animator, over the course of a shot? Of a scene? Of an entire project? These are more internal, private, emotional concerns, and are (in my opinion) of far more interest than the basic "How To" of the technical aspects of the medium.

If you're willing to stand in front of a puppet for (sometimes) years on end, moving it in ridiculously small increments, for many hours each day, it MUST mean more to you than a paycheque. So WHAT does it mean to you? This book takes steps towards unearthing some answers.

In short, I think the medium of stop motion has been waiting for a book like this. Thank goodness it was tackled by someone not afraid to be "emotional"!

That being said, the book is also full of very solid "tips and tricks" for those learning the medium, thoughtful insights in the production process as a whole, and no shortage of nicely assembled illustrations and photos.

I highly recommend this book on its own, and ESPECIALLY as a counterpoint to all the technical stop mo books out there that certainly are informative, but are decidedly lacking in honest heart.