The ‘Coraline’ Effect

      32 Comments on The ‘Coraline’ Effect
Β© 2009 Laika Entertainment.

I took my little ten year-old companion to see ‘Coraline‘ last weekend.

So why not give my two cents about it? (Plus, I didn’t know what else to write about this week.)

Much like my little review of ‘Igor, I won’t be going the normal ‘movie review’ route. As in, no story synopsis and naming all the people involved and all that. You can search that stuff on Google.

I prefer to talk about the experience of seeing the movie. First impressions. My impressions. Story stuff.

But not give it all away or anything.

I have not read the book or the graphic novel. I went in cold with no expectations.

And I have only seen it once. When I watch a movie for the first time, I’m all in ‘viewer mode’ and not thinking too much like a storyboard artist or industry person. I like to let that go and just watch.

And hopefully enjoy.

I enjoyed.

While I can name a whole whack of things that stink about going to a matinee full of kids with a kid, sometimes it’s a delight.

This time was a delight. Yippee.

First off, it wasn’t too crowded. Second, there was an equal amount of adults in the theatre. Third, the movie rocked the Casbah.

I was worried going in because we were going to see it in that ‘Real 3D’ crap. Yes. I said crap. We saw ‘Bolt‘ in that 3D crap and it was fuzzy and useless to the story as far as I was concerned.

I would have preferred to see it, you know…normal.

Rant ahead:

Note to all big-wig filmmakers in Hollywood: We don’t care about your stupid wowee zowee technology as much as you want us to. We hate having to wear geeky-looking glasses and keep adjusting our eyes while just being gouged at the box office to justify the expense of said glasses. That we didn’t want in the first place. Get over the whole ‘Real 3D’ thing already! It’s just ‘Real Annoying’.

Rant complete.

So I put on my glasses on top of my other glasses that I need to like, see with and waited for the movie to begin.

And lo and behold, the 3D thing was actually working! It fit the style and looked pretty good. I think this stuff works better with stop-motion animation rather than computer animation. It has a better ‘we’re in the set too’ feel. So they get brownie points for that.

Visually, this movie is amazing.

You get sucked in right away and taken inside Coraline’s world.

Coraline’s highly-detailed-oh-my-god-that-must-have-taken-forever-to-animate world.

(OK, the industry-type part of me leaked in a little.)

One of my first impressions was that I loved the character of Coraline. She was smart. And adventurous. Not all ‘girly’ and silly. Love that.

She’s someone a little girl could want to be like and not want to make me hurl.

The acting was top notch. Yes, there are celebrity voices, but they didn’t stand out as a ‘who’s who’. You just enjoyed the acting and the voices felt like the character’s voices. Good casting.

But it’s the animation acting that I’m really talking about. Great stuff, fun to watch and draws you in.

The story was wonderful. What I liked is that it has an ‘old classic story’ feel while remaining somewhat modern. As in, Coraline’s parents work on computers all day.

The story wasn’t sugary and cute. It has a creepy side. A slightly disturbing side. That whole ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ feel.

It was a refreshing change.

Was there anything that bugged me? Yes. There were a couple of minor story issues that nagged me a bit when it was over. But nothing to make me say it is anything less than great. (I can leave that stuff for a more in-depth analysis when the DVD comes out.)

So what do I mean by “the Coraline effect”?

I mean ‘Coraline‘ did one of those rare things to that movie theatre audience.

It shut them the heck up.

Except for one young little boy (who was getting a little freaked near the end), that theatre was silent for the whole movie.

People didn’t move. My ten year-old companion didn’t move.

Everyone sat. Everyone watched. Nobody spoke.

They were taken inside that story.


Thanks ‘Coraline‘. I needed that.

So readers, should you see it?

Here is the storyboard blog’s tri-perspective recommendation:

For animation types: For the love of all that is good and holy, YES! You will appreciate this movie on all levels. A must see.

For the kiddies: They’ll love it. They will get sucked in to this story and stay mesmerized. BUT it is a little creepy-scary for very young ones, I think. So be careful with the under-six crowd.

For β€˜regular’ adults: You’ll probably like it with or with out some kiddlets with you. If you’re the type that feels weird seeing a ‘kid’s movie’ alone, then rent some out. Or suck it up and go see it anyway.

It’s just good old-fashioned storytelling that works.

With some amazing eye-candy to go along with it.

Read the Storyboard Blog by RSS Feed or by email for more review-ishness in the future.

32 thoughts on “The ‘Coraline’ Effect

  1. dan szilagyi

    stupid 3D glasses, it’s funny that they are pinning the hope of movies on those things.

    I have yet to see the film myself, though i’ve been told that it is fact very well done.

    Thanks for the review Karen!

  2. Vanessa

    It’s great to hear that a professional in the industry was just as blown away by this film as someone like myself (who’s just an animation nut with no talent whatsoever). Personally, I think this is Henry Selick’s best work yet and as a huge animation admirer, I am so glad he’s found a supportive home at Laika!

  3. fred

    i just saw it tonight and i completely agree. i expected the great character design but was happily impressed that the story held up as well. it is very refreshing to have a different “voice” in the industry. i’m not a big fan of creepy movies, but it was really wonderful to watch. the animation was outstanding.

  4. Brian

    i wasn’t a huge fan of the 3D feature either, though i was amused at how it messed with my depth perception in certain subtle things (raindrops on the window, etc.). i loved the heck outta that movie, but if i may be cynical, in the U.S. it probably wouldn’t have been sold out for HALF as long as it was, had it not been for those “NOW IN 3D!!!” ads. that gimmick did tricked a lot of people into watching a GOOD movie, so i personally give it a pass.

  5. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Dan – yeah, I think they’ve invested SO much money into the technology that we’re gonna LIKE IT gawd dammit!! Ugh. I really have no use for it. Just tell me a good story. (Go see it.)

    @ Vanessa – (Love your bunny) Oh yes. We WANT to see good animation. We crave it. And when something a little out of the norm comes along that is truly amazing, we soak it up. It gives us hope that the industry is alive and kicking. I hope to see more great stuff like this come from Laika. They did an awesome job.

    @ Alex – They did offer it in 3D and without here. But the ‘without’ was more in the suburbs, while I’m closer to downtown and didn’t really have a choice. But like I said, it worked in this movie. When does it open in Spain? You’ll love it. And I’d love to hear how it compares to the book. πŸ™‚

    @ Fred – Glad you saw it and enjoyed it. The movie trailer piqued my interest, but it certainly exceeded my expectations! An Oscar contender for next year, for sure.

    @ Brian – By all means be cynical! πŸ™‚ Sadly, I guess you’re right. I don’t know why that gimmick works on the general public, but it seems to. It really has no bearing on the story. It did nothing for Bolt in my opinion. But like you said, if it got people in the seats to see this, then that’s great.
    (I loved the needle coming at you in the opening. I actually leaned back I think!)


  6. Friar

    This is a special weekend.

    I’m at my Mom’s house this weekend, (in the Big City). Where they actually have MOVIE THEATERS. (And stores and electricity and paved roads).

    So I might just go and see this one.

    (I’d much rather watch an animated feature, than some lame-ass Bollywood musical that Hollywood tells me is so great).

    Note to the Academy Awards: You can’t make me go see Slum Dog Millionaire. I won’t go. I won’t I won’t I WON’T!!! πŸ™

  7. steph

    Damn it. I commented and lost it. GRRRRR.

    What I had said was that what I like about your reviews, Karen, is that they’re not just personal opinion: you also include professional input. I don’t trust reviews otherwise; I mean, what one person loves another hates, right? When you add technical points on good or bad, positive or negative, rather than reporting solely subjective points, you lend much credibility to your critique.

    Thanks for this! Having read the story, I can imagine what Tim Burton might have done directing it, too.

  8. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Friar – Yay! The big city! *waves to Friar’s mom*
    I’d like to know what a kidless cynic like you thinks of it, so please do go see it. I think you’ll really like it.

    I haven’t see Slumdog either. I had no idea what it was about and then I saw more commercials on TV and was like “So it’s a Bollywood musical? Really?” I thought it was just a regular story set in India. Not sure if I want to go either, even with all the rave reviews. We’ll see.

    @ Steph – Sorry about the comment loss. Waa!

    But thanks for you input on my little reviews, I appreciate the feedback. I also don’t like it when reviewers give too much away about the story. I find it spoils it a bit for me. So I give very little. Then people like poor Alex won’t get ticked off! πŸ˜‰

    And actually Tim Burton had nothing to do with this movie (putting on industry-type hat now). Henry Selick wrote the screenplay and directed ‘Coraline’. He also directed ‘Nightmare’. Tim Burton gets all the credit because he (co)wrote and was a producer on ‘Nightmare’. And I think he was mainly responsible for the whole look of the film.

    It’s too bad now everyone thinks Tim had something to do with ‘Coraline’, because he didn’t. Henry Selick deserves the credit. πŸ™‚

  9. Friar


    okay…I just came back from the movie.

    I really LIKED it. Not preachy. Not overly cute. Good facial expressions, good character development. Good plot. Just a good story that adults and kids can like.

    My only minor criticism is sometimes the animation was a bit rough. It’s almost like a few frames a second were missing, in a few places. Every once in a while, I’d catch a bit of jerky motion…it wasn’t perfeclty seamless…not like Wall-E or Toy Story.

    The mice circus…for example. I think the computer was a bit overloaded with all those critters dancing playing musical instruments. That was the one scene in the movie that I was quite aware I was watching a cartoon…

    But I’m just nit-picking here….all in all, it was a great flick.

  10. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Oh, dear Friar, Friar, Friar. πŸ™‚

    There’s a *very* good reason why Coraline didn’t (and couldn’t) look like Wall-E or Toy Story. Because they aren’t made the same way.

    Coraline was ‘Stop Motion’ animation (just like ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’) whereas the Pixar movies are 3D computer animation. (But there were some 3D computer effects added to Coraline).

    That means that the sets are *actual* little sets that were built by hand and the characters are *actual* little puppets that were made by hand.

    They move it a teeny tiny bit and shoot a frame or two of film. They move it again a teeny tiny bit and shoot another frame or two of film. All those mice, all those dogs were models that were all moved BY HAND one little frame at a time.

    All the facial expressions are another ‘face’ they take off and replace for each syllable of the dialogue.

    It could NEVER look like Wall-E in a million years. It’s an art in itself. And once you realize how painstakingly hard it is to achieve a movie of this caliber done in this style, I think you will have a TON more respect for it and the animators that made it. (Please don’t think I’m scolding you, just enthusiastically informing you).

    So now what do you think of it? Pretty freakin’ amazing, huh? πŸ˜€

    This concludes our lesson of the day.

  11. Friar


    I didn’t realize it was stop-action! Most of time time, the action was so smooth and elaborate, I THOUGHT it was computer animation!

    In fact, when I saw the closing credits, they mentionned “puppet wranglers”,and I thought WHAT puppets? (Isn’t it all computer generated?)

    You’re right…I got a whole new respect for this movie. (I got schooled, didn’t I?)

    Boy, we’ve sure come a long way from “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, eh? πŸ˜‰

  12. steph

    Karen: No, no, I didn’t think Tim Burton did anything with Coraline, I just meant that knowing the story I could imagine what he might do with it. However, I had no clue that Burton didn’t actually direct Nightmare!

    PS. Totally cool about the stop-motion info! Holy crap!! I remember how difficult it was using puppets in theatre (no actors on stage), so this takes it to a whole new level. Now I really have to see it.

  13. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Friar – I’m just happy to have cleared that up for you or anyone reading. I would hate to think anyone is thinking ‘less’ of this movie for not looking as smooth as a Pixar movie. πŸ™‚

    @ Steph – Oh, sorry for the misunderstanding. It’s just that in the marketing they keep saying “from the director of Nightmare” and I think a lot of people automatically assume it’s Burton.

    I think you’ll really enjoy it, so I hope you do see it. πŸ™‚

  14. chris kawagiwa

    I totally agree about the frustrating glasses in ‘Bolt’… really couldn’t relax and enjoy the movie most of the time. for shame.. i really wanted to!

    I’m planning to see ‘Coraline’ this week– I’ve heard good things elsewhere too. and justly agree, if it lives up to the recommendations, credit needs to be given where credit is due and Selick should become a more recognized name. its really great to see some old school techniques still out there and appreciated. lookin’ forward… :]

    @ Karen/Friar fyi, Slumdog is nOt a bollywood musical.. it only features one with the cast at the very very end! touching story and great structure with flashbacks… don’t let too much Hollywood hype kill a honestly decent movie~ πŸ˜›

  15. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Like I said, I found the 3D thing worked a bit better for this movie. Though I heard from some other people that it muted the colors a bit. Hmm. Report back when you see it!

    And YES! I’ve been meaning to talk about Slumdog again and now you’ve given me a reason to. My parents saw it and said it wasn’t a musical at all. That’s what I *thought* before the Oscars. Then after the Oscars, all the commercials played that dance number with music and singing and stuff.

    How stupid is THAT? It completely turned me off from going. Now, I’m back on with maybe seeing it after all. Thanks Chris. πŸ™‚

  16. Patricia

    My oldest daughter wants to see this movie, she just loved the book and the fellows work who did this movie. She does not like to go to the movies alone in San Francisco as she is new there – well, in the middle of midterms also…
    I hope she can find someone to see it with.

    I would also like to see Slumdog Millionaire, and although we have plenty of theaters in our area things come and go so fast, I rarely go to the theaters.

    Secret Life of Bees was here for 4 days….

    Well, do you want 100 comments on your blog? I saw that on Friar’s
    I would like to have that happen one day because I wrote such a great piece of writing that many people wanted to read it…. I got 900 hits three weeks ago as Bloggingwithoutablog highlighted my blog and it was one of my least favorite posts I have ever written…

  17. chris kawagiwa

    I just got back from “Coraline” and wanted to comment while it was still fresh– coolcool! some spectacular visuals and character design.. had to fight the urge to make sketches and just enjoy it~
    and giving the 3D thing a chance with one of the few theatres left with that feature, it actually worked! Didn’t mute colors as far as i saw… but y’know in general, weather is perfect and hues are more saturated here in California.. ;P

    Admitting my scardey-catness… some parts did made me jump! definitely some creepy factor in there, more than “Nightmare Before Christmas” in my opinion… but the good kind~
    if i were 6 i would have been hiding behind the seats..

  18. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Patricia – I hope your daughter gets out to see it. Even alone (I do that all the time). If she loved the book, she’ll probably love this movie.

    Yeah, it’s funny how some movies just up and vanish from the theatres so fast! Like, give it a chance. (Mind you, some probably deserve it.)

    And no, I probably wouldn’t want 100 comments on my blog! That means I’d never get around to answering them and have to step back. Where’s the fun in that? I doubt there’s that many people so enthused about storyboarding to comment like maniacs anyway.

    Yes, traffic with no one sticking around afterwards is pretty useless. Better to have a small but loyal audience that digs what you’re doing. (Of course, BIG and loyal wouldn’t hurt either!) πŸ™‚

    @ Chris – It *was* pretty creepy, wasn’t it? If I was young’un I would have been a little freaked too (like that little boy across the aisle from me, “Daddy, I’m scared!”).

    And the 3D thing worked this time for you too, eh? Like I said, I think the stop-motion made it work better than computer animation. I might see again sans-3D so I’ll see if I enjoy it more or less. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for your update!

  19. Friar

    I’ve found from experience….If Hollywood tells me a movie is great, because it won a lot of Oscars….then there’s a good chance it’s something I DON’T want to see!

    (That’s the rebellious engineer in me, being contrary to what the artsies all say!) πŸ˜‰

    The secret to getting 100 comments is to have 2-3 stalker/fans, who are responsibliy for 80% of all the discussion.

    I don’t get it either. I might get a post that gets “Stumb-holed Upon”, and I’ll get 400 hits in one day. But I’ll STILL only get the same 4-5 people comment.

  20. Friar


    I’ve gotten 100 comments TWICE…and ONLY because you and Brett and Eyeteaguy decided to hijack me!

    Hey, I can’t help it if I”m popular! πŸ™‚

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  22. Ivan

    I’m curious what your daughter like about the movie? What part does she enjoy?

    @ Friar/Karen, I’m backing Chris on this one. Do yourself a flavor and go see Slumdog.

    Bolt actually was never designed for stereoscopic presentation and even the directors don’t design their story/settings/layout, etc. around it. The post added the presentation much later in the pipeline. On the other hand, Caroline from the get go was designed for stereoscopic presentation. And guess what?! It doesn’t feel like things popping out to the screen (i.e. Beowulf).

    “There were a couple of minor story issues that nagged me a bit when it was over.” OooOOooo…I wanna know. I have couple of opinions on my own, maybe a little bit of Deus Ex Machina issue?

  23. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Daughter? *cough, sputter* No, no, no…my little friend isn’t my daughter. I volunteer as a ‘Big Sister’ so I hang out with her once a week. Keeps me young. πŸ™‚

    She just seemed to like the whole thing. She didn’t really mention any specific part. She was so taken into the story, she didn’t budge the whole time!

    I may give Slumdog a go after confirming it’s not a musical (not that I’m totally against musicals or anything. But I prefer my musicals animated. Unless it’s the original ‘Grease’.)

    One of my story issues had to do with Wybie’s ‘hidden grandmother’. I felt it was leading up to some kind of payoff that never came. I’d have to see it again to get more clear on the story-stuff though. Which I plan on doing. πŸ˜‰

  24. Ivan

    I’m sorry to presume. I put “my little companion” and “10 year old” together and boom.

    Not budging IS a good sign!

    This will be your confirmation, Slumdog ain’t musical. Period. You know the only musical that I really enjoyed, live action film-wise, will be Chicago. But I digress.

    That’s true, I didn’t even think about the grandma thing. At some point I thought the movie feels like a video game. Anyways, I’m getting way ahead of myself. I’m waiting for your further analysis if you choose to do so in the future.

    Like really hoping. *Finger cross. *Toss coin in the waterfall. *Wish upon a star.

  25. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Not problem on the daughter thing. I mean why wouldn’t you think that? Just on my end it’s “Wha?? Kids? Not me!” Ha.

    I’m sure there will be a Coraline analysis sometime in the future. And hey, Bolt is coming out on DVD next week. I may do one on that too. πŸ™‚

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