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Coraline is a 2009 American stop-motion 3D horror/fantasy film based on Neil Gaiman's 2002 novel of the same name. It was produced by Laika and distributed by Focus Features across of Universal Pictures. Written and directed by Henry Selick, it was released widely in United States theaters on February 6, 2009, after a world premiere at the Portland International Film Festival. The film was made with Gaiman's approval and cooperation.
The film opened to very positive reviews from critics and made $16.85 million during opening weekend, ranking third at the box office. As of September 2009, the film had grossed over $120 million worldwide. Coraline won Annie Awards for best music, character design, and production design and received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Animated Feature.
Coraline Jones moves with her mother and father from her comfortable life in Pontiac, Michigan to the Pink Palace in Ashland, Oregon, which is also occupied by retired actresses Misses Spink and Forcible, and odd Russian acrobat Mr. Bobinsky, which she has labeled to be as the Crazy Old Man upstairs in the book. She is annoyed by not being taken seriously by (in her opinion) crazy adults, people constantly mistaking her name for Caroline, and her mundane and bland life.
With her parents perpetually working on a gardening catalog and paying little attention to her, Coraline feels neglected and, "with her drowsing rod," she decides to explore the nearby surroundings of the Pink Palace, where, throughout her exploring, she meets a black cat and later befriends Wybie Lovat (in the film), the grandson of Coraline's landlady, and finds an old well — which stated, "It's supposed to be so deep, if you fell to the bottom and looked up, you'd see a sky full of stars in the middle of the day" by Wybie, in the film, and by Miss Spink, in the novel. Later, Wybie suggests that Coraline wears gloves next time, because her drowsing rod is poison oak — which caused her to have a rash.
Coraline returns home and suggests that it's perfect time for gardening but her mother isn't convinced and says rain makes mud and mud makes a mess.
- Hey, Jonesy. Look what I found in Gramma's trunk. Look familiar? — Wybie.
Later, she finds a small door — which her doll had slyly led her to, when her father told her to explore the hundred year old house. Coraline asked her mother where the door goes, and upon irritation at her daughter, her mother is forced to open the little door for Coraline only to find it sealed off by bricks. When Coraline asks why, her mother suggested that it must have been closed off when the house was divided. When Coraline asks for more, her mother tells her they made a deal — in which when she opens the door for Coraline, and Coraline won't ask anything more.
That night, Coraline is awakened by a mouse and follows it to the small door where she discovers a small and colorful corridor in the brick wall's place. Coraline goes through it and is confused to find herself back to her house. But she's dumbfounded to notice the differences, and she realizes she's in the Other World, a fantastical parallel version of the Pink Palace inhabited by doppelgangers of her parents called the Other Mother and Other Father, who have black buttons for eyes. These beings prove to be warmer and more attentive than Coraline's real parents, particularly the Other Mother, who does everything she can to impress Coraline.
Coraline decides to stay the night at the Other World, and her mother gives her mud for her rash. When she wakes the next morning, Coraline finds herself in her old world and her rash magically disappeared. Despite the warning she got from Mr. Bobinsky, a message sent by his mice, Coraline continues to go to the Other World at night to escape from the doldrums of her real life and is entertained by button-eyed "Other" versions of her neighbors, including a muted Other Wybie, who guides her through the Other World.
During her third visit, Coraline encounters The Cat in the Other World, and she assumes that it was the "Other Cat," in which The Cat replies with, "No, I'm not the other anything. I'm me." Coraline says that the Cat back home doesn't speak, but she soon apologizes to him when he reminds her of how she called him a "wuss-puss" in the real world, and she realizes that it is exactly as what he had said — that he is not the other of anything. The Cat informs Coraline that the Other Mother tries to keep him out but he comes and goes as he pleases, indicating to the ability for him to trasport places. He also warns Coraline of danger, but she disregards the warnings until the Other Mother invites her to live in the Other World forever if she sews buttons over her eyes.
Coraline lies about being tired and runs to her room, locks her door and forces herself to sleep. But she's shocked to find that the moon is still up and that she's still in the Other World when she wakes up. Coraline decides to leave the house and The Cat follows her; but discovers that the Other Mother only created what pleases Coraline and she finds herself walking around the world, going back. She decides to go through the little door in order to go home herself, but a bug-like cabinet blocks it and she finds the Other Mother there.
When Coraline demands to return home, the Other Mother angrily changes hideously and traps Coraline in a small room behind a mirror where she meets the ghosts of three children who had lost their eyes and souls to the Other Mother, whom they call as the Beldam. However, Coraline escapes to her own world with the help of the Other Wybie. She later finds that her parents have been kidnapped by the Other Mother when she finds a doll that looks like her parents. Coraline decides to speak with Misses Spink and Forcible, and they give her The Stone, in which Miss Spink says that it's bad things, and Miss Forcible insists that it's for lost things. Coraline prepares to go to the Other World and crawls into the tunnel again with The Cat. Halfway through, Coraline hears her mother call her at the other end of the tunnel and quickly runs and hugs her. She discovers that it is not her mother but the Beldam, and she demands where her parents are. The Beldam, after ordering a rat to fetch the key and eating it, lies about not knowing and suggested that they've grown tired of Coraline. Then Coraline sees the Other Father, who had become a pumpkin-like human (this was hinted when the Other Mother said he was as hungry as a pumpkin) with the face in a permanent frown with a monster-like voice and barely capable of speech. The Beldam drags him away when the Other Father begins to speak.
After they leave, Coraline hears a mysterious rubbing against glass sound into her ears. As Coraline stands up, the Beldam calls Coraline for breakfast. Coraline then goes into the kitchen for breakfast where she finds the Beldam cooking dinner before Coraline proposes of playing a game where she must find the ghost eyes and her parents. If she loses, Coraline will let the Other Mother sew buttons on her eyes and let her love her and stay here forever. The Beldam accepts the request, amused. But before the games starts, Coraline demands a clue and the Other Mother gives her one.
- "In each of three wonders, I've made just for you, a ghost's eye is lost in plain sight."
However, the Beldam doesn't say anything about her parents but only tapped her button eye, creating a tap-tap-tapping sound. Coraline turns away from her to think, and when she turns to look at the Beldam again to finally agree to the game, she finds the Beldam gone with only the tap-tap-tapping of the dripping faucet. Coraline wonders about what her Other Mother meant by three wonders and when she looks ahead, where a window is, Coraline sees The Garden and she goes there.
She winds up finding the Other father in the garden. When the giant praying mantis he rides on gets caught in the bridge, he tears the lever off (Which turned out to be one of the ghost eyes) and gives it to Coraline before he sinks into the water. The entire garden turns grey and hard, marking the "level" is finished.
In the basement level, the second eye is a pearl ring worn by the other Miss Spink and Forcible, who have become conjoined Taffy monsters. When Coraline was caught by them, she threw her flashlight at the dogs (Who were really dog-bats), who attacked the creatures. The stage also turned grey and Coraline escapes with the eye.
In the circus level it turns out The Other Mr. Bobinsky is nothing but a coat filled with rats, and the ringleader mouse has the third eye, which was previously used as a ball. She winds up getting shot at with cotton-candy cannons and falls off the deck, thinking she lost the "game." (A large black button would slowly cover the moon to show how much time was left.) The cat manages to kill the ringleader rat and gives the eye to Coraline. When the button fully covers the moon the Other world starts disappearing. She grabs the cat and runs inside the house, which is coming apart and is dark. Everything seems withered, along with the Beldam, who has decayed into her true form, which is an arachnoid monster with needles for hands.The third ghost eye warns Coraline that "Even if you win, she'll never let you go." She tricks the Other Mother into opening the door, and throws the cat at her face. The cat tears off her button eyes and escapes through the door. Meanwhile the Other Mother has revealed the living room to be a giant spider web, which they fall into. Coraline manages to crawl up but by accident, causes a vibration. When she is in the door preparing to close the door the ghost children help her close it on the beldam, who screams for Coraline not to leave, and that she will die without her. Coraline locks the door and finds her parents safe and sound, though the snowglobe they were in is broken.
Coraline puts the eyes under her pillow and has a dream with the now-freed children. They are sad that everything is over and done with for them, but they warn her that the Other mother wants the key. The ghosts tell her everything is not all bad since she survived. She awakens to find the eyes broken, and realizes her new sense of duty: Stopping the other mother from getting the key. The Other mother's severed hand winds up trying to take her back, until Wybie comes in and helps Coraline, who breaks the hand. They roll it up in a blanket and tie it with the key, then throw it into the well. After seeing a picture of Ms. Lovat's sister it is revealed she was one of the children.
Coraline prepares to meet her at the garden party, along with the other residents (Spink and Forcible sitting, Mr. Bobinksy tearing out the tulips and replacing them with beets.) in the garden. She begins to tell Ms. Lovat what happened, and the final scene shows the cat walking into a sign post and vanishing.
- Coraline was a huge risk. But these days in animation, the safest bet is to take a risk." — Henry Selick
At its peak, the film involved the efforts of 450 people, including from 30 to 35 animators and digital designers in the Digital Design Group (DDG) directed by Dan Casey and more than 250 technicians and designers. One crew member, Althea Crome, was hired specifically to knit miniature sweaters and other clothing for the puppet characters, sometimes using knitting needles as thin as human hair. Several students from The Art Institute of Portland were also involved in making the film.
Coraline was staged in a 140,000-square-foot (13,000 m2) warehouse in Hillsboro, Oregon. The stage was divided into 50 lots, which played host to nearly 150 sets. Among the sets were three miniature Victorian mansions, a 42-foot (12.8 m) apple orchard, and a model of Ashland, Oregon including tiny details such as banners for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
The film's creators used three 3D printing systems from Objet in the development and production of the film. Thousands of high-quality 3D models, ranging from facial expressions to doorknobs were printed in 3D using the Polyjet matrix systems, which enable the fast transformation of CAD (computer-aided design) drawings into high-quality 3D models. The characters of Coraline could potentially exhibit over 208,000 facial expressions.
The soundtrack for Coraline features songs composed by French composer Bruno Coulais with one, "Other Father Song", by They Might Be Giants. The Other Father's singing voice is provided by John Linnell, one of the singers from the band. They wrote 10 songs for the film; when a melancholy tone was decided, all but one were cut. Coulais' score was performed by the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra and features choral pieces sung by the Children's Choir of Nice in a nonsense language. Selick mentions that the main soloist, "a young girl you hear singing in several parts of the film" is coincidentally named Coraline. Coraline won Coulais the 2009 Annie Award for best score for an animated feature.
Coraline was well received by critics. As of April 2012, the film has a 89% "Certified Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and a 80 out of 100 at Metacritic, indicating "generally favorable reviews." David Edelstein said the film is "a bona fide fairy tale" that needed a "touch less entrancement and a touch more . . . story":
A. O. Scott of The New York Times called the film "exquisitely realized" with a "slower pace and a more contemplative tone than the novel. It is certainly exciting, but rather than race through ever noisier set pieces toward a hectic climax in the manner of so much animation aimed at kids, Coraline lingers in an atmosphere that is creepy, wonderfully strange and full of feeling."
According to Paul Dergarabedian, a film business analyst with Media by Numbers, for the film to succeed it needed a box office comparable to Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, which grossed $16 million its opening weekend and ended up making more than $192 million worldwide; prior to the film's release, Dergarabedian thought Laika "should be really pleased" if it made close to $10 million on its opening weekend.
In its US opening weekend, the film made $16.85 million, ranking third at the box office. It made $15 million on its second weekend, bringing its U.S. total up to $35.6 million, $25.5 million of which coming from 3D presentations. As of November 2009, the film had grossed $75,286,229 in the United States and Canada and $49,310,169 in other territories, making a total of $123,106,072 worldwide.