“Coraline”: a very creepy children’s film 


“Coraline,” 2009, directed by Henry Selick and adapted from the Neil Gaiman novella of the same name is a stop-motion animated film. It is the first film made by the stop-motion animation company Laika. The story is about an 11-year-old girl named Coraline who has recently moved with her family to a new home. There she discovers a tiny door that leads her to a magical Other World that is an inverse of the boring and gray Normal World. There she meets her Other Mother, or the Beldam, and her Other Father, who have buttons for eyes. Though the Other World is brighter and more colorful than the world she came from, Coraline slowly realizes that there are much darker things happening beneath the surface. 

The film had a budget of $60 million and it received $124.6 million in the box office, making it the third-highest grossing stop-motion film. The production team created 150 sets and the characters could display over 200,000 facial expressions. 450 people worked on the film including between 30 to 35 animators and 250 technicians and designers. The dedication the animators put into the film is astounding. Each week it took almost 30 animators to shoot 90-100 seconds of the film. The hard work paid off since the stop-motion animation is so fluid that there were times I forgot that the characters and settings were puppets that were painstakingly moved frame by frame. 

The small details in the film are also incredible. From the moment Coraline enters the house, there are small details that foreshadow the rest of the film. For example, the element of insects. In the Real World, there are the stained-glass windows with insect like imagery and Coraline finds insects in the shower. In the Other World, the furniture, the machine the Other Father rides on and the candy the Beldam eats are all designed to resemble insects. This foreshadows the final form of the Beldam which is a spider-like creature. Also, the cocoa beetles are the only things that we see the Beldam eat in the film – other than the lives of the other children she imprisoned in her web – since spiders eat insects. The use of dolls in the film is also especially interesting. The Beldam uses a doll with the likeness of her victims to spy on them and figure out what is wrong with their lives. The doll has button eyes, not unlike the eyes she sews into her victims to eat their lives and souls. The fact that the film was animated using figurines is an eerie connection considering the Beldam treats her victims like puppets. 

Despite “Coraline” being an animated film intended for children, it is still very much a horror film. The creepy atmosphere and undertones make this film incredibly spooky. Not to mention the tropes of a haunted doll, an evil house and a child-eating monster. I am convinced that this film would not have been a children’s film if it was not animated. I am glad that it is a children’s film, however. There are not nearly enough films targeted towards children that have the same creepy and dark aesthetic as “Coraline.” 

Overall, “Coraline” is so well-made and so much fun to watch. The visuals are impressive and at times beautiful. The art style is incredibly unique and iconic to the film. There’s a delightful balance of fun and creepiness to keep you both amused and frightened.