With Laika releasing their fifth film Missing Link this week, we’re taking a look at each of their previous films. Today we take a look at their first feature length film, Coraline, directed by Henry Selick.
Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) is an 11-year-old girl whose family moves to Oregon so that her writer parents can take advantage of a job opportunity. Coraline and her mother (Teri Hatcher) often butt heads, and both parents are usually too busy to give her the attention she craves. She takes to meeting the various neighbors and exploring the grounds and the property, the Pink Palace. While exploring, she discovers a small locked door. When she opens it, she sees that there’s nothing but brick behind it. However, she returns to the door later at night, and it transforms into a tunnel that leads her into a mirror image of her family’s apartment.
She encounters a woman who refers to herself as the Other Mother, who reveals that this “Other” realm is all her creation and that she can create and change things to Coraline’s liking. The Other Mother’s goal is to get Coraline to agree to stay forever by sewing buttons into her eyes and allowing the Other Mother to consume her soul.
The film is a wonderful adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, but there are some key differences — particularly the addition of the character Wybie, who helps Coraline defeat and escape the Other Mother. Wybie does not appear in the novel, and it could be argued that he was a bit too much of a knight in shining armor, as he is there to help save the day. The book deals with gender roles and feminism much more than the film does. It also contains one of the most terrifyingly phallic scenes in children’s literature that didn’t make it into the film (for good reason), but even with these changes, nothing really feels lost in translation.
Laika’s dedication to creating a truly spectacular and strange world that is essentially the only location throughout the entire film is incredible. So many intricate details that were put into characters, including clothing, hair, facial expressions, and hands. I would love to see their take on some of my other favorite books from my childhood, especially Alice in Wonderland. Even though there are many different Alice film adaptations already, it would be really cool to see what Laika’s version would look like, especially given the similar thematic elements between Alice in Wonderland and Coraline.
Coraline is currently streaming on Netflix and is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital format.