As a huge fan of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (I just bought some Jack Skellington lights to hang outside my house for Halloween), there was one piece of mail I recently responded to much faster than most: An invite to screen about twenty minutes of the upcoming Henry Selick flick “Coraline.” The fact that it’s also based on a Neil Gaiman book? Just gravy on the cake, my friends.
Walking into the theater, I saw a lobby filled with glass cases containing the highly-detailed, fragile-looking, spindly dolls used in the stop-motion film. Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) looks like a cross between Violet from “Peanuts” and a young Christina Ricci. Mom (Teri Hatcher) and Dad (John Hodgman) are overflowing with eccentric features and long limbs. They had dolls for ghost children, The Cat (Keith David) and the very funny Miss Forcible (Jennifer Saunders) and Miss Spink (Dawn French).
How do I know that they’re very funny? Well, after myself and some colleagues had time to take in the dolls, Mr. Selick invited us into the theater, where we grabbed some funky 3-D glasses and watched two super-long completed scenes from the February film.
The first introduced Coraline and her loving, if sometimes stern, parents. In his pre-film remarks, Selick told us that he’d envisioned his first fully stop-motion flick since “Nightmare” to use 3-D much like “The Wizard of Oz” employed color. Sure enough, we saw Coraline walking around her flat, eccentric house and speaking with her neighbors – then, she crawled through a mysterious door in a wall, and everything became magical.
Which brings us to clip number two. From a living garden made to resemble Coraline, to a magical rat circus, to a trapeze act that has Forcible and Spink swinging off the screen and right at you, it was a lot of fun to watch. And when Coraline’s counterfeit Mom reveals herself as a monster and urges the girl to pluck out her own eyes and replace them with buttons, the full effect really pulls you into the movie. And wait until you get a load of Ian McShane’s Russian ringmaster Mr. Bobinski, who already seems like the film’s breakout character.
Oh, and on the way out of the theater, they gave me a “Coraline” goodie bag and urged me to fill it with all the gummy worms, candy corn and chocolate-rat-candies I could carry. Nice touch.
For more on the movie, head over to the interview with Selick that we just took live, and be sure to check out our photos of the flick. Ultimately, this is the best thing I can say about the footage I watched: It was warmly familiar, but at the same time unlike anything I had seen before.
Tell us your thoughts: Are you eager to see “Coraline” in February, is this the first you’ve heard of it, or are you convinced there’ll never be another “Nightmare Before Christmas?”