Since its release in 2009, the animated film Coraline has delighted audiences with its bewitching nightmare world. Directed by stop-motion legend Henry Selick, the film tells the story of a dissatisfied young girl who is lured into a surreal realm that seems too good to be true. Though the film was marketed towards a young demographic, the movie packs some serious scares that will leave you wondering if it's a bit too frightening for kids.
Like any great movie, Coraline is laced with tiny but fascinating moments you might miss on the first viewing. Fans of the film have spotted these details and have spun their own theories about what they could mean. These are the most compelling Coraline fan theories that will make you contemplate whether the movie is truly what it seems on the surface. Beware of spoilers ahead!
The Coraline fandom often debates what the dates on Spink and Forcible’s candy jars signify. YouTuber The Fangirl is convinced that the years displayed above each jar - 1921, 1936, and 1960 - represent the years each tenant moved into the Pink Palace, but there is actually more evidence to support the notion that each jar represents a ghost child getting taken by the Beldam.
The pioneer girl's attire mimics the loose-fitting gowns of the early 1920s. Large hats, dropped waistlines, and flat collar lines were all in fashion at the time, and children commonly wore slippers or open, buckled shoes. This matches up perfectly with the 1921 candy jar. The young boy's ghost, who Coraline refers to as "Huck Finn Jr.," is wearing clothing reminiscent of working-class male fashions from the 1930s, including high-waisted trousers and suspenders - this may link him to the 1936 candy jar. Lastly, judging by Mrs. Lovat’s age and the vintage photo taken with her sister, she was arguably at the Pink Palace during the 1960s, accounting for the final 1960 candy jar.
The Fangirl also points out that Coraline breaks the unlabeled fourth candy jar that Spink and Forcible offer her, symbolically breaking the cycle.
The Theorizer was the first to suggest this fan theory, and it has since been widely embraced by the Coraline fandom. The Theorizer claims that the original entrance to the Other World is at the bottom of the well that is introduced early in the film.
When Coraline first finds the well, it's surrounded by a ring of mushrooms, a natural formation known as a fairy ring. According to legend, entering a fairy ring can lead to any number of unpleasant consequences, such as getting spirited away to the world of the fairies, never to return. The first thing Coraline does when she finds the well is step within the fairy ring. This forewarns of her entrance into the Beldam’s lair, but it could also signify that the well is the original portal to the Other World.
Wybie goes on to tell Coraline that the well is “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.” This line is very telling, since it's seemingly always nighttime in the Other World, even during the real world’s day. Furthermore, when the Beldam is crafting the doll at the beginning of the film, it floats down to her from a starry sky and through the window, much like it would if it were dropped into the well.
The Theorizer also points to the way the button shadow slides over the moon during the game sequence - it looks strikingly like a cover being drawn over the mouth of a well. He also points out that when the Beldam’s lair is stripped of its fancy trappings, it's merely an empty, hexagonal room - something that could easily exist at the bottom of the deep well.
YouTuber the Theorizer believes the Beldam's first target - the ghost Coraline refers to as "the pioneer girl" - was lured into the Other World in much the same way as Coraline. However, the Beldam couldn't find enough energy to keep up her intricate illusions, and she feared the Other World’s true nature would be revealed.
She offered the girl a deal: sewing buttons into her eyes in exchange for a permanent home in the Other World. The girl lost her sight and remained trapped in the Beldam’s lair. The Beldam could then allow her lair to revert to its barren state of an empty hexagonal room, thus conserving her energy. She fed off the girl’s life force until she perished and began the cycle again when "Huck Finn Jr." moved into the Pink Palace. This cycle continued when the Lovats moved in.
A theory from The Fangirl works in tandem with the above idea: She proposes that the Beldam eats the children’s life force in order to sustain herself, and that energy is derived from the love they feel toward her as a mother. This would explain how the Beldam has survived for decades, why she chooses her targets, and why she uses button eyes.
Blogger TessaKaye theorizes that Mrs. Lovat knew the Beldam would grow hungry for another child’s soul. She may have anticipated that the Beldam would come after Wybie, so instead of allowing the creature to target her grandson, she arranges for Coraline to be taken instead.
Wybie tells Coraline that his grandmother, who rents out the Pink Palace, never accepts tenants with children. We later learn this is because she lost her twin sister to the Beldam, and she wants to ensure the Beldam won't take another life. But perhaps Wybie's age and his growing fascination with the Pink Palace leads Mrs. Lovat to allow the Joneses to move in - meaning their young daughter will become the Beldam's next target instead of Wybie.
Early in the film, Wybie gives Coraline the doll that the Beldam fashioned in her image. Mrs. Lovat likely tossed the doll down the well - which some believe is the original portal to the Other World - then boarded it up to ensure the doll would never come back. When the doll returns, now modeled after Coraline, perhaps Mrs. Lovat "accidentally" leaves her trunk open so Wybie can find the doll and give it to his new friend.
This would explain why it suddenly emerges after being locked up for decades, as well as why Mrs. Lovat frantically demands the doll back toward the end of the movie - she may have second-guessed herself once Wybie shared Coraline's horrific account of the Other World.