Coraline, the beloved Henry Selick adaptation of the award-winning Neil Gaiman book, is known for being a different, creepy kind of children’s movie. The film asks children to use their imagination and picture a world not unlike ours, but one that exists just beyond a small door in your own house. What if, in that world, you had another set of parents? Another life? But what if that other world wasn’t as cool as you hoped?
Behind the world of Coraline is a team of 250 animators, puppeteers, artists, and designers who built a real-life set and created almost every single aspect of the film by hand. Let’s take a look behind the scenes of Coraline.
One Animator Was In Constant Danger Of Catching On Fire
The theater in Spink and Forcible's apartment that Coraline visits in the Other World was a complicated setup. Constructed and operated by animator Eric Leighton, the theater featured a real working stage with a trapdoor. The boat in the musical scene is operated from stage left; behind the stage is a series of small dials that move the stage itself; and the trapdoor is moved by automobile rigs.
For each frame, Leighton had to run from one end of the set to the other in order to control the stage, trapdoor, and boats. The lights along the edge of the stage were so hot that, when he was not paying attention, Leighton's clothes would catch on fire.
Each Puppet Had About 30 Pairs Of Hands
Each puppet's hands were made (fittingly) by hand, and each character had approximately 30 pairs to accommodate all of their gestures. The animators made the skeletons of the hands using a computer, then printed them out and had the skeletons cast in silver.
Additionally, thousands of different faces, each with a different facial expression, were created for every short piece of dialogue.
The Blue Flowers In The Beldam’s Garden Were Made Out Of Dog Toys
When the animators found a chew toy during a trip to the supermarket, they got the brilliant idea to cut them up and use them as flower buds because of the way they expanded. The blue flowers that make up Coraline's hair in the Beldam's garden are actually these dog toys painted a cobalt blue.
In a similar vein, the flowers in the cherry blossom forest were made of popcorn.
Knitting One Puppet Sweater Could Take Anywhere From Six Weeks To Six Months
The characters' wardrobes in Coraline are so realistic and detailed, you may nearly forget everything was made on a miniscule scale. Some of the knitting needles used to make the puppets' sweaters were nearly as small as a human hair, and as far as knitting expert Althea Crome knows, she is the only person who stitches conceptual sweaters and garments on such a small scale.
"When one shrinks a craft or skill into something so tiny," Crome said in a behind-the-scenes featurette, "it asks the viewer to imagine how it was done." She also said that designing and knitting one of these tiny sweaters could take her anywhere from six weeks to six months.