Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I was in the room when Neil Gaiman and Henry Selick announced a surprise presentation of their adaptation of Gaiman's own CORALINE to happen that night at 7pm, but I had already booked some interviews for then, so I couldn't make it. Luckily a few readers did. Here's what they thought!!!
Hi Quint! I'm just getting into reading AICN, but I'm loving your coverage and reviews and...yeah. I don't know how much help I'll be in telling you about Coraline, since I'm not a film buff and I wasn't taking notes and...I haven't even read the book yet. (I'll be working on that though!) I was only at the Rogue/Focus Studios panel since I wanted to be close for Pixar, so the Gaiman and Selick appearance was a definite surprise. It sounded interesting, so I made a note to myself to get tickets for it after the Pixar panel. When my friends and I showed up for the screening at Horton Plaza, we were given 3-D glasses and checked for cameras. I think the theater was about 3/4s full, but I can't be sure since we were sitting near the front. Neil and Henry were then introduced and took director's chairs at the front of the theater. I don't quite remember what they talked about for the preview, but Henry said that they were smack in the middle of production, and had about 20 minutes of the film finished. When he started to write it, he didn't plan for it to be stop-motion animated, but eventually, as he wrote, it was clear that the film would work better in stop-motion. They then showed us some animation tests for the main characters - some of which were wire-frame skeletons, some of which were lip sync, and some of which were movement (walks, runs, etc). I'm not up to speed with what's happening in stop-motion animation now, but it looked AMAZING, even with the line in the faces that Henry had warned us about. (They split the faces in half horizontally so the mouths and eyebrows could be separated.) The characters moved like they were actually alive and human. From what I saw, the stop-motion animators on Coraline have the same dedication to their craft as the animators at Pixar. The attention to movement was THAT detailed. The audience laughed at Miss Spink's ginormous bosom - there was a rod holding up her torso during the movement tests. Miss Forcible's bouncing "jowls" were also a source of great amusement. (Henry divulged that the cheeks consisted of silicone that they could squish pretty readily.) As for the voice actors, Henry said that Miss Forcible (Dawn French) and Miss Spink (Jennifer Saunders) had actually been offered opposite roles, and as they were reading, Henry thought that they were better suited for the other's part. We were then treated to about 10 minutes of 3-D footage from Coraline. We were told that the 3-D would be evident from the first frame, but would really be utilized in the magical world. The clip wasn't competely finished, so the lines in the faces were still present and the mouse still had a rod holding it up for a few frames when it jumped. But it was a real treat. Coraline is unpacking some snowglobes in her family's new house (oh, the snow had yet to be added to the snowglobes as well), and sees a painting of a sad little boy looking at his fallen ice cream cone. She puts her button-eyed doll down and when she looks back, the doll is gone. She sees it peeking out from behind a bookcase, and pushes the bookcase aside. Upon doing so, she discovers a tiny child-sized door covered over by wallpaper. Coraline calls out to her mother about the secret door, but her mother is obviously uninterested (typing away in the kitchen and ignoring Coraline). Finally, Coraline fusses so much that her mother relents and opens a drawer full of keys to find the one that opens the tiny door. She finds it pretty readily - it's an old-style brass key with a button shaped into the handle. After cutting the seams in the wallpaper, Coraline's mother unlocks the door and opens it to reveal...a brick wall. Needless to say Coraline is disappointed, and her mother goes back to typing in the kitchen, neglecting to lock the door. That night, however, a tiny mouse appears (personally, I thought it was a kangaroo rat but I digress), awakens Coraline and she follows it down the stairs into the living room. There is a long shot of Coraline's button-eyed doll, which is definitely foreshadowing of what the magical world is or where it originates. (Sez me, who hasn't read the book yet..) The door is still open, and the mouse disappears into it. Curious, Coraline opens the door all the way and instead of a brick wall, sees a long tunnel that looks like it's made of paper. This is where the 3-D REALLY kicks in. I really felt like I could crawl in the tunnel with her. She climbs through, and opens up the door on the other side. It seems to be her house, but it's different. The same painting with the boy is there, but he's happy since his ice cream cone is still intact. The living room is also bigger and brighter. She walks into her kitchen, and her mother is there, but again, she's different. "Oh, there you are, Coraline! You're just in time for dinner!" Her mother turns and Coraline is shocked when she sees that her mother has black buttons for eyes. Fade out. After this screening and a few questions, we were told to look under our seats for a star. Those people with stars would get a free Coraline poster and have it signed by both Henry and Neil. My friend got a star, and my other friend started to look for stars under the empty seats so we could all stay and get a poster signed, LOL. He achieved this and all three of us got a very nice poster - it was on heavy paper and very good printing. I had been aware about Coraline's production, but this screening makes me super-excited about the movie. My friends were completely clueless (one of them even leaned over to ask which one was Neil and which one was Henry..) and they were totally stoked about it afterwards. It looks gorgeous, it really does. One last thing. Henry always had trouble with his mike, even when he switched mikes with Neil, so he joked that "It's in Neil's contract that his mike is always more powerful than mine." It seemed like it was actually true - Henry's mike was always going in and out. If you use this, you can call me sugarfiend. :)
Great write-up, sugarfiend. I envy you that crazy-awesome poster. Those two men are genius' and this sounds great. Here's another look at this night, from a spy named "Ender."
Dear Quint, I was able to get a look at the Coraline footage on Saturday evening. While at the theatre Neil Gaiman and Henry Selick came out to introduce the footage. Selick stressed the point that this footage was unfinished and that the crew was still filming. He also said that we would see several of the metal objects they use to keep a character upright and that we should just ignore them. The fact that some of the shots shown were going to be storyboards rather than actual animation was another thing that Selick mentioned Two clips were shown, one was about 5 to 8 minutes long of test footage. The test footage showed several characters including Coraline, her real mother and father, an old woman whose face was so fat it giggled, and a woman whose chest was beyond E cup and had toothpicks for legs. They also showed a dog run around and it reminded me of one of the dogs from the original 101 Dalmatians movie. There was also a quick test clip with Coraline looking at a cat (who Selick later mentioned would be voiced by Keith David if I’m not mistaken) that didn’t seem to move. Then came the really interesting clip. When we got there each of us was handed a pair of 3D glasses and although the test footage wasn’t 3D the next clip was. The clip lasted about 10 minutes long but I have to confess that I can’t be sure, as I was completely involved in what I was watching. The 3D effect was fantastic, I have never really cared for 3D but here it was done very well. What was shown was the beginning of the movie. It was mostly interaction between Coraline and her real mother. Her mother was a real bitch and didn’t want to be bothered by what Coraline had found, which was the door in the wall. Coraline was able to convince her mother to open it and found bricks on the other side. However, later that night Coraline sees a mouse in her room and follows it to where the door is, which is already open and has no bricks but a passageway beyond it. Coraline crawled through the passageway into her apartment. Coraline’s mother called for her, very sweetly, to come get one of the three meals of the day. Coraline found her mother and begin talking to her until her mother turned around and she stopped mid-sentence. The camera zoomed in on her mother’s face, which gave it a horror film vibe, and she had buttons for eyes. That was the end. As for the animation? Well, it was quite impressive, there was this one shot where Coraline looked under her bed for something and although she only had shoulder-length hair it fell pretty close to the ground. It looked like one of those shots that took a very long time to get right and was very difficult to get done correctly. After they showed the footage one in the crowd asked about that shot in particular and Selick responded that it took a while. I was very impressed with what was shown at the screening and wished that we could have seen the rest of the film. That will have to wait till next year though. If you use this you can call me Ender.