Focus Features offered long-lead press the first opportunity to view 30 minutes of CORALINE footage last Friday, even more than what was screened during the recent set visits. The first stereoscopic 3-D stop motion feature, produced by Oregon-based Laika Ent., directed by Henry Selick and based on Neil Gaiman's novella, opens Feb. 6, 2009.
Judging from the footage, the feature looks extremely detailed, atmospheric, immersive and compelling as a Grimm-inspired fairy tale about a melancholy young girl (Dakota Fanning) that discovers a hidden passageway in an old house to an opposite world.
"Would you like another life... and another version of your parents?" Selick offered in his introduction. The director admitted that it was his good friend and 3-D guru, Lenny Lipton, who introduced him to the modern wonders of stereoscopic filmmaking. "It [has] a tactile quality of what it's like to be on set," Selick added. He cited the Oz-like moment when Coraline travels through the passageway to the other world as a prime example of using 3-D to its fullest.
"It's very true to the book -- very dark darks and beauty and light," Selick added. "It's an old-fashioned fairy tale [told] in a modern way. It's for very brave children of all ages... but mostly from eight to 82."
Afterward, Selick and Travis Knight (one of the animation leads) offered some more observations to AWN:
Selick said he is appreciative of advanced technology in puppetry (the head replacements and hair, among other things) and digital moviemaking (shooting in 4K resolution). However, he acknowledged that the craft of stop motion is "not smooth like CG," so he emphasized the importance of embracing imperfection to his animators. That included shooting on 2s, according to Knight, and not fretting about every little head replacement, according to Selick.
Seleck also championed practical effects as much as possible, including using cotton for fog (with a smidgen of CG for smoothness) and real fire on the stove and blue light under the kettle.
Knight, who was initially skeptical about 3-D, said it's worked out very well artistically. He said it's intentionally dialed down during the early scenes so that the otherworldly sequences are more dramatically effective. Knight also acknowledged the strong influence of 101 DALMATIANS in the characters of The Other Father (John Hodgman) and The Other Mother (Teri Hatcher).
Selick is particularly proud of working with a blend of stop motion vets and newcomers, who enjoyed playing with puppets and sets once they got used to the slower shooting pace. When asked if one particular sequence involving a performing mice troupe was inspired by George Pal's Puppetoons, it brought an instant smile to the director's face and a note of thanks for mentioning it.
--By VFXWorld Editor Bill Desowitz