Sunday 14 September 2014

Animation Turnaround #2: Coraline (2009)

Laika made a splash in 2009 when they released their first animated film, Coraline. Done entirely in stop-motion, the film is a rarity in mainstream animation, because it's one of the few truly spooky family films that has appeared on the big screen. Based on the famous novel by Neil Gaiman, Coraline represented a rebirth for the stop-motion format and a glorious return for director Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas), who crafted a lovingly terrifying world and made Laika a force to be reckoned with.

Perhaps not a huge box office success, Coraline nonetheless proved that stop-motion is a valid and beautiful way of creating an animated film. Gaiman's spooky book translated perfectly into this cinematic world. Stop-motion is still a struggling medium, but Laika is making sure it stays alive in the industry. Perhaps Coraline was not as big a game changer as Shrek was, but still, in its own subtle way, Coraline dared to challenge the status quo of the animation industry, where many studios are happy just to play it safe with stories for kids. Coraline challenged those preconceptions and proved that family films do not have to be dumbed down, but can instead engage every member of the family. Thanks to this, Laika's follow-up film, ParaNorman, went even further in challenging these preconceptions and the studio is now known as one that takes risks in order to tell its great stories.

Even if it wasn't a box office juggernaut, Coraline has done nothing but grow in popularity since it was first released. Most people agree that Coraline is a masterpiece, and with good reason. The story offers a unique and terrifying glimpse of the dangers of appearances; Coraline's "other world" is perfect on the outside but very dangerous inside. Coraline, the character, comes across at first as a boring and somewhat annoying lead, but evolves and becomes a courageous girl who overcomes her dangerous situation by outsmarting one of the most terrifying villains that has ever been in an animated film. Add in an array of colourful and eccentric characters (including one of the best animated cats ever) and much beautiful and nightmarish imagery, and Coraline provides a unique and rewarding experience on every front. In a world where most studios are releasing CG films, it's refreshing to have somewhere like Laika, which is going against the tide and releasing masterful films like this one.  Rating: 5/5.

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