In February, 2009, LAIKA animation studio will release their puppet-animated adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Coraline. Directed by "Nightmare Before Christmas" alum, Henry Selick, the film promises to be action-packed, colorful, Americanized (with Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher) voicing the title roles, and artful. Plus an additional scrappy little-boy character to bring in those scrappy little-boy audiences. Fans of the book are already freaking out.
I just read the book this week (in two nights). Gaiman's novella is a horror/fairy tale and Coraline and her parents are more like archetypes than full-on characters. So you can insert your thoughts and feelings throughout the eerie narrative. It makes for a deeply personal and mysterious process, deciphering the weird parallel world that Coraline finds herself on the other side of the door in her living room. Some fans of the book have criticized the upcoming film for being bright and bouncy, but fans: have you ever financed a feature-length animated puppet movie? It better be bright and bouncy and make all its money back and then some, or you're going to be in between jobs for a long time.
Having just watched (again) "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory"the other night, I can understand the fear: this book, so great, must never be trivialized by another creator's inferior vision. But even a flawed film can stand on its own and provide a message just as compelling. Gene Wilder, the ultimate Willy Wonka, voiced it well when he said of the film (paraphrasing), "Children understand this story. It's a moral tale about limits. Children want to know the limits." Gosh, I loved him in that movie.
Coraline, the book, is an art form that lets you read into it whatever you will. What is the evil that Coraline must defeat and what, ultimately, does it want from her? You make the call, and be engrossed and have the creeps while you do so. The film? It looks amazing. And I love that Teri Hatcher looks kind of the same as herself as "the other mother." I'm a sucker for animated puppets.
Update: Laika Films finally released a creepy trailer. I knew this would be coming out at some point. "Coraline" will open the Portland International Film Festival in 3-D on February 5th at 7:30 p.m.
Here's a short trailer made by Milanese BonsaiNinja Studio for the book that follows its aesthetic a little more closely. Have your cake and eat it too.