A Vintage Crate + films


Have you seen this film yet? We took the boys to see Coraline the week it was released. I have always been intrigued by stop-motion animation. Ever since the Rankin/Bass Christmas television specials of my youth (Rudolph, Year Without A Santa Claus, Jack Frost, etc), I have loved me some stop-mo animation. In fact, prior to having children, my husband and I attended several local animation film festivals. We were early fans of Nick Park's Wallace & Gromit shorts and feature-length films.

Coraline is the story of a young girl who discovers a hidden passageway in an old house which leads to a strange and 'opposite' world, which appears very much like her real life... only better. This movie is actually history-making, in that it is the first stop-motion animation film made with stereoscopic 3D technology. What does all that mean exactly? Lucky for you -and me- I did a little research and this is what I learned:

Stop-motion animation works by shooting a single frame of an object (or puppet), then moving the object ever so slightly, and then shooting another frame. When the film runs continuously, the illusion of fluid motion is created and the objects appear to move by themselves. This is similar to the animation of cartoons, but using real objects instead of drawings.

Steroscopic 3D involves taking a picture for the left eye, then moving the camera a preset distance and taking another one for the right eye. The effect makes the images jump off the screen much more vividly. There's none of the silly 'poke you in the eyes' 3-D tricks in this film. Instead, the Coraline 3D technology was used to enhance the sets and characters giving them more depth and making them seem more realistic.

Films featuring stop-motion animation require hours of tedious work and can take a very long time to produce. This form of filmmaking is truly a labor of love, due to the sheer amount of detail, hard work, and dedication involved. I read somewhere that during production of Coraline, it took about a week to create just 1 minute of completed animation. And, the entire film took nearly 4 years from start to finish.

Due to the proliferation of computer-generated animation movies, I think some of the amazement over stop-motion animation may be lost on our children. Knowing all the painstaking work involved is what makes us more appreciative of this art form. Stop-motion animation is very much a hand-crafted art, utilizing modalities such as sculpting, painting, sewing, and even knitting. I have enjoyed sharing these quick videos from YouTube with my boys in an attempt to give tham a sense of what's involved in creating this type of an animated film.

For this spooky Alice-in-Wonderland-type tale, numerous puppets (28 for Coraline alone!) and 130 sets were designed and built. The puppets are only inches high, with metal “skeletons,” and faces and bodies sculpted from clay and other materials that suit their character. For more insight into the detailed hand-crafted work, take a look at this short (2 mins) video featuring the talented woman who was responsible for knitting Coraline's teensy-tiny sweaters and gloves...

The story is described as a "fairytale nightmare" by its creators. The MPAA gave it a PG rating due to its somewhat creepy overtones. Therefore, if you have little ones who are easily frightened, this film is probably not for them. The conservative Dove Foundation awarded Coraline its 'Family Approved Seal' for ages 12 & up. For more information about the Dove Foundation, you can read my previous post.

We brought our sons, ages 14, 12, and 7 with us. Although the film may be a little dark for some 7 year-old's, my son loves all things creepy, so I wasn't worried about him. You do not need to have children to enjoy this fantastic film, of course. I am fairly sure that my husband and I enjoyed Coraline as much, if not more than our children.

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