“Coraline” is a 2009 stop motion animation made by Laika Studios and based on Neil Gaiman’s 2002 novel of the same name. It is a story about a lonely girl who accidentally uncovers a hidden magical world just outside of reality where all of her wishes appear to come true. Of course, there’s always a price for getting what you wish for, and Coraline finds this out the hard way.
This is the story of Coraline, a girl who had just moved with her parents to an old Victorian house that was converted into an apartment building in Pontiac, Michigan.
In this place there lived other people for example two retired actresses called Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, and also a Russian acrobat named Mr Bobinsky.
Since Coraline’s parents are busy working on a garden catalog she feels ignored by them and this drives her to explore her new home. While doing this she meets Wyborn “Wybie” Lovat; the grandson of the apartment’s landlady.
She continues to explore and finds a door that had been sealed by a brick wall.
The night of the same day she follows a mouse to the door and discovers a long dark corridor where the wall used to be. After going through it she finds herself on another world called the Other World, in this place everything seems perfect.
Before I continue I think I should mention that the Other Mother wants to impress Coraline because there isn’t a version of her in the Other World.
Her parents pay attention to her and there are also nicer, more interesting alternate versions of her neighbors. There’s only one strange thing about them; all the people residing in this other world have black buttons for eyes.
The next day she tells her neighbors about the Other World. They warn her to not go back there, but she doesn’t listen to them because she’s having so much fun. Coraline is entertained by the other versions of her neighbors that are entirely different from the real people. Case in point: Mr Bobinsky runs a mouse circus and Miss Spink and Miss Forcible are not retired and are great actresses.
After coming back from the Other World one day, she goes shopping for school clothes with her parents. She asks her mom for mittens but she rejects her, which just reinforces the fact that her real mother is too busy and worn out from working to see to her needs and makes the Other Mother look all the more attractive to be with.
During her third visit she encounters a talking black cat from the real world. He warns her that the place where she is at the moment is not a dream come true, and that the Other Mother is not a mother at all.
She doesn’t heed the cat’s warnings until the Other Mother invites her to live in the Other World forever. All she needs to do is replace her eyes with buttons. This finally snaps her back to reality and she pretends to be tired, and hurries off and tries to get back to the real world, but it’s no use.
Coraline attempts to leave by walking away from the house but it seems like she’s walking in circles and the only place that exists in the Other World is the copy of the house she lives in.
The Other Mother is blocking the way to the real world.
Coraline demands to return home and tells the Other Mother that she isn’t her mother. This makes her angry and she transform into a tall spider-like creature and traps Coraline in a small room behind a mirror, where she meets the ghosts of the kids who had lost their eyes and lives to the Other Mother. They ask Coraline for help, while also telling her to avoid their fate. To free their souls she needs to find their eyes, which are in the form of items or jewels.
Other Wybie helps her to escape to the real world, but she finds that her parents are not there; they were kidnapped by the Other Mother.
Back in the real world Miss Spink and Miss Forcible give Coraline a magic seeing stone. It helps her quite a bit when she comes back to the Other World to look for the eyes of the kids that are trapped there. The wise black cat told Coraline that the only way to get free of her is to challenge the Other Mother to a game. The Other Mother accepts. If Coraline loses she promises to sew buttons over her eyes, but if she wins the Other Mother will let her leave, so she has to find the eyes of the ghost children and her parents in a short amount of time.
She finds the ghost children eyes with the help of the black cat and the seeing stone. Each eye was guarded by mice and rats that were actually pretending to be Coraline’s neighbors. She finds her parents trapped in a snow globe and the ghost children warn her that the Other Mother will never let her go.
Based on this information Coraline tricks the Other Mother into opening the door to the real world and she escapes, but one of the hands of Other Mother is left in the corridor between both worlds. That night it scuttles out of the door looking for the key so that Other Mother can open the door and enter the real world.
When Coraline comes back she finds the snow globe shattered and her parents arriving through the door. She greets them warmly, happy to see them alive and well.
The ghost children are finally at peace. Before leaving they warn her that the Other Mother will still try to retrieve the key, so she decides to throw it into the well outside her house.
When she tries to do this the severed hand of Other Mother attacks her. Wybie appears and helps her destroy the hand, and throw the key down the well. The next day her parents have finish their garden book and are able to spend time with her, so Coraline holds a garden party for her family and neighbors and even invites Wybie’s grandmother.
For the first time in her life, Coraline is happy. So it is a very good ending for a dark fairy tale.
The main message of Coraline is: appreciate your family, because you won’t be able to talk to them once they’re gone. Also not everything is what it seems. It’s a cautionary story with strong fairy tale abduction elements. All in all, a great animated movie by Laika.
Before We Go, Let’s Talk About the Music!
Like most animated children’s movies, the musical numbers in “Coraline” are very important.
“Dreaming” the song from the introduction of the film features the Other Mother making a doll and stuffing it, symbolizing her dream to have a child. It seems that even nightmares have dreams sometimes.
“The Play’s the Thing” seems to be about the joy of doing a play or acting in general, and the thrill of being on stage. It also displays the rivalry between Miss Spink and Miss Forceable. Showing that the Other World versions of themselves may be their dream images of who they are (or in this case, who they were), but with a very dark streak running through them.
The “Other Father’s Song” is pretty much about telling Coraline how good of a person she is. That’s the one that seem to be the most important. It foreshadows his involvement in helping her escape the Other Mother. Even though he’s a puppet, he still loves her.
This song was written by “They Might Be Giants”.