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Coraline Designers and Animators Discuss NECA’s Coraline Doll and Discuss the Magic of Stop Motion Animation

When talking about classic stop motion animation films, it’s hard not to put Coraline at the top of the list. Coraline is a magical stop motion animated horror film released in 2009, based on Neil Gaiman’s classic dark fantasy children’s novella. Even 13 years later, the movie still remains relevant as a masterful work of art and storytelling.

With a perfect blend of horror, comedy, fantasy, magic, and heroics, Coraline is a favorite amongst kids and adults alike. In this video, various Laika Studio designers and animators who had a hand in creating the film go into detail about why exactly they think Coraline is so beloved. Because Coraline features a strong and spunky female protagonist who requires no outside help as she battles against an evil maternal demon, it’s very easy to want to identify with Coraline. She is an inspiration to all.

In this video, Deborah Cook, head of the costume team, speaks about her experiences designing costumes and dolls for each character. Steve Emerson, head of visual effects, speaks about the work he put in cleaning up some of the still shots with computers. Oliver Jones, head of rigging, talks about the props he built to hold the puppets. Finally, Brad Schiff, head of animation, talks about how time-consuming it was to film Coraline in its entirety. Because the movie was filmed in stop motion, only 4 seconds of film were shot every day over the course of 2 years! Talk about being patient.

The Laika team then discusses the Coraline doll collectible that has just been released by NECA with new exclusive packaging. Deborah Cook, creator of the original Coraline film doll, gave her official stamp of approval, stating that the NECA doll hits the mark on multiple levels, between the authenticity of replication, the materials used, and all the minute textural details. Featuring a removable yellow raincoat, eerie black button eyes, and gray ragdoll hair, you’re going to love having this iconic Coraline doll in your collection.


Read Full Interview Transcription Below: 

Marc: Hi everybody, I'm Marc Summers and welcome to Haulathon. Today we step into the creation of the stop-motion film, Coraline. This was a landmark achievement and a truly unique film. That's why we’re so excited to welcome members of Laika studios who worked on Coraline. So if you like peeking behind the curtain, this one’s for you. Grab your closest Coraline doll, now available from Kidrobot. What do you say we crawl through that tunnel together?

Simon: Hi, and welcome to this virtual panel as part of the Haulathon. It’s great to have Target on board as a retail partner. My name is Simon Thompson, I’m a producer and journalist and it’s my honor to be here today. As many of you know, the National Entertainment Collectibles Association makes only the coolest collectible merchandise based on the most popular licenses. I mean what is a tv, movie, or comic book, the list goes on, if it doesn’t have a cool toy or collectible? It also helps that there are few things cooler than the work and creations of the team at Laika. As a jewel in that cool crown though and perhaps the biggest of all of them, is Coraline.

Brian: My title on Coraline was facial structure supervisor, and that was intentionally ambiguous because back then we had just started using 3D printers for stop motion and we were the first studio to do so, and we weren’t advertising it. We were keeping it very secret, so I got the weird title of facial structure supervisor.

Deborah: My role on Coraline was heading up the costume team. And so I built the prototype costumes, including the yellow raincoat and the Coraline doll.

Steve: As you can imagine, when you’re making a stop motion film, many many things will go wrong and my job was I oversaw a team of people that cleaned up all the problems using computers after the fact. Henry Selick was our director and Henry really wasn’t crazy about using computer-generated elements in the film. He wanted pretty much everything that you would see in Coraline to at one point existed within the walls of this warehouse that we all were working in out here. The visual effects work that we do here at Coraline, it's it's really it's like live action filmmaking but we're just doing it with really small actors and we're doing it one frame at a time.

Brad: It was my job to bring Coraline and Mr. Bobinsky and other characters in the film to life. The films start off you know, it's a year-and-a-half of pre-production to build all the puppets and the sets, and then we launch into shooting on the stage with all the assets that the puppet department and the set department and the RP Department, the faces that they can build for us and we shoot for nearly two years of Animation, a team of 30 animators who are responsible for about four seconds a week. And you know, do that math together and in two years you've got 90 minutes of stop motion animation finished, and then hand it off to Steve and his team for visual effects and whatnot.

Oliver: I was a stop motion rigger on Coraline, and the job of stop motion rigger is to support the animators with kind of mechanisms that hold the puppets and the props in three-dimensional space. My first day at Laika was kind of walking into the studio and they showed us the first act of the movie, and I have to say, it blew me away. Just in, just pure drawings, just in story board form, nothing had been shot yet. When a movie is that good, just in really crude rudimentary drawn animation, and knowing that you're going to spend the next two years kind of coloring that in, it’s, that was pretty pretty wild.

Simon: Do you personally have a thought on, on why this is, really, I mean this is still one where people think of Laika, this is definitely in that top three that people will name and will be fans of.

Brad: This little spunky female protagonist that didn’t need the help of anybody you know, didn’t need the help of any man, you know, which is typical in animated films. And she was able to overcome and battle this bedlam all on her own without any help from anybody else, and I think it resonated with people across the country.

Deborah: I mean I’d agree with all the things that Brad said, I think it was you know, a very, you know, it’s a fantastic multi-layered story that appeals to multiple generations of people that having a female protagonist that strong and that brave as well. It was shot wicked, it was spooky, it was funny. You know, it was a playful story, but it also had incredible imagination. It was like a key into another world, and it showed you know, the potential of fantasy, and brought a story to life that I think with you know, the popularity of the doll as well now, with NECA, I think that all ties in. That you know, the doll was a key to a magical world, as well as the actual key. It really kind of kicked off the fantasy point of the movie and took it from like just a real life story to something very very magical.

Oliver: It was you know, it did well when it first came out, but I think it’s grown in its kind of its mystique, and I think that’s testament to the medium, I think that’s testament to like, the decisions that were made at the time. It hasn’t dated. Like, it really looks pretty damn good, right? And sits very well against today’s animated films, considering it was fifteen years ago.

Simon: Does it surprise you that the Coraline doll is consistently in such high demand amongst collectors and continues to sell out every time it hits the shelves at say, Target, obviously the retail partner here?

Deborah: I think that doll especially hits the mark on many levels with the authenticity of its replication with materials, scale, proportions, the detail, I think is really good. I like the texture on the face because those, you know, only mentioned earlier that they supplied a shape for the face. And we covered it with a stocking, like a flesh-tone stocking that we dyed and then stretched over that shape. And you can see that. You can see the sort of the texture on the face, and the fact that that’s there is pretty cool. I like that.

Brian: I think, well one of the things that just from fun facts behind the doll, this is, we did make the doll much larger in the actual movie, but this was the size that the doll was made at. So there was a little version that Coraline would hold, but this was the size that this thing would be filmed at on the screen.

Oliver: I was watching my daughter’s soccer game, and I’m sitting there, and everybody’s, you know all the parents are throwing out names – “Come on Penny, come on, come on” – and somebody, I hear from the sidelines, “Come on Coraline, kick it out!” And I thought woah, that is a sign that people are starting to name their children after the name of the film that we worked on.

Simon: I mean to say a job has been well done, doesn’t even begin to describe it. So to the panelists, Deb, Steve, Brad, Olly, and Brian, thank you so much for your time. To those of you watching, thank you for your time. And may your collections and your imaginations continue to grow. I’m Simon Thompson, and create a great day.

Marc: What amazing insight into the making of a modern day classic. Remember to pick up your Coraline doll at Target stores and at Target.com. International fans can purchase it at Haulathon.com. Many thanks to the Laika folks for stopping by, we’re gonna see you next time. I’m your host, Marc Summers, signing off.