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Henry Selick on Coraline

Published February 4, 2009 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Images property of Focus Features
Coraline Poster Coraline
Ever since The Nightmare Before Christmas, kids have secretly racked their brains imagining how they animated some of the most astounding movements of those figures frame by frame. Now that Henry Selick has finished Coraline, some 16 years later, he's revealing some of his tricks. For example, when a character jumps and remains midair for several frames, they have all sorts of tricks to hold him in place.

Henry Selick Directs Coraline


"Back then we used this stuff called spider wire, which was like the thinnest possible wire and it didn't really photograph but now it's simpler," Selick said. "We just use something that's in the air, we use a little metal arm that's animatable itself, just called a rig it might be any number of things. We attach them to that and then it goes away and then it posts painted out. I want to do a midnight screening where all those rigs and all those face scenes in Coraline, because we animated her upper face separate from her lower, where all that stuff is there cause it's actually really cool to see."

Also, if you're going frame by frame, what happens if something falls over, if you bump the table, or just lose your place? "Usually the problem is that you don't notice something shifted. The worst thing of all is sometimes these shots aren't done in a day, there's certain shots that take like a week even two weeks for a really long take and over the night there are things that contract and expand. So often, it's almost subliminal things are all kind of shifting around. A certain amount of that I actually kind of like. It just sort of shows off the animating process. If it something as obvious as Coraline's running and her ankle breaks, which happens, now that we're shooting digital, we have the stored images, she goes back into the fabrication hospital and is given and ankle, comes back out and we can sort of flick between the stored image and live to running up again. Things go wrong everyday, all the time."


New technology has simplified some of the correction processes."Really at the heart, at the center, it's actually exactly the same. It's an animator whose a really fine actor and they're a sculptor. They sort of resculpt, reshape the character in every frame. At the heart of it, it's the exact same that has existed for over 80 years. But yes, things are easier cause in the old days, you're shooting film, there was no digital capture, nobody got any sleep. Now that you capture digitally, you're watching the shot as it grows and if you making a terrible mistake, you can play it back."

And Coraline is also in 3-D. "All the time it took to get this film together, the 3-D was finally getting out into the theaters. The story itself, it called for something magical. 3-D captures stop-motion and then it's a way to expand the other world, draw people into the screen. If I was ever lost about how much 3-D to use, I would look to the story and very much of what's coming off the screen. Once you start to go there a lot, it really makes it difficult. It's hard to edit, it hurts your eyes if you don't do it right and you just sort of serve the story better to just have a couple of moments, you know, a needle in your eye, a trapeze, a few things, but mainly try to get people to come into the world with Coraline."

Coraline opens to theaters on February 6th.

For the trailers, poster and more movie info, go to the Coraline Movie Page.

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Compiled By (Sources)
Fred Topel
Sources: Images property of Focus Features
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