Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Coraline’s Special Effects

posted by Nell Minow

Wired Magazine has a fascinating story about the breathtaking special effects in “Coraline.” In an era when we are used to astonishingly “true” images generated by computers, the old-school charms of this stop-motion movie, where everything you see was actually there being photographed, enhanced with ground-breaking 3D technology, is entrancingly tactile. A painstaking process meant that no more than 2-4 seconds a day were completed, with thousands of tiny adjustments in each scene. The title character’s 200,000 facial expressions, required 350 top plates for her eyebrows and forehead and 700 bottom plates for her mouth.


It’s the stunningly inventive DIY visual effects that director Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) used to bring the story to life. A quarter-million pieces of popcorn are transformed into cherry blossoms, superglue and baking soda are whipped into snow, and black fishing line becomes creepy chest hair.

coraline garden.jpg

In all, the crew hand-built 150 sets and 250 jointed puppets, as well as plants and toys with countless moving parts. “What makes this film different,” says Tom Proost, one of the art directors, “is that everything is real and everything moves.”

Every detail is brilliantly imagined and brilliantly executed. I love the way they created the steam from a tea kettle: cotton spritzed with hair spray. I’ve seen the film twice and plan to go back again just to see the extraordinary garden and theater scenes and to catch some of the many details I know I have missed.

  • Emmanuel Lopez-Motivatorman

    I am very excited to see this movie, especially because of the traditional stopmotion animation.
    Thanks for this great post Movie Mom!

  • Melinda

    I am so excited to now see this film now that I read this article.
    I am tired of CGI films being incorporated into movies that they don’t do any justice.
    I do understand that they belong in movies like Jurassic park, 2012, and Avatar.
    But I feel that it will make for a much better experience if CGI is left out of cartoons & horror films. I feel that they don’t do the these types of films justice!
    That’s why we need people to create a film like this that look past the money and the time — acting unselfish and creating a beautiful experience for the viewer.
    Great article!

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