Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Coraline in the Blog Dimension

as most any animation fan knows, Laika's first stop-motion feature is being released in theaters this Friday, February 6th. the hopes of Laika, stop-motion animators and crew, as well as the commercial viability of the art form will ride on the box office of Coraline. granted, stop motion animation has been declared dead many times before, and will be many times in the future -- but the success of the feature will have an immediate impact on how fast Laika and/or the rest of the industry will get more of these types of features into production.

the film is based on a short novel by Neil Gaiman, adapted by Henry Selick -- the director of such mixed fare as The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, Monkeybone, and the stop-motion portion of Wes Anderson's idiosyncratic The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Neil Gaiman, while well respected in the fantasy and comic book community, has a less than stellar relationship with animation -- he cowrote Robert Zemmeckis' motion-captured Beowulf.

Selick is, put simply, a master of his craft -- the films he produces have such a smooth aesthetic and just plain attractive design that all other stop-motion competitors have yet to achieve. from what i've seen of the film so far, its no less than some of the most smooth puppet animation i've ever witnessed. much of the smoothness is achieved through the method of replacement body parts (mostly heads) that George Pal pioneered. that said -- i'm not entirely engaged with the story from trailers at least. however, one thing i must applaud is the use of a young girl as a lead character for an animated film -- and film in general. this point-of-view is very often neglected in the commercial landscape of movie plots.

Henry Selick is the right man for the job. Coraline wouldn't be better suited for anyone else. he got his start with his student award-winning Phases and Tube Tales at CalArts before going on to in-between at Disney on Don Bluth's featurette "The Small One" and the live-action/animation mix "Pete's Dragon" before becoming a full-fledged animator under Glen Keane on "The Fox and the Hound." he eventually set out on his own to create a production company that ended up revitalizing commercial campaigns for Ritz Crackers and Pillsbury. he also worked on MTV station IDs that helped solidify MTV as alternative culture. he was asked to create a series of animations that would eventually be pieced together as a 30-minute piece for MTV -- he came up with "Slow Bob in the Lower Dimensions," a crazy mixture of stop-motion, live-action, and cut-out animation -- its not David Lynch weird, but its kind of in the same vein in that not too much is explained for oddity. he wasn't able to complete his series because he signed aboard as the director on Tim Burton's long-gestating The Nightmare Before Christmas. here's the pilot to the aforementioned series:

Slow Bob in the Lower Dimensions (Henry Selick, 1990) - The most amazing home videos are here

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