At Comic-Con International in San Diego, the creative minds behind “Coraline” sat down to discuss the production of the film and two-disk collector’s edition DVD set released last week. The panel consisted of director Henry Selick, author Neil Gaiman, actors Teri Hatcher and Keith David, Executive Producer Bill Mechanic, Character Fabrication Designer Georgina Hayns, and Travis knight, CEO of Laika, the Portland studio that animated the film. Eric Moro moderated the panel.
The panel began with a clip from the Blu-Ray edition of the DVD, of Selick talking about character personality and design stylization against a collection of character illustrations. After the clip, Selick explained that he worked with many artists on the film, and it was a “winnowing process” to find Coraline’s look.
Next up was a clip spotlighting Neil Gaiman’s visit to Laika Studios in Portland, Oregon. Moro then asked Gaiman what impressed him the most about the animated film. Gaiman noted the scene that depicted Coraline’s walk through the magic garden, which actually wasn’t in the original novella, and Coraline’s escape from the Other Mother. He mentioned that his strangest experience was when he saw the model of Coraline’s house that Laika built. The house was almost exactly like Gamain’s house, despite the studio not having any photo reference.
The panel then previewed a clip of the 3D process used in the film, and Moro followed up with a question to Laika’s Travis Knight, asking what drew him to stop-motion animation. Knight replied that he had seen the work of masters who had “brought inanimate objects to waking life.” Moro asked Knight what’s next for Laika, and Knight responded that he couldn’t say yet, but it will involve stop-motion.
After a clip showcasing Teri Hatcher performing as both Coraline’s mother and her evil Other Mother, Moro asked Bill Mechanic how the cast was selected. Mechanic answered that the animated film actually took between seven and eight years to make from the moment Mechanic read publication galleys of Gaiman’s novella, and that they casted all the roles by comparing the auditions of many actors and actresses to the animated footage.
When asked what drew her to the project, Hatcher explained that she felt the script was amazing, and that her daughter loved the production’s storyboards.
Next, the panel treated the audience to a clip of Keith David recording his voiceover performance as the Cat. Moro asked David about his decision process for the performance, and David said that he tried a couple of different approaches before settling on the one seen in the film. He added hat “Coraline” was his first stop-motion project, and the process fascinated him.
After a clip of Georgina Hayns, spotlighting the design of the dolls used in the project, Moro asked her what the biggest challenge was in making the characters. Hayns said that every doll is a challenge, but what makes them challenges are also what makes them great.
Moro then asked the group about setting the story in Portland, and Knigh said the city was a natural breeding ground for stop-motion. Hayns chimed in on the city’s natural beauty, and Selick noted that when he wrote the original draft of the script and set the story in Portland, he had no idea that he would later produce the film there.
When asked what was next for Selick, he replied that he hadn’t decided. Moro followed this up with a question as to whether Selick was concerned with how “Coraline” would play on the small screen, and Selick noted that he had checked the film out on small screens during production, and said the film translates very well, in his opinion.
Moro asked Neil Gaiman which of his other works he would like to see translated to a film. After remarking that “The Graveyard Book” was on its second draft – and some deliberation - Gaiman replied that he would to see “Americam Gods” made as a film. Selick interjected that he thought Gaiman’s “Sandman” as would make a great stop-motion film, and Gaiman replied, “That would be awesome.”
When asked which artists inspired him, Selick said he looked at Fellini, Kurosawa, Miyazaki, and Kadinski, as well as Harryhausen and Jan Svankmejer. He also remarked that music inspired him, particularly the band XTC, Miles Davis, the Shins, and Kings of Leon. The panel closed with a montage of the “Coraline” crew at work.