This Friday i went and saw the movie Coraline with some friends (trailer is here). While the movie sports an ordinary story – a cartoonish plot of evil lady trying to steal a young girls soul – it was extraordinary in the the way it looked in two ways. First it was stop-motion, and second it was in 3D.
Stop motion is incredibe. I used to love claymation films of Wallace and Grommit and this is similar (although not clay). The details in Coraline are incredible and the attention to detail the creators take in making the film makes me enjoy watching it so much more than typical graphic effects. I appreciate the effort and i can see the effort. For example, each 9.5-inch-tall Coraline puppet has a composite skeleton, silicone flesh, and 20 ball-and-socket joints, which animators tweaked millimeter by millimeter.
When you read how the film was made, you get an even larger appreciation. Some other interesting facts about the movie (found in Wired):
- The character Mr. Bobinsky (shown above) is a ringmaster that lives upstairs from Coraline. His moustache is made from piano wire and nylon fishing line doubles as body hair. Pretty cool DIY.
- For the garden outside Coraline’s house, the animators pulled on cables and tubes to open flowers and make a blooming effect as well as using cosmetic sponges, wire, and Ping-Pong balls. Fiber optics within and black lights above give the petals their glow.
- The garden is just incredible. Just think 3 seconds of footage took 3 weeks to shoot.
- Steam for a pot of tea is cotton spritzed with hair spray makes a nice puff of vapor. (see side image to right)
- Coraline’s house is amazing too. A crew of 70 carpenters and model makers hand-made every slat, post, and clapboard on the 6-foot-tall home, which was built in multiple configurations so that many scenes could be shot simultaneously. For the gravel, about 100 pounds of kitty litter was used to surface the 150-square-foot driveway and for the sky, dimmable fiber optics were glued into tiny holes poked in a black curtain. (see image below). For the grass, it was 1,300 square feet of hand-dyed faux fur. For the blossoms of the plants, the crew spent 800 hours painting 250,000 pieces of popcorn—pink on the outside, red on the kernel—to stand in as blossoms for the nearly 70 trees.
- Caroline herself is quite a work of wires and details. According to Wired, her hair is done up with wire, synthetic hair, blue paint, and drug-store styling goop, and arranged by hand, strand by strand. Her wool gloves (where you can see each thread) were done using needles as tiny as 0.02 inch in diameter. To allow for more than 200,000 facial expressions, fabricators built 350 top plates (eyebrows and forehead) and 700 bottom plates (mouth).
- Even the cats eyes are realistic. To get that a coating of Scotchlite paint behind the plastic lens simulates the reflectivity of real feline eyes.
- There’s a mouse circus in the movie. To do this, designers created 550 hand-painted mice, each with nine separate parts. Animators spent four months reconfiguring and swapping them in and out to mimic motion.
The second reason i enjoyed the movie is because it was in 3D. I read last year that the studios were going to ramp up 3D production as a way to boost ticket sales. Apparently with home theaters, DVD’s and movies on-demand there is less and less reason to “go” to the movies and 3D is just the way to bring people back.
I read some other articles last year of studios really being behind 3D. In an interview even George Lucas is looking at bringing Star Wars back in 3D format (interview here). In fact, there was a press release last year about how ALL Pixar and Dreamwork films are going 3D:
Disney announced that all computer-animated features from Disney and Pixar will be released in digital 3-D starting with Bolt following in the footsteps of DreamWorks Animation, which announced last summer that starting in 2009 it would be releasing all of its computer-animated titles in 3-D.
Studios make a lot more money with 3D movies as they have higher ticket prices and now that the technology is much better than it was in the 70’s and 80’s, it’s only a matter of time before all movies come out this way. I saw My Bloody Valentine 3D this January and now with Coraline, i can safely say that i really enjoy the 3D experience. It’s more realistic and differentiated from watching at home. It’s more of a show.
The only thing holding back 3D from being in more movies right now are the theaters. 3D requires digital screens and there are only about 4000 screens in the US that can show 3D. There is a $700 million dollar plan to upgrade them and i have to imagine that once that happens, you’ll be seeing a lot more 3D films in the theater and i’m personally all for it. I just wonder when the 3D experience will come to gaming and once it gets there, when will it come t the rest of the computer desktop? And once it goes there, what’s keeping the entire world from looking like a bunch of total nerds? That’s a bigger problem.
- Discuss: “The Best Movie I’ve Ever Seen in 3-D!” (cinematical.com)
- Henry Selick, Keeping Stop-Motion Moving Ahead (npr.org)
- 3D or Not 3D? (journal.neilgaiman.com)
- Gallery: Wallace and Gromit in pictures (guardian.co.uk)
- Coraline: Out of this world (thestar.com)