July 4, 2007
Animation director Henry Selick gave a special presentation during the Platform International Animation Festival last week. After an extended reel including his (mostly stop-motion) work for MTV, the shorts Slow Bob and the Lower Dimensions from Liquid TV and the entirely CG Moongirl; and the features The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and Monkeybone, the audience was given a sneak peek into the evolution of the character design for the protagonist in his new directorial effort.

Coraline is based on the award-winning young adult novel of the same name by fantasy author Neil Gaiman. The original cover and illustrations were provided by Gaiman's frequent collaborator Dave McKean (their next collaboration for children is a picture book called Crazy Hair). McKean is known for his incorporation of photo collage in his artwork, but is also a deft illustrator. Although both writer and artist have worked with others, for many, you name one and the other name follows.

Unfortunately, no audio or video recording devices were allowed during the presentation, but I can tell you that I was delighted to see that:

1) The style does not look anything like McKean's. As huge a fan as I am of his work, it seems almost lazy to just go with his style because it's expected of anything associated with Gaiman's work. The medium is different and it's worth coming at the design from a different angle.

2) The new character design, similar to what you see above, really fits the character and the tone of the story. The audience was treated to a short animatic, and Coraline's look and movements make me very hopeful for this adaptation. The talented designers at Laika had me budgeting already for the book featuring conceptual art of the film.

Coraline is slated for theatrical release in late 2008.

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