Seeing triple

Old-fashioned handicraft and hi-tech digital film technology collide in Coraline, the first stop-motion animated feature to be conceived and executed for digital 3D projection. While 3D stop-motion dates back to 1939 and John Norling’s short film In Tune with Tomorrow, and films such as 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas have been converted for 3D projection, Coraline marks a first for feature-length stereoscopic stop-motion production: each frame shot twice, for right eye and left eye. Director Henry Selick, whose credits include The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, adapted Neil Gaiman’s dark fairytale about a lonely girl who discovers an alternate version of her own world which appears more alluring in every detail – an irresistible assignment for the scores of animators who toiled for more than three years in 52 stages at the Laika facility in Portland, Oregon. Facial expressiveness, in particular, benefits from recent technological leaps – the Coraline character has a potential for 200 000 expressions, as compared to 150 for Nightmare’s Jack Skellington 16 years ago. Small wonder that, after footage was showcased on Gaiman’s own website, Selick was rumoured to have sold his soul to digital CGI. ‘People started arguing on some websites about whether it was computer-enhanced stop-motion, which it wasn’t,’ says Gaiman. ‘The puppets’ faces, their hair and their costumes’ fabric just moved so naturally.’Coraline opens in cinemas on 8 May

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