I’ve been fascinated with “Coraline” ever since I saw the movie in theaters in back in 2009. Even though I was 22, it tapped into feelings from my childhood that I think most people experience as children: the assumption that adults don’t understand or listen, and the wish that there was another magical world parallel to our own. Also, a lot of people have difficulty pronouncing my name (even though, like Cor-a-line, it’s REALLY not that difficult). The visual aesthetic also recalled that of another of my all-time favorite movies, “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” which makes sense because both movies were directed by Henry Selick.
Me as “grown up Coraline” for Halloween 2014. I made the dragonfly barrette and green “viewfinder.” It was too hard to find a yellow raincoat, yellow Wellington boots (not pictured are the tan, knock-off Uggs I wore because the color was the closest I could find to yellow) and orange/pink striped shirt.
As I was finishing up my crocheted Coraline doll, a thought occurred to me: if I love the “Coraline” movie so much, and I love Neil Gaiman, how have I not read Coraline the book yet? I bought a copy years ago, but for whatever reason, I never got around to actually reading it. Thanks to the magic of my public library’s audio eBook system and an abundance of boredom while I dog-sat at my boss’s house, I started and finished the (relatively short) audiobook in 3.5 hours. I was absolutely tickled to see that Neil Gaiman himself did the reading of the audiobook. He has the most fabulous voice, which I first discovered when I went to a book signing party for The Ocean at the End of the Lane back in June 2013 and he read an excerpt from the book.
I have decided that I love Coraline the book almost as much as I love the movie, which is rare because I (like most other people) tend to prefer the original source material over the movie renditions. Perhaps it’s because I love the movie’s aesthetic so much, which the book was not as readily capable of conveying. Nevertheless, I love the way that Gaiman creates his children’s stories through the lens of how he saw the world when he was a child, which is slightly twisted and fantastical. Had I not read The Ocean at the End of the Lane first and heard him speak about his autobiographical inspiration, I don’t know if this would have been as immediately apparent.
Overall, the movie stayed true to the book. Even the music of the audiobook– yes, the audiobook has several short musical renditions of the singing mice/rats by The Gothic Archies!– was fabulously echoed in Bruno Coulais’ soundtrack. Of course, there were a few notable differences between the two:
- The tone of the book has Gaiman’s signature dry wit and subtlety, whereas the movie is comparatively more frenetic as well as literally more colorful and stylized (though because I listened to the audiobook, I do not know what the illustrations in the physical book look like). This is especially apparent in the differences between the “real world” and the “other world”of the movie, the latter of which is a lot more alluring than “reality.”
- Book-Coraline’s parents are not nearly as coarse and neglectful as they are in the movie.
- Book-Coraline is more critical from the beginning of the Other Mother (later known as the Beldam) and the world that she has created.
- There is no doll that the Other Mother/Beldam created in Coraline’s likeness to spy on her, though it is understandable that it was included in the movie to help explain the prevalence of button eyes (and admittedly, there is a scene at the end of the book when she plays with dolls at the old well to lure the Beldam’s hand, even though her real mother points out that she hasn’t played with dolls in a long time [Coraline herself points out that fact early on in the movie]).
- There is no Wybie or Wybie’s grandmother in the book, both of which served to help explain and progress the movie’s Beldam narrative (in the book, the cat has many of Wybie’s qualities).
- Some of the visual themes of the book version of the Other World, which includes a lot of dust, insects, and rats, are clearly inspired by things that one would find in an abandoned flat (like the one that the little door “leads” to) or in the gross corners of an old house. These are also in the movie, especially when the Beldam starts to turn on Coraline, but they are less blunt. My favorite example of this was with the Other Miss Spink and Miss Forcible: when Coraline is searching for the ghost children’s eyes in the movie, they are like demon-candy taffy when they are “hibernating” inside a waxy wrapper; in the same scene the book, however, they are more like disgusting, sticky insects in a cocoon.
In terms of visual inspiration for my doll, I definitely went for a mixture of elements from the movie version, particularly with the blue hair and dragonfly barrette. Side note: if you ever Google Image search “Coraline,” you will find some very strange and emo “fan fiction” imagery (ex. lots of bloody button eyes, romantic Coraline-Wybie scenarios, and a really weird baby-eating Coraline). Anyway, when I first got the idea to crochet a Coraline years ago, I purchased some small, black, four-hole buttons for her eyes so that she looked more like the doll that Wybie gave her. However, upon further consideration, I decided I didn’t want to make the spy-doll, therefore button eyes seemed inappropriate because they would have been a mark of her enslavement. I’ve also been experimenting with safety eyes to see if I like the more amigurumi aesthetic and to see if I like the size better than the buttons I have been using.
Aside from the fact that I got the orientation of her dragonfly barrette wrong and she doesn’t have enough weight in her feet because I am running low on ball bearings, I’m overall very pleased with how this doll turned out. My favorite part, as always, is the green viewfinder (made out of polymer clay). After reading the book, in which the “stone with a hole in it” helped Coraline remember who she was in addition to finding the souls of the ghost children, I thought it was a very important inclusion. The satchel is technically functional because it is open at the top– perhaps I could slip some microscopic marbles in it to represent the ghost children’s souls. The hood of the raincoat, on the other hand, is completely non-functional, but it looks good. I went for a thicker neck than previous dolls, and I really like the stability provided for the head while avoiding the egg-on-shoulders look that results from having no neck. I also think I made the best smile yet, which is super exciting because I’ve been having a hard time with the embroidery floss.
Because this post is a hybrid and sort of reviews the Coraline book and movie, here are my ratings:
Coraline (book – 2002): 4.75 out of 5 stars
“Coraline” (movie – 2009): 5 out of 5 stars