Thinking about it still brings a smile to my face–a couple weeks ago Amber and I attended the world premiere of Coraline. Hold on tight, because this is going to be long, tedious, and possibly only interesting to me…
Amber showed up at the box office the day they started selling tickets and snagged ours. Not surprisingly, within a couple hours things were sold out.
No worries here, though. Selick did a marvelous job of capturing the spirit of the book, both in the appearance of the peculiar characters and places, and in the tone of the storytelling. I’m not going to go all spoilery in case you haven’t read the book (go read it now!), but it held up for me.
As you’d expect, there were changes made for the film version though. Two of the largest were in the setting and the addition of another character. The book took place in an old English house, while the film was set in Oregon near Ashland. While I loved the English tone of Gaiman’s book, the overcast, gloomy rain of our beautiful home state fit the story well.
Adding a major character is a more troubling prospect, but Selick and crew pulled it off. In many ways, this seemed like one of those changes translating a book to film. On the page, Coraline spends lots of time, especially in the early going, alone as she explores her surroundings. While a book gives inner monologue, those long stretches of just Coraline wouldn’t have worked as well on screen. Giving her another character provided more interaction, more dynamic scenes, and ultimately a more fulfilling experience.
Overall, this was one of my favorite films in a long time. The animation is stunningly beautiful and original. It doesn’t look like anything else I’ve ever seen. Here’s hoping that Laika reaps a huge harvest so they can go on creating more films like this!
The “tickets” for the party were gorgeous metal keys like one featured prominently in the film. They were also used extensively in the marketing Wieden-Kennedy did for the movie. I’d seen pictures of them on Gaiman’s blog, but never thought I’d actually get one.
The path from the Schnitz over to the Portland Art Museum, site of the party, was lined with paper bags glowing with small candles. There’s a few great shots of it over on Kitty’s Neverwear blog. We joined the huge line streaming in.
The room was packed. Colored lights gave everything a flashy, festive atmosphere. Servers with food pour into the room constantly. In the entryway, we saw Henry Selick talking with some people. Rather than interrupt, we calmly went past, although Amber brushed against him to make her way. It was so strange to be there next to a well-known director. It just didn’t seem real.
Around the edges of the room were displays showing off many of the props from the movie. Some of the artists were present too. Seeing those drove home how much work making the movie must have been–the models were intricate and all handmade. We were especially impressed by Anthea Chrome who knit Coraline’s sweater and gloves… with thread. I have no idea how she doesn’t go blind.
We circled the room a couple times, looking at the exhibits, enjoying the atmosphere, but mostly looking for the man himself–Neil Gaiman. Up near the entry were a couple VIP areas, but we didn’t see him there as we passed. Since we had a babysitter and it was getting late, we were getting ready to leave. Amber decided to take one last look, and she spotted him.
For a moment we hesitated. Was it acceptable to talk with him, or would it be an imposition?While we dithered around, someone else walked right up with a book, and Gaiman gladly signed it. We took that as a sign and got in line.
Amber pulled our copy of Coraline out of her bag, and we asked if he’d sign it. He asked who it was to, and we told him for our daughter Coraline. The look of genuine surprise and enjoyment that lit up his face was awesome. If it was possible, he became even more friendly as we showed him a picture. I’m sure this isn’t the first Coraline he’s heard of, but he acted as if it might have been. Above the title on the first page he wrote “For the real” Coraline, and then proceeded to draw a splendid little rat before signing his name.
On the way out they had little chocolate beetles to take with. It’ll make sense once you’ve seen the film.
When we got home, Amber suggested that I send Neil a note on Twitter thanking him for the signing. I jotted off this:
“The real Coraline” saw the rat you drew and said “za-zoo.” Thanks for making our evening go from great to spectacular.
Didn’t expect any specific response, but the next day I got a notification email that @neilhimself was following me on Twitter. Now when I tweet about my lunch or the build breaking, one of my heroes might see it pop up on his computer screen. Cool.
Here’s the whole haul. What a fantastic night.