Observations: Give the Coraline puppet masters a hand
Friday 09 October 2009
More often than not, when we watch a film, we don't give too much thought to the amount of work involved in putting it together. Which, refreshingly, is something that director Henry Selick decided to fix during trailers for his latest stop-frame animation film, Coraline, which hit our cinema screens earlier this year. To highlight just how meticulous the process can be, he flashed a few facts fleetingly across the screen: thousands of hands for puppets were each made by hand, a forest of cherry blossoms made of popcorn, five miles of gold thread for a five-inch wig and 3,500 flowers that all light up.
Next week, the film – which has been adapted from Neil Gaiman's novel about a little girl Coraline who goes looking for a better, more exciting, life through a door in the wall – comes out on DVD. It's another chance to be wowed by the amount of mindboggling detail and craftsmanship that went into putting the whole thing together. There were enough Scottie dog puppets made to fill an entire theatre set, the character of Coraline had 14 identical miniature star sweaters, each smaller than a thumb print, made by a specialist knitter, and the circus mice were so small that for every single arm or leg movement another mouse had to be built and individually painted so that there were thousands in total.
Everything seen on screen was made from scratch, from the rubber dog toys that were turned into blooming flowers to new techniques that actually animated the puppets' hair. Animation rigger Oliver Jones, whose job it was to help propel puppets through the air, make grass blow in the breeze and the magical garden spring into life, recalls the opening scene. "We used lots of everyday objects throughout, so for the opening sequence there were big red trees which we made from ping-pong balls. We put hundreds of holes in each one, forced wires through and attached foliage to adjustable arms to make them look like expanding, moving branches. Each set was an enormous, incredible task."
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