New on DVD: Meet CORALINE's Maker


Designing Stop-Motion Animated Puppets

CORALINE, the first stop-motion feature film shot in stereoscopic 3D comes to DVD and Blu-Ray Tuesday, July 21st.  Henry Selick, director of THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, worked on the film for over three years alongside a team of artists including Georgina Haynes, the Character Fabrication Supervisor on CORALINE.

Haynes, a veteran of stop-motion animation, worked on Tim Burton’s CORPSE BRIDE (first stop-motion film shot digitally) and MARS ATTACK!, and she takes CineMovie through the process of creating stop-motion animated puppets.

Q:  As the Character Fabrication Supervisor, what does your job entail? 

Haynes:  Character Fabrication Supervisor gathers together a team of people to work alongside the director and animators to fabricate the puppets off screen.  First a static puppet is made from illustrations and then the static finished puppet is passed on to the animators for movement.

Henry_Selick_directorSo I deal with Henry (Selick) and with the creative decisions such as costumes, color of paint, hair….  I also work closely with the director and animators with the kind of movements they want because each of the puppets have full metal skeleton inside called amatures.  So we have to build, design and engineer those from scratch.

Q:  Are the sets computer-generated or are they also built from scratch?

Haynes: They were all built by hand.  In fact, Coraline has very few computer-generated effects.  Some of the background skies were computer-generated but a lot of those were hand-painted as well.  Everything you’re seeing is made by a person. 

We did use computers and technology to help us in certain processes.  Coraline and many of the other puppets have replacement faces for their facial animations.  And the way it’s been done in the past is by hand sculpting each one of these faces but it limits the amounts of expressions and faces on a puppet.  On Coraline, we used a
Coraline_DVD_Skies3D printer, so we modeled the character in the computer almost as you would with a computer animated movie but we went in and added more detail, more in betweens that you would get in an animated feature.  And then we printed them all out on a machine (3D printer) much like an inkjet printer but it actually sprays out resin instead of a flat photograph.  And then we built it up into a 3D model.  Once all of those pieces are printed out, we hand painted every one of those.  So they still have that hands-on, sort of feel to them. 

Q:  Was CORALINE shot on 35 mm? 

Haynes:  No, this is all shot digitally.  We actually used the red camera which I think was initially used for medical use but it’s a very high definition camera. 

Q:  Is that what gives the film it’s look?

Haynes: It does make it crisper than 35mm but I think part of it was how it was designed - the colors, the fabric…  Coraline’s hair zings because it’s real hair and real lighting on it.  I don’t think the camera gives it the look completely.  I think it’s more the fact that everything was hand-made and a lot of thought went into the colors that were used to get that feel.

Q:  Did you have to design the puppets differently because of the 3D aspect?

Coraline_DVD_3DHaynes:  We didn’t really know initially because it was the first time a stop-motion animation was made in 3D.  So we were really doing a lot of tests and found out it didn’t really affect how we made the puppets.  The only things we had to be careful of were stripes and spots on the puppet’s costumes because if they were too intense, too diverse in color, it could jar the eye - make you feel a bit sick.   We used that a little bit on the mother when she gets into her checkered outfit… to sort of disturb the eye a little bit. 

Q: How many times did you have to go back to the drawing board or reshoot a scene?

It was a three year process and during the last year, the script changed because Selick was continuously working on the script. 

We didn’t have to reshoot.  The voices were recorded pre-animation.  Although after the first viewing of film, there was a question about the character of Wybee and how it related to the ghost children.  From that, we built a new puppet - the grandmother which you see at the end of the movie.   Just to make a little more sense.   We built that in 3 weeks where as Coraline took a year. 

Q:  What is your favorite scene from the movie?

Haynes:  I think the downstairs theater.  It’s the most controversial scene in the movie but I absolutely love it.  There’s not much clothing in that scene but the whole thing just makes me laugh.

Q:  And the hardest?

Haynes: Anything with the mother three - the last stage of the other mother when she turns into insects.  It took us the whole film to actually get the design because until we knew how the third act was going to play out, we could not design that character.  She came about the last year of filming.  She was a tricky one to make – she’s got four spindly legs, was semi-translucent, yet a hard-look to move.  She was a challenge.  

Q:  And everyone loves the bonus features on DVDs but do the b-roll crew ever interfere with the process when they’re present with their cameras?

Check out the CORALINE DVD Extras

Yes, it’s always a battle.  You always feel sorry for the people who are doing that because that’s the last thing you want – to have a camera shoved into your face while you’re trying to make all these puppets on the stressful deadline.  But these things are so fascinating that it needs to be done.

And we agree.  Thanks to Georgina and the creative team behind CORALINE who sacrificed their sanity for all the great extra features on the DVD and Blu-ray available July 21st.
CORALINE will be available for a Limited Time Only on Blu-ray™ Hi-Def and 2-Disc Collector’s Edition DVD featuring 2-D and 3-D Versions of the Movie, Four pairs of 3-D glasses, plus a digital copy of the film on July 21st, 2009 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment .

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