471 – Coraline (2009)

spacetime coordinates: 2000’s Ashland, Oregon

71HSunGPaSL._SL1189_Coraline is a 2009 American 3D stop-motion dark fantasy horror film based on Neil Gaiman‘s 2002 novel of the same name. It was the first feature film produced by Laika and distributed by Focus Features. The film depicts an adventurous girl finding an idealized parallel world behind a secret door in her new home, unaware that the alternate world contains a dark and sinister secret. Written and directed by Henry Selick, the film was made with Gaiman’s approval and co-operation.

Coraline was staged in a 140,000-square-foot (13,000 m2) warehouse in Hillsboro, Oregon. The stage was divided into 50 lots, which played host to nearly 150 sets. Among the sets were three miniature Victorian mansions, a 42-foot (12.8 m) apple orchard, and a model of Ashland, Oregon, including tiny details such as banners for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. More than 28 animators worked at a time on rehearsing or shooting scenes, producing 90–100 seconds of finished animation each week. To add the stereoscopy for the 3D release, the animators shot each frame from two slightly apart camera positions.


Every object on screen was made for the film. The crew used three 3D printing systems from Objet in the development and production of the film. Thousands of high-quality 3D models, ranging from facial expressions to doorknobs, were printed in 3D using the Polyjet matrix systems, which enable the fast transformation of CAD (computer-aided design) drawings into high-quality 3D models. The puppets had separate parts for the upper and lower parts of the head that could be exchanged for different facial expressions. The characters of Coraline could potentially exhibit over 208,000 facial expressions. Computer artists composited separately-shot elements together, or added elements of their own which had to look handcrafted instead of computer-generated – for instance, the flames were done with traditional animation and painted digitally, and the fog was dry ice.

At its peak, the film involved the efforts of 450 people, including from 30  to 35 animators and digital designers in the Digital Design Group (DDG) directed by Dan Casey and more than 250 technicians and designers. One crew member, Althea Crome, was hired specifically to knit miniature sweaters and other clothing for the puppet characters, sometimes using knitting needles as thin as human hair. The clothes would also simulate wear using paint and a file. Several students from The Art Institute of Portland were also involved in making the film.