Coraline Jones and Magic Doors

First things first: GO SEE CORALINE!

It's a wonderful film, and so much of the future of its amazing studio, Laika, depends upon its success. Let's make it a big splashy box office success! GO GO GO! Run to your theater! NOW!

Okay. Now that that's out of the way, here are five reasons why you're running:

(1) It's visually stunning. And because it's stop-motion animation (like The Nightmare Before Christmas), everything you see was built by hand -- the gorgeous sets, the little faces, even the teeny sweaters were hand-knitted! People literally MADE this movie. That's worth the admission price alone.

(2) It was written by Neil Gaiman, one of the greatest storytellers of our time. Coraline is a fantastic novel, and the film stayed true to its spirit. I have several kids who come into my library to check out Coraline again and again, because they are so simultaneously terrified and fascinated by it -- the idea of another set of parents, a better set of parents. Not to mention the rats and bats and button eyes and peculiar neighbors.

(3) Most theaters are showing it in 3D! This was the most well-crafted use of cinematic 3D I've ever seen. Often it can be overwhelming and tiring (and actually makes me dizzy). But it was subtle here and never takes you out of the story, it only enhances the experience. Very fun!

(4) It's so creepy cool. Gothic fans will devour everything from the teeny details (I loved Wybie's bizarre helmet) to the sinister-beautiful music. There were several moments when the audience gasped with delight and collectively "oooh"ed. But -- having said that -- if you're thinking about taking children, there are frightening themes and imagery. Proceed with caution if you have a sensitive child. If you aren't sure, go alone first, and then come back with your kid! (And since Coraline's studio needs your support, no need to feel guilty about spending the extra money. It's for a good cause!)

(5) The heroine has blue hair and wears matching polka dot flannel pajamas. Okay, this reason is selfish. Because she's practically me, you guys! I'm dying for the action figure.

One of the best things about Coraline is that it touches upon one of my favorite storytelling devices: The door to another world. Who hasn't wished that the tiny, locked door discovered on some side-street, or in a grandmother's sprawling home, is a portal to another world? Finding one of these magical doors was a childhood obsession of mine, and I'm still distracted whenever I run across one that is small, mysterious, and out-of-place.

(I've always dreamed about writing a story with a magic door, but I'm still waiting for the perfect one. Can't be any old story.)

Here are some classic doors to alternate worlds:

The Ultimate in Portals

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe -- I have mixed feelings about the Narnia series, but I still believe the most magical scene ever written is when Lucy steps through the wardrobe and discovers the lamppost in the snow. There's a good reason why my cat is named Mr. Tumnus! (He's the first creature Lucy meets. And yes, surprisingly, he wasn't named it because of James McAvoy. That's just a nice touch.)

My favorite edition. The illustrator, the late great Tasha Tudor, was known for her own beautiful gardens.

The Secret Garden -- Not a fantasy, but that didn't make the door Mary Lennox finds any less magical. What girl doesn't loooong for a secret garden?

Every time I see the film, I want to plant bulbs. And then I remember that gardening is hard work. And then I want someone else to plant the bulbs.

Pan's Labyrinth -- What an unforgettable, HORRIFYING, chalk-drawn door! Eek! (But so cool.) This one is definitely not for children.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking-Glass -- Not doors so much, but still magic portals. Though I've never wanted to go to Wonderland. Scary! (What was Disney thinking making it so cute?)

Which is why I am THRILLED Tim Burton is directing the new film. Have you seen pictures yet? I'd post them here, but I'm not supposed to. You'll just have to Google Image them. Alice looks great. She's the typical, wide-eyed, blond Burton heroine (Joanna in Sweeney Todd, Christina Ricci in Sleepy Hollow). And Johnny Depp makes one freaky Mad Hatter! He has red, frizzy hair and terrifying purple-y/red hollowed out eyes.

The film will be a mix of live action and animation. Not sure if it's stop-motion or traditional animation, I've heard various reports. And I've heard it might be 3D. Exciting!

What other magical portals can you think of?

Platform 9 3/4 sort of counts, but since it's not the only way into the wizarding world, it didn't immediately spring to mind. But obviously, I still want to push a trolley through it!


  1. Coraline is at the top of my list.

    I wrote a book with a portal in it! Alas, it was, how shall I put this, boring.

  2. I KNOW. So gooooood!! I just read that it's made 16 million this weekend, which smashes their expectations of 10-12 and is considered a big success. So yay!! It's only on about 2000 screens, so its per-screen average is very good. I HOPE this means that Laika is going to continue with its "Paranorman" plans -- a zombie "romance adventure comedy" or something like that!!! I hope it's stop-motion!




    What about the doors in Howl's Moving Castle? And the ways to get into Unlondon?

  4. I've gotta go see Coraline. NOW! (although the button eyes have already given me freak show nightmares)

    It looks like the best movie ever. And, I'm thrilled to know that Tim Burton is tackling Alice. Perfection.


  5. Great post! I love all of these - and I forgot how much I loved Pan's Labrynth. (how do you spell that?)

    I'm calling Hardygirl after this and see if she wants to find it and go with me.

  6. That movie looks so cool. I hope I can convince people to watch my babies so I can go see it. Should I tell them it's of great cinematic importance? Do you think that'll convince them?

  7. I've been to Platform 9 3/4!!

    They have one set in an out-of-the-way place in King's Cross. For the tourists! And geeks! Of which I was both!


  8. Oh, man, would I love to see a movie adaptation of Un Lun Dun!

    And those annotated classics editions are awesome. I have The Annotated Grimm's Fairy Tales, which is pretty freaking amazing.