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Coraline (Shout! Factory) UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Coraline (Shout! Factory) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: December 13th, 2022.
    Director: Henry Selick
    Cast: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgeman, Ian MacShane, Robert Bailey Jr., Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French
    Year: 2009
    Purchase From Amazon

    Coraline – Movie Review:

    Adopted from Neil Gaiman’s 2002 novel of the same name by Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick, 2009’s Coraline is one of those rare stop motion animation films that doesn’t seem to come along as often as they used to since the advent of CGI animation. While the art form may not be as prevalent as it once was, Coraline proves that in the right hands it is still a very viable and incredibly cool way of making movies.

    The story follows the titular young woman (voiced by Dakota Fanning) who moves up into a remote part of Oregon into an apartment with her mother (Teri Hatcher) and father (John Hodgeman). While avoiding the local boy, Wybie (Robert Bailey Jr.), the grandson of the building’s owner, Coraline discovers a small doorway behind the wallpaper in her bedroom closet. Being a curious kid, she does what you’d expect – crawls in to see what’s on the other side. What she finds is a strange alternate reality where her parents seem much nicer and more attentive, Wybie can’t talk, and the rest of the neighbors all adore her. Even the strange Russian circus trainer, Mr. Bobinsky, (Deadwood’s Ian MacShane) and his team of mice are happy to do anything that Coraline wants them to.

    Able to travel back and forth through the door way, Coraline starts to spends more and more time in her new world but soon learns that it may not be as perfect as it seems. When her mom and dad finally ask Coraline something in return for all of the admiration, presents and food they’ve lavished upon her she knows something is amiss – they went to replace her eyes with buttons! This sets into motion a domino effect where Coraline’s old world suddenly doesn’t look so bad after all, particularly when she starts to learn the truth about her ‘other mother.

    Surprisingly dark and macabre at times, Coraline is a considerably more intense picture than its PG rating and kid friendly character lead characters may make it seem. While there’s nothing here that kids shouldn’t see, the picture does definitely venture into scary territory at times, and it’s all the better for it. In the same way that The Nightmare Before Christmas mixed in darker elements, so too does Coraline and with equally impressive results. We wind up with a story not at all unlike Alice In Wonderland, a fairly simple fairy tale-esque narrative that imaginative kids or grownups alike should have no problem relating to. Anyone who has ever felt neglected or as if no one really notices them should feel pretty comfortable putting themselves in Coraline’s shoes but this is more than just a rehashing of earlier works of a similar nature. The character design and set design sets the film apart but on top of that the direction it takes in the last half definitely makes this a work of succinct originality and not a carbon copy of pop culture past.

    The voice work, performed by an interesting cast, fits the look of the puppet performers quite nicely while the color schemes (the real world is dark and drab, the other world bright and colorful) do a good job of making the distinction between the two worlds Coraline finds herself torn between an easy one to make for the audience. The moral behind the story is never overpowering or played with a heavy hand, instead it stays simple and as such is much easier to digest.

    The visuals will get most of the attention here, and that’s understandable as the film is a striking one to look at, but the story is heartfelt and enjoyable enough on its own merits that it shouldn’t go unnoticed, particularly by those with an affinity for the darker side of what many consider to be children’s stories.

    Coraline – UHD/Blu-ray Review:

    Coraline arrives on UHD debut from Shout! Factory framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an HEVC encoded 2160p transfer with HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Picture quality on this release is exceptional. The higher resolution offers a very nice and noticeable improvement over the already very nice looking Blu-ray release from Universal that came out some years back. Fine detail is, at times, reference quality. There’s loads of depth and texture to the image and both color reproduction and black levels look spot on. The image is free of any obvious digital manipulation and devoid of compression artifacts.

    The main track on the UHD is an English language Dolby Atmos 7.1 mix, though French and Spanish DTS 5.1 Surround Sound options are also provided as is an English language DSV track. Subtitles are provided in English SDH, French and Spanish. The Atmos mix on the disc is fantastic. There’s plenty of distinct surround activity noticeable throughout pretty much the entire movie. Levels are always perfectly balanced and dialogue always easy to understand. The score sounds great, there’s loads of depth to it, and we get nice, strong bass response when the movie asks for it.

    Note that all extra features are found on the included Blu-ray disc, not on the UHD. Carried over from the previous Blu-ray edition is an audio commentary track courtesy of Henry Selick and composer Bruno Coulais. Selick has more to say than his compatriot here but this is never the less a good discussion that covers adapting the original novel for the screen, character design, post production work and of course scoring the film. The two have a good repoir here and there isn’t much in the way of dead air even if some of what is covered here is also covered in some of the other supplements.

    Inside Laika – Discovering The Characters Of Coraline is an eleven minute piece wherein the different people that worked on the feature discuss their work, what went into animating the feature, how the characters were brought to life by using stop motion animation, having to make the animation style work alongside the voice acting work, the importance of bringing emotion to the characters and more. There's some interesting test footage included in this segment as well.

    Inside Laika – Revisiting The Puppets With Laika’s Animation Team is broken down into separate sections for The Beldam, Mr. Bobinsku, The CAt, Coraline Jones, 'Other' Father, 'Other' Mother and Wybie Lovat. These are just a series of quick pieces that give us a close up look at each puppet as they appear in the finished movie and how they appear in real life. They're all pretty impressive and there's a load of detail in them, it's quite interesting.

    The disc also includes a Feature Length Storyboards piece that is literally exactly what it sounds like – the entire movie shown in storyboard format.

    Up next are a series of featurettes starting with the thirty-six minute Making Of Coraline, which follows the making of the film from Selick’s pre-production ideas through to the actors finalizing their voice work. We learn about the animation style used, about editing the picture, scoring it, creating the puppets used in for the stop motion animation, and more. It’s all quite interesting and fairly lean in that it doesn’t waste time with promotional back padding and the like. The eleven minute Voicing The Characters is, as you could probably guess, a collection of clips of the principal voice actors doing their thing while Creepy Coraline is a six minute segment with one of the animators that discusses the interesting bugs and critters created for the picture. Shout! Factory has also included approximately nine minutes of deleted scenes here that are available with an introduction from Selick to put each clip into context and explain why it wasn’t used.

    Finishing up the extras on the disc are a trio of still galleries, a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection.

    This release comes housed in some very nice steelbook packaging and comes bundled with a color insert booklet containing an essay on the film written by Variety’s Chief Film Critic, Peter Debruge.

    Coraline – The Final Word:

    A beautifully made and completely engrossing dark fairy tale, Coraline gets an excellent presentation on UHD in pretty much every way possible from Shout! Factory. The film holds up incredibly well and the audio and video is of excellent quality making this a fantastic release across the board.

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Coraline Blu-ray screen caps!

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