These days, the animated movie sector is dominated by computer-generated features, with traditional hand-drawn cartoons struggling to get noticed. However, stop-frame animations tend to do quite well (think Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit and so on), so Coraline finds itself in a pretty healthy market.
Of course, part of the joy of such movies is the sheer ‘wow’ factor, and it’s certainly a concern for anyone watching on a tiny iPod screen that much of the visual pleasure will be lost in translation. Indeed, there’s no way the portable experience could ever compare with watching on a full-size screen, although you could argue that the small display allows you to take in more at once.
Unfortunately, if want the image to fill the iPod’s screen, though, you have to zoom in, which means you lose anything at the edges. If you choose to play the film at the original aspect ratio, you get a letterbox effect, which while tolerable on a big TV, isn’t really going to cut it on a handheld, unless you like eye strain. That’s not good when it costs £10.99 to buy a download (no rental option, sadly). Even though the resolution is high enough to play on a proper TV through iTunes, it’s still not much cheaper than a DVD copy, despite not coming with any packaging, and offering a reduced picture quality.
If the price doesn’t put you off, Coraline is still worth watching. It’s a dark fairytale of a film, in the vein of the gothic masterpiece Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (also directed by Henry Selick, who’s on helming duties here). The eponymous Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) finds herself in the perhaps slightly clichéd situation of a being a young child moving to a new house. Of course, clichés exist for a reason, and there’s no doubt many of us, both adults and children alike, have found ourselves in this position, being taken away from all that’s dear to us and shifted to unfamiliar surroundings.
Matters are made worse for Coraline by the fact her parents are too busy to really pay her any attention, and she entertains herself by exploring her new environment. In the process, she finds a door that leads to a mysterious world of magic and wonder. We’re well into CS Lewis territory at this point, but once she’s through this door, things go off in an entirely new and ever so creepy direction.
In this world, she meets her ‘other’ parents, who are exactly like her real ones, but more fun, more outgoing and, most importantly, with large, shiny black buttons instead of eyes. Apart from this little detail, everything else in this realm is simply fantastic – better food, better toys and more – but things, as you’d expect, aren’t quite as they seem…
Coraline is a brilliantly told tale of good versus evil, which will no doubt be regarded as a classic in years to come. If you’ve never seen it before, I’d recommend watching it on a full-size TV first, but for repeat viewings, the portable version is fine. That said, the primary audience for this movie is children, and I don’t think most youngsters would be too bothered by the lack of big TV. If you have bored kids and you trust them with your expensive iPod, this is a pretty good way to keep them quiet for and hour and a half.
The performances from Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, John Hodgman (Mac from the US PC/Mac adverts) and so on are strong, the animation is superb, and the story, while perhaps a little scary at times, might just teach your kids a thing or two about appreciating their parents. That alone might make it worth the download.
Coraline is available as a download now from iTunes