Netflix recently acquired two more Laika films to their streaming service, including Kubo and the Two Strings, as well as the beloved Coraline. The latter movie stole hearts everywhere when it hit the big screen in 2009. It was Laika’s first major motion picture, having only done contract work and short films up until that point. Based on the well-known book by Neil Gaiman, Coraline was done in stop-motion animation. Those who worked on it put a lot of detail into the tiny worlds that the titular character ventures to. Some of these details were obvious as soon as you watched Coraline for the first time, but others weren’t as easy to spot.
There are so many details that helped create Coraline’s world. The story of the girl who ventures off into a parallel universe, only to get trapped in it by a crazy woman, took a long time to create. The entire film took a total of twenty months to shoot, not including the time it took to conceptualize and create everything needed for shooting. No shortcuts were taken, and every minor aspect served a purpose. Here are 15 Details From Coraline That You Probably Didn’t Notice.
15 Face on the Dollar Bill
Well-known director Henry Selick, best known for helming James and the Giant Peach and The Nightmare Before Christmas, spent quite a long time working on Coraline. As soon as it was decided that Coraline would be better received as an animated film, Selick was sure that he wanted the movie done using stop-motion animation. After spending some time convincing the studio big wigs that stop-motion was the better style fit for Coraline, Selick finally got the green light. Doing it in stop-motion gave Selick more opportunities to be quirky and humorous with his work.
One of the first scenes in the movie involved Coraline and her family moving into Pink Palace Apartments. A moving truck labeled with the name “Ranft Brothers” backs into the driveway, and the two movers transfer all the big pieces of furniture into the home. Not only was this a shout-out to successful animators Jerome and Joe Ranft, but it also leads up to a moment for Selick to relish in his own success. The dollar bill given as a bad tip to one of the movers has Selick’s face on it. Before the audience even sees the real Coraline, they're seeing the director of the film without even realizing it.
14 Message in a Song
The first time Coraline makes her way through the portal and into the other world, she meets the other mother, also known as Beldam. The other mother is cooking dinner and tells Coraline to go and tell her other father that dinner is ready. When Coraline first meets the other father, everything seems pretty great and awesome, all around. He sings her a song that sounds fun and catchy. The thing is though, there was actually more to it than that.
The song that the other father sings to Coraline when she first meets him has a purpose: it’s a warning sign as to what is about to happen. The lyrics go, “Makin’ up a song about Coraline/She’s a peach, she’s a doll/She’s a pal of mine/She’s as cute as a button in the eyes of everyone who ever laid their eyes on Coraline/When she comes around exploring, Mom and I will never ever make it boring/Our eyes will be on Coraline.” The charming singing makes it seem like it’s just a cute song, when it’s really a broad outline of Beldam’s intentions.
13 Cracked Car
When the Jones family first settles into their new home, Coraline and her mom, Mel, have a conversation in their kitchen. Mel is working on editing pages for Coraline’s dad, Charlie. Mel mentions something about a car accident, which is why she is wearing a neck brace. Coraline immediately screams that the accident wasn’t her fault. The audience can come to the conclusion that the accident was most likely Coraline’s fault, though, due to her abrupt defensiveness. Either that, or Mel blamed Coraline for one too many mishaps that definitely weren't her fault.
Either way, a car accident happened. The car that the Jones family owns sits out in the front driveway. It’s seen a few times, such as when Coraline goes to get her pink flowered suitcase and when Coraline tries to look for her kidnapped parents. It isn’t until Coraline and her mom are driving back home from school uniform shopping that the results of the car accident can be blatantly seen. The front of the car has a giant crack behind one of the headlights, making it appear that Mel Jones was the one driving the car when the accident happened.
12 The Detroit Zoo Snow Globe
The Detroit Zoo snow globe becomes an important aspect throughout the entire movie. It’s one of the first things Coraline unpacks in the new house, and later on, Coraline’s real mom and dad get trapped inside of it. It seems like just a regular snow globe of a fountain from the Detroit Zoo, but it has a bit more factual detail to it than that.
The Horace H. Rackham Memorial Fountain is located at the very center of the Detroit Zoo. The fountain features two bronze bears that stand tall at ten feet high, making for an incredibly large fountain that pours water into a seventy-five-thousand-gallon pool. The fountain has become a well-known landmark within the zoo. When you look closely at the snow globe Coraline has, the fountain is a replica of the real-life zoo fountain, bears included. The bears disappear when Coraline saves her parents. Afterward, Coraline’s mom ends up blaming Coraline for “breaking” the snow globe.
11 Bug Wallpaper
Everything in Coraline’s real world is supposed to look boring and lackluster, as it’s intended to give juxtaposition to the world the other mother creates. There are multiple subtle hints in the real world that foreshadow what’s going to end up happening during the second half of the movie in Beldam’s world. One of those details includes the wallpaper that’s in the living room of Coraline’s home.
The wallpaper in the living room is an ugly blue-gray color that looks to have some throwaway pattern on it, but it's pretty unassuming on the surface. That pattern, however, actually has a bug print on it. It can be difficult to see because the bugs are faint, but rest assured, the bugs are definitely there. This is intended to foreshadow the other mother’s desire for insects. The other mother never eats during the meals she has with Coraline; the only time she eats is when she’s able to eat bugs. That only happens later on in the movie, of course, once the other mother reveals her true self to Coraline.
10 The Soundtrack
The soundtrack in Coraline was originally supposed to be done by They Might Be Giants, and the band ended up creating several original songs for the film. The unfortunate part about this is that the band got the axe when director Henry Selick decided to change the film’s direction. He wanted the music to be less, well, musical-like, aiming for a creepier angle instead. This resulted in the band not having any of their music in the film, with the exception of the aforementioned song the other father sings to Coraline (you know, the one with the hidden message).
When the change happened, French composer Bruno Coulais stepped in and mixed things up. When you listen to the songs from the soundtrack, it sounds like it’s a beautiful, yet dark, French choir, or something else of that sort, but that isn’t accurate. While it is a children’s choir singing, they aren’t singing in French, let alone any real language at all. What sounds like a foreign language is, in fact, complete gibberish. They’re simply singing in a nonsense language.
9 The Pink Palace Flag
When you first see “The Pink Palace” in the beginning of the movie, it’s easy to notice the flag hanging from it. It isn’t until later that it’s discovered that the flag is above the apartment that Mr. Bobinsky lives in. Mr. B is a strange blue man with a mouse circus. He’s extremely athletic and a bit crazy in the head. He seems to believe that the mice talk to him, which Coraline believes too. Many fans of the show believe that he doesn’t actually talk to the mice, and that Mr. Bobinsky's belief that he’s capable of doing so is all in his head.
The flag outside of Mr. Bobinsky’s apartment appears to be the official flag of Montenegro. It’s a small country near Croatia and Serbia. While Mr. Bobinsky is Russian, he makes sure to keep the flag hanging proudly outside of his home. This could mean a multitude of things, but there’s no question that the hanging flag resembles that of Montenegro’s official flag. The only difference is that the real Montenegro flag has a lion in the middle, whereas Mr. Bobinsky’s flag has a horseman.
8 Mr. Bobinsky’s Medal
How audiences know Mr. Bobinsky is Russian not only has to do with his accent, but the medal that he proudly wears on his shirt. Even while wearing a dirty tank top, Mr. Bobinsky still has his medal all shiny and pinned to his chest. This medal isn’t your run of the mill badge, though. It’s a medal given to the nuclear clean-up team after the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster in 1986.
Mr. Bobinsky’s medal even says “Participant in the Clean-Up Campaign” and has the image of a drop of blood on it. The blood drop has three lines, with each line representing a certain type of radiation. It is the only medal that was given out to participants of a nuclear clean-up. The film’s creators have said that Mr. Bobinsky is blue due to being outside in the cold all the time. That being said, due to being exposed to radiation for such a long time during the clean-up, this could also explain his skin color (in an animated world, anyway), as well as his desire for eating raw beets.
7 Button Key
The key that opens the tunnel door in the living room comes with the house, where it's found in a drawer along with about a million other keys. Yet somehow, Coraline’s mother knows exactly which key she needs to open the door for Coraline. Just as well, Coraline’s mom is perfectly okay with destroying the wallpaper in her new home. Mel Jones is truly a woman of mystery and confusion.
After Coraline tells her parents about the other mother and the other father, Mel locks the door and (very badly) hides the key. Coraline finds the key hanging above the doorway in the kitchen and uses her crazy balancing skills to reach it. When Coraline is carrying the key after having reached it, the key’s shape can be easily examined by viewers. While door-opener had been seen throughout the film before this time, this scene gives us a closer look, openly displaying it for all to see. There’s a button shape on the end of the key, which makes perfect sense, as the key opens the portal door that leads to a life of button eyes.
6 Lightning Hand
The very first time Coraline reaches the other world, she’s having a great time until she starts to feel a bit uneasy. She finds it strange that the other mother would not only let Coraline do what she wants to do, but also suggest ideas that her real mother was against. For example, Coraline wanted to go gardening in the rain earlier that day, but her real mother said no. The real Mel Jones doesn’t like dirt and especially doesn’t care for mud. The other mother knows that Coraline is more of a free spirit, so she suggests the idea of playing in the rain and mud to Coraline.
The thing is, though, it wasn’t raining when Coraline visited. After Coraline points this out, the other mother outright creates a thunderstorm. With that thunderstorm comes a large bolt of lightning. In a small split second, the lightning forms the hand of the real Beldam. It’s a needle hand, just like the one that she's revealed to have towards the end of the movie. This image also appears in the tree branches in Beldam’s world when the black cat is speaking to Coraline for the first time.
5 Framed Silhouettes
The amount of effort that went into some of these details is truly remarkable. Tiny details that very few people would ever notice were worked into the background of “The Pink Palace”. A tiny, but important aspect of Coraline involved the ghost children. These kids were vital because they, just like Coraline, were tricked into believing that the other mother was going to give them a better life. Coraline finds their eyes, and in return, the ghost children help Coraline escape from Beldam.
The ghosts in the house don’t make their appearance until Coraline’s third visit, when Beldam throws Coraline behind the mirror. Hints of them are scattered around, though. Foreshadowing their appearance later on in the film, the silhouettes of the children appear on the wall in the dining room in the other world. On the wall behind where Coraline sits at the table, the three silhouettes are there for anyone to view. What makes Beldam even more creepy is realizing that not only did she eat away at the lives of kids, but that she then hung up their images in her dining room.
The fact that the soundtrack is made up of complete gibberish really does tie the movie together, and director Henry Selick put it to good use by having the other mother humming while she cooks. Beldam cooks a lot, but she doesn’t ever eat any of the food. Cooking becomes a major theme throughout the movie because Coraline is always complaining about the lack of good food in the real world. She also complains that her real mom never cooks, so of course, her other mother cooks great meals all the time.
Beldam hums while she cooks. In fact, the first time Coraline sees her is when Coraline smells something good coming from the kitchen. She walks in and Beldam is turned away from Coraline, but she’s humming. The songs that she hums aren’t just random songs, however -- the tunes come directly from the soundtrack. It’s a virtually unnoticeable thing because the tune sounds so familiar that it’s seemingly nothing to stop and think about.
3 Coraline's Hat
One of the most peculiar scenes in the film comes when Coraline goes to her family’s car after a night of rain and gets her pink flowered suitcase off of the roof. Coraline didn’t seem to care that she had left the suitcase out on top of the car all night. Even stranger is the fact that the only thing in the suitcase is a black military style type of hat. Coraline puts on the hat and goes on with her adventure.
The hat is in fact a Japanese school boy hat. Director Henry Selick said he had found one similar to it for his son, but that his son had no interest in it, so he decided to give Coraline the same storyline. In theory, Coraline did the same thing. She found the hat, but instead of doing nothing with it like Selick’s son did, she decides to wear it. It helps that it very much fits Coraline’s quirky style.
2 An Unexplained Ketchup Stain
One of the most memorable lines in Coraline comes when Mel offers Coraline lunch: “How do you feel about a mustard-ketchup-salsa wrap for lunch?” Coraline makes a face at the idea. Once she makes her journey to the other world to save her parents, they come back home and announce that their garden book had been well received. This puts them in a good mood, so they have a good night of family fun.
Ketchup comes back into play when Coraline’s father, Charlie, is putting her to bed. He plays with her stuffed octopus, which Coraline finds to be absolutely hilarious. Pretending like the octopus is attacking his face, Charlie Jones makes a whole ordeal out of the thing. His over the top performance is the reason why most viewers don’t notice the ketchup stain on his shirt in the scene. This is an unexplained element that is only there due to a deleted scene that occurred beforehand. It’s difficult to notice, but once you see it, it’ll be hard to forget about it.
1 StopMo Rulz
Henry Selick pushed the idea of making Coraline using stop-motion animation. Laika is known for doing stop-motion animation now, but Coraline was their very first feature-length movie. It was a major risk to do the movie in stop-motion animation, especially since there was so much content that needed to be covered in the film. Coraline ended up being the longest running stop-motion animation film ever, at one hour and forty minutes long (that is, until Kubo and the Two Strings premiered at an hour and forty-two minutes long).
With stop-motion being a major accomplishment for the film, it was only natural to give the hundreds of people who worked on it a shout-out. On the back of the Ranft brothers' moving truck that was seen at the beginning of the movie, there is graffiti on the bottom right corner that says “StopMo Rulz” with a crown on top. Of course, this stands for “Stop-Motion Rules”, which is essentially a pat on the back for the people who made the movie.
Coraline became available to stream on Netflix on March 16th, 2017. Go check it out to see if you can spot more easter eggs, and then be sure to share them with us in the comments!