The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 1.85:1 1080p picture in both full 3D and 2D variants. Well, if Avatar is the benchmark for live action, Open Season the same for CGA, then Coraline must be the point at which stop motion animation is measured against, for put simply this picture is gorgeous.
First up we have to look at the 3D which is sublime. Even on such small stages, this is, once again, how to showcase the format, for there are very few ‘point at the screen’ moments, its quality comes from depth and solidity to the layers. Each character has an identifiable solidity to them, they are ‘round’, their clothes, their hair, their very being is solid. Framing is set to give depth, and not in ‘showy’ ways either, it’s entirely natural – look at Coraline in bed in her room, there is tangible distance between the camera to the bed (itself with depth) to the rest of the room, to the walls and then out the window to the distance. There is also a tangible distance to the outside; the introduction of the boarding house (with its uncanny resemblance to the Bates Hotel in both stature and framing) the sign in the foreground, the house itself, the tress and then the mountains reaching far, far into the distance; for such a small stage (relatively speaking) this is expertly seen. Of course there are the obligatory 3D wow moments, the needle in the opening credits, ‘stands out’ (ha!), but for me, perhaps the most enchanting 3D effect was that of the tunnel behind the little door. Watch in utter astonishment as this appears to go so far back into your TV that you could reach inside, this one effect alone is worth the purchase of the disc – it is only marred by the slight crosstalk seen at the other door. You’d be hard pushed to note any scene that doesn’t have a terrific looking 3D effect in it, such is the quality on show, easily a reference point.
Next up the detail, which is utterly breathtaking and shows to what degree the animators love their craft – take a look at just the opening credit sequence for a metaphor for the rest of the film; look at the hessian cloth, with each identifiable strand, the sheen and point of the needle hands, the weave of the thread, the depth of the stuffing, the shape and texture of the sawdust; each so absolutely clear as to be real! Once we move into the film proper things only improve, look at Coraline’s room both real and other, both exhibit a degree of detail seldom seen in your major budget flick; the wooden floor, the weave of the toys, the texture of the wall paper; each and every one postcard perfect in their representation. ‘Exterior’ shots fare just as well, with close up detail and distance being equally as sharp which adds to the 3D effects no end. In fact it’s so detailed that you can even see the puppets face, if you see what I mean!
Colour, too, is spectacular to behold, whether it is the cold and drab tones of the real world or the bold, shiny and shimmering hues of the other. There is an urgency to the colour pallet; yes it’s not natural but then this is an unnatural film and it fits perfectly, look at the other garden, the lush flowers as they bloom to reveal Coraline’s face. There is no wash or bleed, no banding or posterization. Perfect colour representation.
Contrast and brightness are set to give some wonderfully deep blacks (with the usual 3D caveat) which not only enhance the depth of frame but give strength to the colours themselves – there is decent shadow detail too.
Digitally there are no compression problems or artefacting, neither is there any edge enhancement. I’ve hinted that there is a little crosstalk, but it is very limited, spotted very infrequently and never around long enough to cause distraction, the only exception being the other door in the depths of the tunnel, which was so annoying considering the otherwise flawless 3D effect.
In all, this is an amazing picture and absolutely demo material, and considering Avatar is not yet commercially available, this is the disc I’d choose to show off with.
The disc has French and Spanish DTS 5.1, but I concentrate on the English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. To accompany the visuals we have an aural treat that matches the on screen action and is every bit as bright and vibrant. The frontal array plays host to the dialogue which is very natural sounding, each flex and nuance of the respective characters voices coming across without restraint. Stereo effects are too numerous to count and are not limited to left/right, but converge between front/back and every permutation in-between, steerage is wonderfully achieved mirroring the onscreen action perfectly.
It is a highly dynamic track, with plenty happening to keep all six speakers happy, surrounds are used to give some nice ambient effects and also used to fill out the score. Talking of which, the score is extremely well realised, almost clinical in its preciseness, the twang of the guitar, or chimes, or the choir singing really placing you in the centre of things. It almost seemed as well layered as the 3D image itself.
Bass seems a little restrained, it is not heavy or bombastic, but it is no slouch either, underpinning everything well, rather than being over powering. LF effects are few, but when they occur, occur with vigour, the cotton candy cannons, or the prey-mantis tractor, or the collapse of the other world for example. Perhaps not room shaking ferocity but extremely well realised.
Excellent steerage, perfectly central placement and restrained but strong bass lead up to a reference score from me.
- Audio Commentary
It says that the commentary is with director Henry Selick and Composer Bruno Coulais which is a bit of a misnomer, as Coulais’ only portion is during the end credits. However what he has to say about his musical choices and how it impacts the film is entertaining, it’s just too damn short. For the rest of the time Selick flies solo, and luckily so, as he fires off all amount of information somewhat like a Gatling gun – it comes thick and fast on everything about the production, story, design, meshing technical information with anecdotal stories – it's almost too much too quick. Understandably he slows down towards the end of the film, but that’s not because he has run out of things to say ....
- Deleted Scenes – 08.36, HD
Selick introduces a selection of deleted scenes explaining why each was removed (due to pacing or overstatement) but all amount to only a few seconds with the exception of one new scene dubbed ‘Buggy Flowers’. Very odd editing for this feature too, bizarre cutting and camera angles as Selick describes what’s going on.
- Making of Coraline – 35.56, HD
A series of ten individual featurettes that can be watched in one chunk with the play all function. The whole thing starts off with an introduction from Selick, then heads off into The Evolution of the Story which has writer Gaiman and the director explain their friendship how the story was developed, also includes Gaiman’s daughter interviewing Selick on his changes to the book; Inspiring Design: Character design and art direction starts off well about where the inspiration was drawn and developed then quickly becomes a montage of pictures; Directing the Voice Sessions looks at how the voice talent recorded their lines using multiple takes and different aspects to finally get the achieved effect; Making Puppets looks at how intricate the puppets were and the different was that were used to achieve the results, animated hair, top and bottom face models, the amount of hands cast etc.; Coraline’s Closet takes a look at the various costumes created, for real, for the characters, all in scale to the 9” puppets, including all the wires and foam needed to give the clothes life, these girls are amazing; Setting the Stage: How does your fantastic garden grow is another fascinating piece about he sets built, some of which were amazingly large to give the effect of distance then settles down to explaining how the Coraline face garden was achieved; It’s Alive, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen fog, The Eyes have it, and Wrapping up Coraline round off these short features and amounts to a not too heavy and informative making of documentary.
- Voicing the Characters – 10.46, HD
A closer look at the voice acting talent during the recording sessions, everyone is interviewed here and all look to have had a great time recording.
- Creepy Coraline – 05.03, HD
More animation techniques and puppetry this time concentrating more on the bug element, be it rats, slugs or other mother’s evolving dress.
- DBox and BDLive
Shake your chair if you have the capability, or watch trailers on the web if you have the inclination
Skip-able trailers include Hop and the King Kong 360 3D Universal ride
- 2D version
The film but in 2D Blu-ray
- DVD and Digital copy
Included for completeness sake
Unfortunately we lose the U control functionality that was on the 2D release a while back, but everything else is present and correct, and is a pretty good watch, not to heavy any always enjoyable – quite incredible the amount of work done. Menu can be in 3D or 2D depending on which you select and the skip-able trailers only seemed to boot up in a 2D player.
Coraline is Henry Selick’s interpretation of Neil Gaiman’s 2002 novel of the same name. It tells the story of Coraline, a headstrong, but lonely young girl who discovers an alternative ‘other’ world populated by exact replicas of her own reality only better, where all her whims are met. But, when things take a sinister turn Coraline has to rely on her wits to rescue not only herself but her family. Selick's film is a horror fable wrapped up in a kids fairy-tale and whilst the message is clear it is not overstated and played with such gusto that not only does it entertain but it also sends the proverbial shiver down any parent's spine.
As a Region free 3D Blu-ray set, Universal have produced a clear reference product with top notch picture and sound all backed up by a short, but very informative, extras package. Included is the 2D version as well as a DVD and digital copy to make this set totally future proof. Highly recommended.
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