Coraline (Steelbook) (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Jan 17, 2023
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Coraline (Steelbook) (4K UHD Review)

Director

Henry Selick

Release Date(s)

2009 (December 13, 2022)

Studio(s)

Laika/Pandemonium Films/Focus Features (Shout! Factory)
  • Film/Program Grade: A-
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: A-

Coraline (4K UHD)

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Review

Adapting a Neil Gaiman property seemed to be a fairly straightforward task for filmmaker and screenwriter Henry Selick, the often forgotten director of A Nightmare Before Christmas. A dark fantasy for children, Coraline seemed to be the perfect fit not only for Selick, but for Laika Entertainment. It was their first full length stop-motion animated feature, and like the films that followed, it has since become a classic for families and animation fans alike. Haunting and twisted, yet heartfelt and beautiful, it’s the blueprint for other Laika films to come, such as ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls. And to date, it’s the most profitable film in their repertoire.

Young Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) has moved into her new Oregon home with her mother (Teri Hatcher) and father (John Hodgman), both of whom are absorbed by their work and have no time for the daydreaming, high-spirited Coraline. Exploring her solitary home in the middle of the woods, she meets Wybie (Robert Bailey, Jr.), an awkward but resourceful young boy who, along with a stray black cat (Keith David), follows her around. She also meets her eccentric neighbors, including gymnast-turned mouse circus trainer Bobinsky (Ian McShane) and former burlesque performers April and Miriam (Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French). One day, Coraline discovers a small door hidden behind the wallpaper, and in the middle of the night, follows a mouse into it, which takes her to an alternate reality where her mother and father are loving and attentive, but have buttons for eyes. Everything seems perfect at first, but when she’s asked to replace her own eyes, she begins to question the world, and soon must fight to get back to reality.

Coraline was captured digitally by director of photography Pete Kozachik (along with the animators) in the RAW (4K) using Red One, Nikon D80, and Princeton Instruments MegaPlus EC11000 cameras with Tamron, Sigma, and Nikkor lenses, and finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Shout! Factory’s Ultra HD debut of the film comes sourced from a “new 4K restoration,” graded for high dynamic range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available) with the supervision of Laika. This is likely a 2K upscale, but it ultimately doesn’t matter because Coraline in 4K is a stunner. The additional depth enhances the most intricate of details in the animation and environments that it takes place in. Contrast is also improved, appearing less cloudy than previous presentations. The HDR options, especially the Dolby Vision pass, widen the gamut considerably, allowing for the colorful environments of the film to leap off the screen, not to mention Coraline’s signature blue hair and yellow rain coat. Blacks are inky deep and there are no digital artifacts to be found.

Audio is included in a new English Dolby Atmos (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible) track. It’s a powerful channel of audio that adds additional space to an already solid sound mix, opening up opportunities in the overhead speakers while immersing listeners with crisp sound effects and a gorgeous score. Dialogue exchanges are always discernible, and the overall track packs a punch with thumping low end activity. Additionally, there are also a pair of 5.1 DTS tracks in Spanish and French, as well as an English Descriptive Video Service track. Subtitle options include English SDH, Spanish, and French.

Coraline on 4K Ultra HD sits in Steelbook packaging with new artwork by Cesar Moreno, alongside a 1080p Blu-ray of the film and a 12-page insert booklet featuring behind-the-scenes stills, concept art, and an essay by Peter Debruge. It’s also available in standard packaging. The following extras are included on each disc, all in HD:

DISC ONE (4K UHD):

  • Audio Commentary with Henry Selick and Bruno Coulais

DISC TWO (BLU-RAY):

  • Audio Commentary with Henry Selick and Bruno Coulais
  • Inside LAIKA – Discovering the Characters of Coraline (10:45)
  • Inside LAIKA – Character Animation:
    • The Beldam (1:16)
    • Mr. Bobinsky (1:40)
    • The Cat (1:12)
    • Coraline Jones (1:15)
    • “Other” Father (1:05)
    • “Other” Mother (1:10)
    • Wybie Lovat (1:02)
  • Feature-Length Storyboards (94:02)
  • The Making of Coraline:
    • The Evolution of the Story (2:42)
    • Inspiring Design: Character Design and Art Direction (3:56)
    • Directing the Voice Sessions (3:16)
    • Making Puppets (4:30)
    • Coraline’s Closet (4:50)
    • Setting the Stage: How Does Your Fantastic Garden Grow? (4:12)
    • It’s Alive (3:19)
    • I’ve Seen Fire and I’ve Seen Fog (4:01)
    • The Eyes Have It (3:20)
    • Wrapping Up Coraline (2:03)
  • Creepy Coraline (5:03)
  • Voicing the Characters (10:47)
  • Deleted Scenes (12 in all – 8:44)
  • Character Art Still Gallery (24 in all – 2:06)
  • Concept Art Still Gallery (24 in all – 2:06)
  • Behind the Scenes Still Gallery (24 in all – 2:06)
  • Trailer (2:25)

The extras begin with the original 2009 audio commentary featuring director Henry Selick and composer Bruno Coulais. Selick is the primary contributor with Coulais popping up at the end. It’s a nearly breathless commentary as Selick pumps out an enormous amount of information, much of it unique to the track, though some of it spills over into the featurettes. The newest additions are the Inside LAIKA featurettes. The first, Discovering the Characters of Coraline, features footage from the recording sessions, behind-the-scenes footage, and rare test footage. The second, Character Animation, offers seven separate featurettes on some of the characters. The Making of Coraline is broken up into ten chapters, which can optionally be played all at once. It covers much of the same ground, even repeating some of the same interview snippets. Creepy Coraline discusses the atmospheric aspects of the film and Voicing the Characters talks to the actors. Interview participants throughout include Henry Selick, author Neil Gaiman, director of photography Peter Kozachik, actors Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Saunders, Teri Hatcher, Keith David, Ian McShane, Dawn French, Robert Bailey Jr., John Hodgman, art directors Tim Proost, Bo Henry, Matt Sanders, animators Travis Knight, Trey Thomas, Brad Schiff, Anthony Scott, Phil Dale, Amy Adamy, Suzanne Twining, Julianna Cox, VFX animator John Allan Armstrong, compositors Patrick Wass, Peter Vickery, Aidan Fraser, character fabrication supervisor Georgina Hayns, armaturist Jeremy Spake, lead hair and fur fabricator Suzanne Moulton, lead costume design fabricator Deborah Cook, and set dresser Bridget Phelan. The Deleted Scenes features introductions by Henry Selick and the still galleries offer a total of 72 images of character art, concept art, and behind-the-scenes photos. Last is the film’s trailer.

The biggest omission from this release is the 3D version of the film, in both its anaglyphic and polarized forms. Since the film was specifically shot with 3D in mind, it’s a shame that it hasn’t been included here (although you can still find both versions for a decent price). Not included from the Target Exclusive 2-Disc Collector’s Edition is a set of 12 webisodes from 2009, and Henry Selick’s 2005 animated short film Moon Girl. Also missing are the U-Control interactive features from the anaglyphic 3D release, and the BD-Live featurette The World According to Henry from the polarized 3D release. Aside from those missing bits, Coraline soars in 4K.

- Tim Salmons

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