Coraline Film News

From the October 21st Hollywood Reporter:

Dakota Fanning has signed on to voice the title character in Laika Entertainment’s animated feature Coraline.

Henry Selick (Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach) is writing and directing the film, based on the best-selling novel by Neil Gaiman.

The story centers on a young girl (Fanning) who discovers an alternate version of her life after walking through a secret door in her new home. On the surface, this parallel reality is similar to her real life, only much better. The adventure turns dangerous, however, when the girl’s counterfeit parents try to keep her forever.

“It’s sweet kismet,” Selick said. “Dakota is a verygifted actor who will bring great skill and emotionaldepth to the character. It will be an honor to workwith her.”

Coraline is in preproduction at Laika, a Portland, Ore.-based animation studio owned by Philip H. Knight

Selick, who joined Laika as supervising director in May 2004, segued to Coraline after wrapping Laika’s first CG film, the short Moongirl, which reimagines lunar mythology.

Eleven-year-old Fanning, who began her acting career at age 6, has become one of the most in-demand actresses of any age. Her credits include War of the Worlds, Man on Fire and I Am Sam. She stars opposite Kurt Russell in DreamWorks’ horse-themed Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story, which opens today. Fanning also toplines the upcoming Charlotte’s Web.

Laika, which absorbed Vinton Studios in July, produced Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and is in preproduction on the CG feature Jack & Ben’s Animated Adventure.
–Tatiana Siegel


Feature – Vancouver Province

From the October 9th Vancouver Province:

Neil Gaiman may be the busiest writer alive.

Currently on tour for his latest novel, Anansi Boys, Gaiman is also involved in two upcoming films — the adaptation of his children’s book MirrorMask and a new version of the classic Beowulf, which will feature Hollywood A-stars Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie.

In Vancouver for the upcoming writers’ festival, he took time out of his busy schedule to talk to The Province about his various projects.

You’re currently on tour to support your new novel, Anansi Boys, but you also have a new film, Mirrormask. How’s it doing?

I think it’s doing OK. It opened on 12 screens and it made $7,000 a screen, which is fairly good — considering the promotional budget has consisted of leaving it to me to get to the word out on my blog.

You have a reputation for having the most books optioned for film without actually being made into films. Is that starting to change?

Not really. I’ve written the script for Beowulf, and Mirrormask was an original project, but I still haven’t got anything else I’ve done coming out. On the other hand, if everything that could come out does, there will be five or six movies in 2007 and everyone will be completely sick of me.

Has Anansi Boys been optioned?

The studios said they liked the idea but they didn’t understand the fantasy. I had several studios say they would absolutely be interested if I would remove all the fantasy elements from the film, to which I said, I am rich, old and cranky, so f— off.

The book came out and went to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, and now producers are picking it up and saying it’s great, and the phone has started ringing.

It’s weird. In a world in which Harry Potter films and Star Wars are the bestselling things out there, you will still get executives saying people don’t like fantasy.

Most of the writers I know seem to hate touring. But you seem to be always on tour — and you even seem to enjoy it.

If you’re a writer, it’s a lonely kind of thing you do in a room and then you get a royalty cheque. The cheque tells you you’ve sold half a million copies of something. But that’s just a number. Coming out and realizing those are real people — that you’ve made a difference to their lives, or at least entertained them, that’s a good thing for a writer and a humbling thing for a writer.

There are moments on this tour that have been surreal. For example, I’ve had several pediatric doctors at children’s hospitals tell me how important the character of Death in the Sandman comics has been to help them get through the death of children on a daily basis — you know the line of Death’s, “You get what everybody else gets, you get a lifetime.”

There was a guy in Denver whose son died young – he was only seven or eight years old. And this man realized he’d never told his son a bedtime story before he died. So after the showing of the body this man was alone with his son and he read him the whole of Coraline, which took about three hours. So moments like that definitely remind you that what you’re doing has value and purpose. Yes, you’re making up stories, but those stories are touching people’s lives.

You also stay in touch with readers through your blog (http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal). What are your plans for its future?

The day the blog stops being fun…I may take a holiday, I may stop it. I must have written more than a million words on the blog by now, which is kind of scary.

But you have more than a million readers of the blog.

One-point-two million readers per month the last time we checked, which was a while ago now.

We’re starting to see things such as e-paper on the horizon, to say nothing of the trend toward podcasting audio books. Where do you see the book in 10 years?

I think books are sharks. The shark is hundreds of millions of years old. There were sharks contemporary with and before dinosaurs. And sharks are still around now because there is nothing in the ocean that is better at being a shark than a shark. And it’s the same with books.

I think a paperback book is a perfectly evolved entity. You can drop it and it won’t break. You can drop it in the bath and still read it.It’s solar operated. You can find your place in it immediately. It’s the right size and weight.

What’s next for you?

Well, not a lot of recovery time. A week or so on the set of Beowulf, because I want to see that being shot. Then off to England for another tour of Anansi Boys.And when that’s done I come home and I have these cool plans right now that involve sleeping a lot.
–Peter Darbyshire


Feature – Minneapolis Star Tribune

From the October 14th Star Tribune:

Twin Cities fantasy star Neil Gaiman is having quite a week. His new novel, Anansi Boys, debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly best-seller lists and Mirrormask, the dreamlike film he made with his longtime illustrator Dave McKean, has already earned back a substantial portion of its tiny budget in limited release. It opens in the Twin Cities area today.

Q You’ve just concluded a North American book-signing tour. How’s your hand?

A It hurts. Everything hurts. I’ve signed books for 7,000 people. It feels like a marathon boxing match where the last round happened, they declared a draw, and there’s a rematch in England (and Scotland and Ireland) in two weeks’ time.

Q Time magazine just declared you one of the two most interesting people creating pop culture
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t now, along with “Serenity’s” Joss Whedon. How do you feel about that?

A I’m not taking any of it seriously. I feel a lot like sushi right now. It had been an underground thing and now it’s not become McDonald’s and it’s never going to become McDonald’s, but the culture isn’t scared of it any more. I will never be Applebee’s but there are enough people out there that like what I do that I get called one of the two most interesting people making pop culture. I don’t believe it’s true for a moment but I’m hugely flattered.

Q You’ve been producing fantasy stories for 20 years now. Does it get harder to spin out new stories and keep surprising yourself?

A I would be much richer but infinitely more miserable if I figured out how to keep doing the same kind of thing time after time. What I try to do is something utterly different from the last thing.

Q Is your move into film part of a plan to stay creatively engaged?

A Given the choice of something I know how to do and something I have no clue how to do, I will choose to try the new thing and make my mistakes every time. In films, I love the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s a whole new world. I get to go from something like Mirrormask, which is a tiny experimental movie made for no money at all [the budget was $4 million] to this giant production of Beowulf being done by Bob Zemeckis for hundreds of millions of dollars.

There are strange, hellish moments in Hollywood that make root canal surgery look inviting. You will find yourself sitting around a table with a bunch of people, none of whom have ever written a script, never made a movie or told a story, while they tell you what’s wrong with your story and suggest that maybe everything could be fixed if only you could put in some baseball because people like baseball. But the deal from [Henson Co., the movie’s producers] was that we’ll give you not enough money to make a film, and you get to write the script and we’ll let Dave make his movie with one palace that looks like a human body and pulses and another that looks like it was built out of dragonfly wings. And now, rather than coming out on DVD as was planned, it’s appearing on real screens for paying audiences.

Q Are you still pleased with your decision to relocate from London to the Minneapolis area?

A Yes. It was hard in ’98. I’d been out here for about seven years at that point and had the seven-year itch. I really wanted to go home. Then the Internet happened, and the things that I missed were now becoming available. My favorite newspaper? It was there for me in real time. I could listen to English radio. The world became suddenly a lot less local and it didn’t matter where I was quite as much. Bear in mind, you’re talking to me at my favorite time of the year in this part of the world. This wonderful fall where the skies are unimaginably blue and the sun is out and it’s hot except there are little crisp breezes and the smell of leaf mold on the air and the nights get chilly and walking somewhere is pleasurable because there’s exactly the right heat-to-cool ratio.

It’s a little bit magic.
–Colin Covert


Mirrormask Features – Zap2It

From multiple sources, but originally printed in Zap2it:

For writers who dream of medical thrillers, police procedurals, teen sex romps or historical biopics, Hollywood is always prepared to make those scribblings into reality. Things are more complicated for people who dream like Neil Gaiman.

“Two years ago there was a front page article in the Hollywood Reporter, which was on me and I didn’t know they were doing it and it was kind of embarrassing, because the theme of it was ‘this is the person who has sold the most stuff that hasn’t yet been made to Hollywood,'” Gaiman recalls, showing more pride than actual embarrassment. “It was pointed out that pretty much everything I’ve ever done has been bought and then not made.”

This Friday (Sept. 30), a feature-length Gaiman script — the twisted children’s story MirrorMask — will hit theatres. A collaboration with artist Dave McKean, MirrorMask is vintage Gaiman, a fairly tale crammed full of fantastical creatures, imaginary realms and mythological resonances. The film is a mixture of live action and digital animation and for Gaiman’s fans, it offers hope that after so many years of optioning his work and then letting it gather cobwebs, Hollywood may finally have caught up with the writer.

“What’s interesting now is that MirrorMask is coming out and in two weeks time, Bob Zemeckis starts filming Beowulf,” Gaiman says, going through the list in his mind. “A few weeks ago, I read online that they’ve officially greenlighted Coraline, which I assume means that Harry Selick has either started shooting it or … I know he’s been sending me bits of art and songs by They Might Be Giants that they’re writing for it — so that’s happening.”

Beowulf is a perfect example of the arc of technology advancing to the level of human creativity. Gaiman and Roger Avary first wrote their take on the Old English epic poem back in 1998, but they wrote a script that even Gaiman admits was “fundamentally probably unmakeable.” Then, though, Robert Zemeckis decided that he could use the same motion capture technology he pioneered on The Polar Express and push it one step further. Now, rather than having to cast different actors as the 18-year-old Beowulf depicted in the script’s first two acts and the 70-year-old Beowulf of the climax, Ray Winstone will deliver a single performance and computers will do the rest.

“Whether it will or will not work, I don’t know,” Gaiman admits. “I hope very much that it will. But suddenly I can actually imagine a world in which a fight between Old Beowulf and the dragon at the end really works.”

In addition to Coraline, another warped children’s fantasy featuring alternative worlds, and Beowulf, the possibilities of digital filmmaking will allow McKean and Gaiman to collaborate again on an adaptation of Signal to Noise. Gaiman also hopes to make his feature directing debut on an adaptation of Death: The High Cost of Living. That long-gestating project, now titled Death and Me, may find a home at New Line.

“I directed a short film a couple of years ago called A Short Film About John Bolton and may do a few more, but I’m not really a director,” says Gaiman. “I’m just somebody who feels that there are certain of my things I don’t want somebody else screwing up. If anyone’s going to screw it up, it may as well be me.”
–Daniel Fienberg


Also from Zap2it:

Neil Gaiman remembers the things that entertained him as a child.

“I love the fact that I remember to this day Warner Bros. cartoons, the power of small, hungry vicious creators after other hungry, vicious creatures and the expression on Wiley E. Coyote’s face as he would head out across a road that wasn’t there anymore, before collapsing a few thousand feet, preferably with a rock on top of him,” he laughs.

“I don’t remember, though I must have seen them, the equivalent of those PBS-y cartoons in which lots of people who love each other have a little misunderstanding, but then they have a big hug, having learned a lesson. I know which I carry with me. I know which I remember. And I know which are important. And it’s not the big hug. It’s never the big hug. It’s always the cool stuff.”

MirrorMask, a collaboration between Gaiman and illustrator Dave McKean, probably includes one or two big hugs, but it’s mostly about the cool stuff, a young woman’s
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uest through computer generated world. It’s a twisted tale likely to scare as much as it entertains, which is probably why MirrorMask is being released as an experimental arthouse movie, rather than as a children’s fairy tale.

“It is an odd thing,” McKean reflects. “People grow up and then they just become very, very overprotective. I’ve got two kids and I’ve just never been so bothered. They receive things on their own terms. Even material that’s aimed quite a bit over their heads, they receive something from it. They take a context from it. And then as they get older, they realize more context for it and grows and it becomes deeper.”

While Gaiman may be best known for older skewing work like American Gods and the Sandman series, Gaiman, a father of three, has worked with McKean, a father of two, on a number of projects for children, books that don’t shy away from darkness.

“I think there is this idea that kids need to be protected from things and it’s not one that I’ve ever particularly endorsed as a children’s fiction writer,” Gaiman says. “I get told off about that, when I do want to do children stuff, because I always figure that unless you have scary things that are scary, then winning a battle against them is meaningless.”

Both filmmakers revel in the assistance of the Jim Henson Company, which produced MirrorMask as well as The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, both acknowledged influences.

“It seemed like a strange mix, actually, for Neil and I to throw our lot in with the Henson Company,” McKean says. “It felt odd, but actually I think it’s perfect. I think there is something about Jim’s work that is direct — It’s bright and sharp and it never talks down to its audience. And there’s just a delight in imagination and communication in Jim’s stuff.”

Ultimately, Gaiman has come to terms with the limited release because he knows that for films like MirrorMask, the true measure of value doesn’t come from the box office figures for its opening weekend.

“There are things like that,” he acknowledges. “The Dukes of Hazzard movie, it’s had its moment in the sun. It has come. It has gone. It will sell some copies on DVD. It will go away again. It may show up on late-night television, but it probably won’t. That was it for the Dukes of Hazzard movie.”

Gaiman continues, “The nice thing about MirrorMask is that it was never made for the Friday night grosses. It’s going to get a small release. It’s quite possible that if that small release works, it will grow a little before it goes away… But I can more or less guarantee that in 15 years, it’ll still be being watched.”

MirrorMask opens in limited release on Friday, Sept. 30.
–Daniel Fienberg