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I got the chance to sit down with the man, and chat about his influences, his work methods, and adapting Neil Gaiman's Coraline novel in stop-motion 3D.
He sent me the pages and I loved it immediately, I loved that it was a scary story for kids. So I was right there, and I took it to a producer, who used to work at 20th Century Fox, who was head of motion pictures, Bill Mechanic.
The meets Grimm's Fairytale in a modern setting was appealing - I loved the character of Coraline, and I loved some of the amazing details, you know, buttons on human eyes. And Bill also responded, and I convinced both Neil and Bill to give me a shot to try and write the screenplay, and adapt the novel. Bill in his company had this output deal with Disney, that he was not allowed to make animated films. ' So for the first two years, I wrote several versions of the screenplay - the first one was awful, it was too close to the book.
Neil encouraged me to go off and grow it into a film, and I did, I made the changes and a lot of adjustments.
And I was terrified to bring it back to Neil - he's a hell of a good writer!
And he was good with it, he said 'yeah, this is a film.' And Bill liked it, but for about 2 years we had to pretend it was a live action film. A scary film for children - it wasn't going to happen.
I even met with Michelle Pfeiffer, to be possibly in the role of the Mothers, but she didn't really want to have any buttons on her eyes. kinda the point of the...' Anyway, that was the early days. Time went on, and I had to do other things to pay the bills.
I worked with Wes Anderson on , and did a bunch of undersea creatures for him.
And then this company Laika, which was sort of a re-formed version of Will Vinterns company in the Pacific Northwest, Portland, Oregon.
There'd been a lot of animated commercials for years; claymation was something that they did. They had an idea for a short film, , and they asked if I'd direct it, and flesh it out. and at that time, the guy in charge said, 'well, actually, it's much too dark', and what changed was, Travis Knight.
And I said that I was only going to move up there from California if I could bring Coraline with me. Travis Knight, who is the son of Phil Knight, who is the backer of Laika, happens to be one of the best animators in the world, I worked with him on Moongirl, but he also did stop-motion.
And basically, going to him, getting to Phil Knight, and responding to my passion for the project got the ball rolling. And I had to do several more re-writes, had to find a distributor, but when I'd cleared all the hurdles, they gave the film a green-light.