Button Eyes, Blue Hair, and the BeldamA Closer Look at Henry Selick’s Coraline

by Madelyn Young '25 on November 10, 2023
A&E Staff

Arts & Entertainment

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

The 2009 Laika Studios film Coraline, based on Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name, was a hit upon its release, making nearly $125 million at the box office. While it was marketed as a family-friendly movie, it has since become popular with all ages. Most of its original audience was too young to pick up on its eerie subtleties, making it a perfect film to rewatch as young adults during the Halloween season.

So, why is the movie still so popular? For one thing, Coraline is entirely a stop-motion film, making it extremely detailed. Each character had thousands of faces to portray specific emotions, and every movement had to be precise in order to make the animation seamless. Coraline herself, according to Laika Studios, had 6,300 separate faces used throughout the film. The characters’ costumes were also extremely intricate. For example, the gloves that Coraline wears later in the film had to be knit by an artist with miniature needles. 

Another reason for the film’s popularity is its fanbase. This August, Coraline was re-released in theaters for two days and made nearly five million dollars. Fans have created artwork inspired by the movie, including customized dolls with button eyes that look like themselves instead of the protagonist. Perhaps the most interesting things that have come out of the resurgence of the movie are the theories about it. 

Because of Laika’s attention to detail, there are several things that make the movie even more haunting than it already is, whether it was intentional or not. For example, one of the most well-known and analyzed scenes is the first meal in the Other World. The cake that is placed in front of Coraline reads “Welcome Home” in cursive. However, the first “o” in the word welcome has one loop, while the “o” in home has two. In graphology (the study of handwriting), double loops in the letter “o” can symbolize lying or deceit, meaning that Coraline is welcome in the Other World, but is not truly home. Another haunting detail is the image of the Beldam’s hand. It appears briefly in a lighting strike the Other Mother produces, and again when Coraline gets her tea leaves read by her neighbors, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible. 

Perhaps the most haunting (and popular) theory of all is that Coraline never leaves the Other World. Throughout the movie, we see that the Beldam has the ability to produce any image she desires to impress Coraline and get her to stay. The garden that she and her real parents plant at the end of the movie looks eerily similar to the one the Other Mother designed in the Other World. We also know that the Beldam can take the form of the real mother (without button eyes), as seen when she tricks Coraline into coming back through the portal. Who’s to say that she isn’t doing this now? The movie ends with the cat disappearing behind the sign to the Pink Palace as if he is going through a portal—something he does in the Other World. Even if you’ve already seen Coraline, there is something new and potentially terrifying to notice every time. It is the perfect film to add to your Halloween watch list if you don’t like classic horror movies, but still want to be scared!