Coraline Jones likes to smash bugs found in her shower. Dakota Fanning likes to play with her pet horse. Coraline Jones likes to play in the mud and rain. Dakota Fanning likes to read books while it rains. Coraline Jones is the central character of the Neil Gaiman novella, Coraline. Dakota Fanning, coincidentally, read that novella, though she probably will not admit to reading it while riding her horse in the rain.
What Fanning will admit to is sheer and utter excitement in bringing Coraline’s character to life in Focus Pictures’ new animated stop-action horror fantasy flick, Coraline. “It was a great fantasy story,” Fanning said of her first impressions of the book, prior to agreeing to do the voice-over for the movie’s central character. “I just loved this book because it was unlike any other book I’ve read before. I didn’t even think anyone would make a movie out of it. Then I was approached for the film and I was like, 'Oh my God, that was such a great book I read!'”
While admitting she is not exactly the type of girl who likes to play in the mud in the middle of a rain storm or squashing odd insects found inside her home, Fanning said her own sense of adventure was not too different from Coraline’s. “I don’t know if I am adventurous in the way she is, with like nature,” Fanning told Buzzine with a wide smile on her face. “She goes out there and gets dirty all the time, and that’s not really me. But I am adventurous. I think you have to be to go the places I go and do the things I try out.”
Okay, so Fanning has some sense of adventure, but she does not want to get dirty. As she bluntly stated, she is more of a “girly-girl” than Coraline is. Yet, that did not mean Fanning did not admire the title-character’s spirit. “I just love her curiosity and I admire her bravery,” she said, again with a wide smile and a degree of excitement. “She’s so adventurous and loves to explore everything. ”Explore Coraline did, taking the moviegoer back and forth between worlds through a tunnel behind the wall, just like Alice jumping down the rabbit hole to discover the fantastical Wonderland. And just like Alice, Coraline finds her own wonderland, with seemingly perfect parents, amazing food, friendly neighbors, and a colorful and vibrant life.
Of course, things are not always as they seem, and soon the moviegoer understands why Coraline’s tag-line is “Be careful what you wish for.” For Fanning, that tag-line is essential to the movie’s message, which is applicable to daydreaming children and under-appreciative parents just the same. Metaphorically driving that message home is the creative use of dolls, which is the key element of Coraline. “I think, in this movie, a perfect little children’s toy (dolls) becomes something totally different,” Fanning said. “I really like that about the film because it takes everything you know and turns it upside down.”
In Coraline, the title-character’s adventure began with a doll given to her by her pesky, annoying friend who ultimately turns Coraline’s life completely upside-down in ways she could never imagine. “This doll is evil,” Fanning emphatically said. “It’s from the alternate version of life -- that world. It kind of takes the shape of whatever victim it’s going to find next.”
Of course, Coraline was the doll’s next “victim,” but Fanning does not think the animated thriller will victimize munchkins younger than her. “I am still kind of a child, even though I am bit older now,” the teen-aged star said. “I still enjoyed this movie. I think people of all ages will get something different out of it and enjoy it for different reasons.”
While moviegoers will no doubt vary in their interpretations of Coraline and the young girl’s adventurous journey, Fanning herself went through different phases during her voice-over work. Considering she was in and out of the recording booth for nearly five years, the 14-year-old Fanning was definitely a different person at production’s end than she was at its beginning. Yet, she believes her own growth during production helped her understand Coraline’s psyche, as she was able to grow into the role. “I think now I really get the message of how we always want our world to be perfect and our lives to be perfect, and it never can be,”
Fanning told Buzzine of Coraline’s desires. “It’s hard to realize that, because when you are younger, you think that: ‘Oh, I wish I had perfect dinners every night.’ It can never be exactly the way you want, so you have to learn to accept that. Now I get the broader meaning of it all.”
While she appreciated the broader meaning of the movie’s message, Fanning was also appreciative of some of Coraline’s finer characteristics and traits. “I admire how curious she is, and even though she is growing up, she hasn’t lost it.” One thing Fanning hopes is not lost is her sanity, as she had two movies releasing on the same day -– both Coraline and Push opened on February 6th. It is the first time Fanning has ever had two movies, in which she plays an integral role, open on the same day. “It’s kind of different. I’ve never done that before,” she said. “It’s crazy. I’ve been doing this movie (Coraline) for so long that it ironically comes out the same day as Push, which I filmed just a year ago.”
While Fanning’s character in Coraline faced a tough decision about which world to permanently live in, she certainly hopes fans are not faced with the same painstaking decision about which theater to sit in to enjoy one of her films. Whether fans choose Coraline or Push, they will not be confronted with evil dolls, manipulative mothers in alternate worlds, or a talking black cat. Either way, the moviegoer will be entertained, and that is all Fanning can wish for on opening weekend.
'Coraline' is in theaters now from Focus Features.