Coraline: Learning to Love Imperfections

Coraline: Learning to Love Imperfections
Leah Padalino

Written and verified by the film critic Leah Padalino.

Last update: 20 October, 2022

When we think about animated movies, we think about kids. However, in some cases, animated movies even captivate adult audiences. Coraline (2009) is a perfect example of this.

Maybe the movie is not entirely for kids, but it’s instead directed toward children who are mature enough to appreciate its magic.

Both the mysterious plot and its aesthetics make this movie a very complex story that’s almost too scary. The movie was made with stop motion, which reminds us of some Tim Burton movies such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. Although many people believe that this movie was directed by Tim Burton, he actually had nothing to do with it.

Coraline: A stop motion masterpiece

Its peculiar aesthetics, very Burton-like and goth, weren’t randomly designed. It’s not a coincidence that we think about other Burton movies when we see this film. The director of Coraline,  Henry Selick, worked with Tim Burton for a long time. Actually, he was the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, not Burton.

It’s true that the idea for The Nightmare Before Christmas came from a poem written by Burton. However, the movie was directed by Selick and produced by Burton. Therefore, both directors ended up influencing each other, resulting in a very special and peculiar stop motion style.

Coraline is a visual gift to our childish fantasies. The story reminds us of The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland, of girls who have bizarre adventures where they face their biggest fears until they reach a higher level of maturity and wisdom.

The Other World

Coraline is a girl whose parents, too caught up in their jobs, barely have time for her. She finds her environment very boring. Like Alice, she’ll discover a new secret world that only gets darker and darker.

She just moved with her parents to an old house that’s far away from the city. She has no friends. Coraline feels bored and alone in her house. She wishes she could be in any other place. Her parents, in spite of working on a gardening catalogue, have a very messy garden. They’re too busy and can barely work on their old house, which makes it anything but cozy.

Mr. Bobinsky, a Russian acrobat who trains mice, is one of the neighbors. Coraline also meets Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, two strange actresses obsessed with dogs. Finally, there’s Wybie, the landlady’s grandson, who’s the same age as Coraline. He decides to give her a spooky doll that looks just like her.

Apart from these eccentric characters that Coraline dislikes so much, there’s a black cat that Wybie takes care of that turns out to be much more than just a simple cat.

Perfection is not always what it seems

One night, the mice guide Coraline to something extraordinary: a small secret door that leads to what looks like an improved version of her life.

Coraline opening door on the wall.

In this “Other World”, Coraline sees an exact copy of her house. However, this house is more colorful and has a beautiful garden. Her parents are also more attentive. From the quality of the food to the neighbors, everything seems to be better behind the small door. In this new reality, everyone has an alter-ego, an exact copy of themselves with buttons instead of eyes. Everyone has an alter-ego except Coraline and the cat.

Coraline doesn’t seem to care about this fact, given that her life is finally perfect. One of the characters that catches our attention is Wybie or the “Other Wybie”. Coraline’s “Other Mother” has turned him into a perfect friend for Coraline since he can’t talk. But this Wybie is the most revealing character and he seems to be afraid of the “Other Mother”.

In the “Other World”, the cat is still the same. It doesn’t have buttons instead of eyes. However, once the cat enters the Other World, it’s able to talk and becomes a spiritual guide for her, an essential help that will warn her about possible danger.

Coraline eating dinner with her parents.

Everything seems perfect in the “Other World” until Coraline finds out that the trapped souls of other kids live there, kids that were alive a long time ago. Among them, she finds Wybie’s grandmother’s sister.

The movie turns darker and darker by the minute as we discover the evil intentions of the “Other Mother” and that the beauty of the “Other World” is nothing more than a trap to capture kids like Coraline. 

What does Coraline teach us?

Coraline is full of metaphors that aim to show that not everything is what it seems.

Coraline’s doll is nothing but a puppet of the “Other Mother”, a tool she uses to spy on Coraline and know all her secrets. By replacing the eyes with buttons, the “Other Mother” is able to capture all the kids’ souls for eternity.

The black cat helps her see that this “Other World” isn’t as perfects as it seems.

Wybie’s real name is Wyborne, a reference to “why born”. He lives with his grandmother and we know nothing about his parents, so his childhood probably wasn’t easy. These two characters, which Coraline despised at the beginning, become the key to escaping and defeating the “Other Mother”.

Woman trying to swallow key.

Coraline hates Wybie and the cat because of how they look, as well as her neighbors which she deems boring and strange. None of these characters are perfect, but the perfection of the “Other World” is nothing but a dangerous temptation. 

Learning to love imperfections

When Coraline discovers that her real parents are in danger and that the “Other Mother” is using her, she’ll learn to accept people just the way they are and that she’s not perfect either.

She overcomes her fears and saves her friends and family by showing the “Other Mother” that love is more than just appearances.

Coraline is a lesson for all those parents who don’t have enough time for their children. In a world where we barely have time, sometimes we neglect what’s important and forget our fundamental values.

“They say even the proudest spirit can be broken with love.”


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.