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Alice’s Importance in the Adaptation World and Coraline
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Alice’s Importance in the Adaptation World and Coraline

There are similar aspects in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass that are connected to, and are made possible for, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.  Both Carroll and Gaiman’s works were adapted into animated film and marketed as a child’s movie. The use of the uncanny, the doppelganger, tunnels to an alternate world, and a feline guide, both in large and small parts, provide links between the characters of Alice and Coraline as well as their narratives wrapped around them that show the importance of Alice to today’s films.

While the 1951 adaptation of Alice seems true to the Disney spirit and appears to be less dark at times as Alice moves through the world of Wonderland, the adaptation of Coraline provides a darker side to children’s entertainment.  However, the film was not the first version to be questioned.  Gaiman’s novella was surrounded by “anxiety that the book might prove too frightening for younger readers” (Gooding, 390) and therefore a close adaptation of it would provide the same worries.  An important part of Coraline’s adaptation into a movie was what kind of movie.  In an interview with Empire magazine, Neil Gaiman (video below) said that it was originally going to be filmed as live action.  However, it later changed into a stop motion film, which was what Gaiman wanted “because these aren’t humans, because these are dolls, there is something intrinsically distancing.”  Alice is no stranger to the idea of the uncanny.  Coraline dealt with the idea as well.  Not only is Coraline herself a doll filmed to be a person, but there is a doll of Coraline present in the film.  The Other Mother, the name for the character pretending to be Coraline’s mother in the alternate world she discovered, has button eyes like a doll.  In fact, so do the other characters of that world.  While Alice doesn’t face dopplegangers of the doll sort, she does meet Tweedledee and Tweedledum that give her quite a spin.  In the film, Alice meets them in Wonderland.  However, it is unclear if the world she meets them in is Wonderland or not since they meet in Through the Looking Glass. What was clear about Tweedledee and Tweedledum is how identical they are.  There was no way to tell which one of the characters was which.  But one important thing they said to Alice was that “[she was] beginning backwards.”

Neil Gaimon discussing Coraline.


Like Alice, Coraline goes on adventures where she is introduced to “doors and keys, mirrors, pretty gardens, murky passages, and bizarre creatures” (Nikolajeva 259).  One such creature was a talking cat.  While a cat would seem normal, it acts as a guide for Coraline, warning her about the world of the Other Mother and trying to help her when she is in danger or making decisions.  The cat is different due to the lack of a double, which made it even more important as a guide.  The characters of the other world are copies except for Coraline and the cat.  While the Cheshire Cat that provides a guide for Alice does not appear in her non-dream world of Wonderland, the importance is still put on the Cheshire.  It is through the objects and passageways that Coraline depicted the ways in which Alice in Wonderland is relevant to the world of film and literature.  Alice needs a key to unlock the door to follow the white rabbit.  Before that, she already followed him through a tunnel.  ”Uncanny effects in Coraline are aided by Gaiman’s technical innovations to a familiar narrative pattern featuring a border between real and fantasy worlds…In the pattern’s simplest form, the border is very strict: a dozing Alice passes through a mirror into Looking-glass House” (Gooding 393) or the door in Coraline’s room.  See images below for the resemblance between the entrances into Wonderland and the world of the Other Mother.

Left to Right.  Coraline, Alice

Lewis Carroll created Alice and filled her world with things such as passageways into a a world that seems to be filled with nonsense, talking animals and flowers, and adventures to fill her dreaming mind.  It was adapted not only by Disney to create a animated movie that blends the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.  However, books and movies have since been using ideas present in the world of Alice.  Coraline’s world, both in book form and movie, provided an example of the way adaptations occur and borrow from what has come before.  From their passageways to the objects and characters they encounter, Alice and Coraline have much in common.

The official trailer for Coraline.


Fair Use:

The two videos have standard YouTube licenses and were used to provide information for the critique of adaptations of Alic’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, and Coraline.  The images were also provided for the same use.

Works Cited:

Alice in Wonderland. Prod. Walt Disney. Perf. Kathyrin Beaumont and Ed Wynn. Beuna Vista Home Entertainment, 1951. DVD.

Carroll, Lewis, and Lewis Carroll. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland ; And, Through the Looking-glass and What Alice Found There. New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2004. Print.

Coraline. Dir. Henry Selick. By Henry Selick, Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, and Jennifer Saunders. Prod. Henry Selick, Bill Mechanic, and Claire Jennings. Focus Features, 2009. DVD.

“Coraline” Official Trailer. Dir. Henry Selick. Perf. Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher. YouTube. 4 Nov. 2008. Web. 14 Feb. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO3n67BQvh0>.

Gooding, Richard. “”Something Very Old and Very Slow”: Coraline, Uncanniness, and Narrative Form.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 33.4 (2008): 390-407. Print.

Neil Gaimon on Coraline. YouTube. 10 Sept 2009. Web. 14 Feb. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO3n67BQvh0>.

Nikolajeva, Maria. “Devils, Demons, Familiars, Friends: Toward a Semiotics of Literary Cats.” Marvels & Tales 23.2 (2009): 248-67. Print.