Coraline is one of the most visually stunning animated films I have ever seen, capturing the whimsical tone with wonderful visuals. The film masterfully uses its stop-motion style to capture the emotions of the main character on-screen, without anyone having to say anything. Unlike many other children’s animated films, which likely fear that young kids will lose interest unless there is always a character talking, Coraline knows when to keep quiet and let the visuals speak for themselves. The visual differences between the real world and Coraline’s ideal world are striking, showing the audience exactly what Coraline thinks her world lacks without her having to explain that to us.
The excellent visuals and general lack of dialogue creates a tone unlike many other animated films. The movie really isn’t a comedy, as it doesn’t have nearly as many jokes as other children’s films, and acts more like a drama than anything else. The movie is directed by Henry Selick, director of the classic stop-motion feature The Nightmare Before Christmas, and the tone of Coraline is quite similar to the tone of that film. The slightly macabre but mostly inquisitive feel of the movie makes it easily distinguishable from any other animation on the market, leaving its audience feeling more fulfilled than if they had seen an average animated movie.
Where Coraline’s tone is far darker and more macabre in moments, Paranorman almost constantly uses its horror atmosphere to parody classic scary movies, throwing jokes at a mile a minute. All of the most famous and ridiculous comedy tropes are addressed and parodied in this movie, starting from minute one where Norman is watching a horror movie with the ghost of his grandma. In that first few minutes, Paranorman manages to be a satire of so many elements of classic horror that it seems almost outstanding. And, from that moment, the movie never relents in its parody. However, the movie is smart enough to not fall into the pit of cliché itself, with a twist toward the end of the movie that makes the film seem more than just parody, but a fresh take on the horror and animation genres.
Like in Coraline, Paranorman uses its great visual style to forward its parody and tone. The movie skillfully makes itself look like a classic horror film, using the stop-motion and visual talent that Coraline proved they had mastered to generate the feeling and tone. The movie is beautiful, and the excellence of the animation and visual style helps feed into the comedy. Norman’s occasional passages into the paranormal world are stunningly beautiful, as is the evil witch character once she reveals herself. Thus, not only is Paranorman one of the best parodies of horror movies in animated form, but it is another example of Laika proving that it is one of the best animated studios in the business.