In February of 2021, it was announced that LAIKA Studios and boutique home media distributor Shout! Factory made a deal to bring LAIKA’s incredible stop-motion films to U.S. audiences’ homes. Toward the end of 2021, Shout! Factory released Blu-ray/DVD combo editions of Coraline (2009), ParaNorman (2012), The Boxtrolls (2014), and Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) that included both legacy bonus features and brand-new materials created just for the new release. Now, to up the ante, the studio and distributor are releasing these four films upgraded to 4K UHD with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Excited home audiences can select from either a regular or steelbook edition with Coraline and ParaNorman releasing in December 2022 and the other two hitting shelves February 28th, 2023. What follows is an exploration of the 4K UHD release of writer/director Henry Selick’s (Wendall & Wild) take on the Neil Gaiman story Coraline.
Coraline follows the adventures of a disgruntled young girl (voiced by Dakota Fanning) whose family has moved into a new home. Her parents, loving in their own way, are distant to Coraline as they work on a manuscript for a new nature book: Mom’s (voiced by Teri Hatcher) focus on cleanliness backs up against Coraline’s desire to play inside and out, while Dad (voiced by John Hodgman) is too busy fighting his deadline to notice anything around him. Alone aside from some strange neighbors, Coraline seeks out stimulation, finding it in the strangest of places, like a hidden door in their wall that appears to lead to another dimension where Other Mother and Other Father live (replicas of her own parents, just with buttons for eyes). They pay Coraline all kinds of attention, feed her all kinds of delicious foods, and present an opportunity to have the kind of home life she desires. But amid this temptation lurks a deadly menace which may demand far more than Coraline can afford to give.
If you’re interested in learning about the film and the bonus features, head over to the August 2021 Coraline LAIKA Studios Edition Blu-ray home release review. Moving forward, this will be focused solely on the 4K UHD edition.
Any LAIKA film on Blu-ray is going to look good, but the 4K UHD with HDR, specifically Dolby Vision, is a game-changer in how one experiences this film. Consider that this film was released previously on home video with 3D glasses as there are built-in elements to this tale that are meant to jump out at you. With the increased detail comes an increase in the depth of field, so while watching this sans-3D glasses/equipment there’s an improved sense of complexity to the images whether in the foreground or background. Don’t mistake this to mean that you’ll actually believe that The Beldam is jumping out at you in its Other Mother form, it’s that the improved picture allows for an increase in information on screen, thereby removing a general flatness present in standard definition DVDs (improved for sure in the Blu-rays). Put another way, in the scene with Sergei (voiced by Ian McShane) and his performing mice in The Beldam’s world, one feels as though they are upon the stage with him, the edges of it just beyond your fingertips (not to mention noticing that his jacket appears to be made of felt). In addition, the enlarged storage space of the disc allows for more data, translating to more visible details in each frame. For a lot of films, HDR just means inkier blacks and brighter colors because of the more accurate color spectrum on display. With Coraline, it also means being able to see details one might miss. In the gorgeous scene in which Coraline crawls from her world to the world of The Beldam, the tube she moves through is a beautiful swirl of blues and purples. With more data due to 4K, you can almost get the sense that the tube is made of a cotton linen, where before the focus may have been on the shape and color rather than the material used to make it. With LAIKA being a studio known for the striking work of its artisans, the 4K allows you to see their work exactly as intended, possibly for the first time.
These 4K UHD remasters also include a brand-new Dolby Atmos track, however, that could not be tested as my home theater does not yet have that capability. However, I can safely report that the clarity on the English 5.1 track plays as strongly and clear as on the previous Blu-ray LAIKA/Shout! re-release.
Speaking of the prior releases, everything included on-disc in the previous Blu-ray re-release is included here. The new featurettes, the brief essay and storyboard art in the liner notes, and all the other legacy materials are included with this release. Then what’s new?
For one thing, while you can get Coraline in a standard 4K UHD/Blu-ray combo, you can also get this remaster in a steelbook edition. The artwork on the case is absolutely stunning, a creation of Cancun-based illustrator and art director Cesar Moreno. On the inside are the liner notes (the same in every way as the prior Blu-ray), two discs (1 4K UHD, 1 Blu-ray) with brand-new artwork on them, and the background of the inside is a close-up of the portion of the artwork broken up by the creases of the spine. For those who appreciated the design work of the inside of the prior Blu-ray, this is very much a step-up.
So, if you did snag the 2021 Shout! edition, you may be wondering, between the on-disc materials and 5.1 track, is this worth snagging? That’s complicated. The video is exactly what one dreams of with 4K UHD editions — improved detail, increased accuracy with color, enhanced depth of field — all of which combine to create what feels like a new cinematic experience. But, outside of the steelbook art, it’s the same as before. So unless you are a collector, a major LAIKA fan, or prefer to own 4K UHD editions, recommending a double-dip feels disingenuous. You won’t regret it if you do it, but you may not miss it terribly if you don’t, given how strong the Shout! Blu-ray re-release is. So while I wish I could make a declarative recommendation, this one really comes down to audience preference and finances. But, again, I don’t think you’d regret it if you picked this up in either the steelbook or regular edition.
Coraline Legacy Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Director Henry Selick And Composer Bruno Coulais
- Foreword by Peter Debruge, Chief Film Critic for Variety (essay inside liner notes)
- Inside LAIKA – Discovering the characters of Coraline featuring never-before-seen test footage
- Inside LAIKA – Revisiting the puppets with LAIKA’s animation team
- Character Art Photo Gallery (2:06)
- Concept Art Gallery (2:06)
- Behind The Scenes Photo Gallery (2:06)
- Feature-Length Storyboards (1:34:02)
- The Making of Coraline
- Original Featurettes
- Deleted Scenes
For more information on the film, head to LAIKA Studios’s official Coraline website.