The Importance of Reality in ‘Coraline’ and ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’

*This article contains spoilers*

 

“If what I think is happening is happening…it better not be.”

- Mrs. Fox

 

Having a childhood filled with the wonders of stop motion animation has inspired endless bounds of imagination, filled our screens with unparalleled joy, and let us live in countless new worlds. Yet, though the foundations of these animations rest on adventure, they also teach us the importance of being extraordinary in our ordinary lives. It is through this that the messages of both Coraline and Fantastic Mr. Fox still resonates with us.

Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s novel, the eponymous Coraline follows a girl who is hopelessly disenchanted with her life. Moving away from the life she’s known into the monochrome interior of the Pink Palace Apartments, her strikingly blue hair and bright yellow coat have no place here. Similarly, in Fantastic Mr. Fox (originally written as a novel by Roald Dahl), Mr. Fox's naturally feral nature makes him somewhat discontented with domestic life. Both characters crave a temporary departure from their humble yet uneventful lives.

For Mr. Fox, this develops as a master plan to bamboozle three wealthy farmers. This mimics the dangerous escapades he embarked on before settling down with his family. His boredom drove him to seek danger. For Coraline, this desire to escape normalcy triggered the creation of a beautiful, bountiful, but deceitful, new parallel universe. In this new world, Coraline has attentive parents, luxurious foods, and all forms of material happiness.

This soon unravels, however, as Coraline quickly understands that her abundant happiness comes at too high a price and she craves her dreary old life. The once mesmerizing façade of her perfect world starts to wear away, as Coraline herself becomes increasingly detached from it. Mr. Fox, too, quickly learns the consequences of his dangerous actions once his family and his community’s very existence becomes threatened as the farmers seek retribution for Mr. Fox’s wrongdoings. As a result of their greed, Coraline and Mr. Fox slip away from both their real and dream world.

They only regain the grip to reality after confronting their wrongdoings. Coraline comes to understand that she did not appreciate the true joy of her real life, while Mr. Fox acknowledges that his recklessness is the true root of his unhappiness. This materializes when he is unable to make contact with a nearby wolf, demonstrating his fading wild nature. Coraline realises this by outsmarting the Other Mother with her wit and ploys.

Subsequently, they both reach a newfound and newly appreciated equilibrium. Mr. Fox does not give up his wild nature, per se, but utilizes it in a more family-oriented manner. Coraline’s once drab apartment now appears with specks of bright colours and she learns to direct her own happiness. What both these characters’ journeys tell us is to appreciate the importance of the everyday. The temporary joy of recklessness and rash behaviour does not equate to the utter wonder of being extraordinary within the ordinary.