The Hidden Depths of Coraline: Uncovering Symbolism

Coraline (2009). Image courtesy of Focus Features, Laika Entertainment, Pandemonium

After its theatrical release in 2009, Coraline, the stop-motion animated film produced by LAIKA Studios, quickly gained a cult following. Based on Neil Gaiman’s 2002 novel, the adaptation tells the story of a young girl named Coraline Jones as she discovers an idealised world through a portal in her new home. However, before fully drawn into temptation, Coraline uncovers the world’s dark secrets. 

Although director Henry Selick changed parts of the source material, Coraline has received critical acclaim. Furthermore, Selik ensured that every detail throughout the film had a clear purpose and added further value.

The Hidden Meaning of the “Welcome Home” Cake

A pink cake with the words "Welcome Home" written in red icing is surrounded by lit candles, placed on a table with a single fork to the left.
Coraline (2009). Image courtesy of Focus Features, Laika Entertainment, Pandemonium

When Coraline first enters the Other World, she is met with an abundance of mouthwatering food — a far cry from her father’s usual recipes. One such item is the iconic “Welcome Home” cake. Despite being seemingly delicious, this sweet treat holds a far more sinister meaning. 

According to graphology, the letter “o” is most associated with lying. A loop inside the “o” is said to designate deception, but a double loop is said to be used by pathological liars; for her cake, the Beldam uses both. This detail foreshadows that, despite appearances, not all is as it seems, with the facade hiding a darker motive. 

The Other Parents Peculiar Eating Habits

Coraline faces the Other Mother in her true form, a skeletal and menacing figure with cracked skin and button eyes. The Other Mother's long, skeletal fingers reach towards Coraline in a dark, eerie setting lit with green light.
Coraline (2009). Image courtesy of Focus Features, Laika Entertainment, Pandemonium

Throughout her time in the Other World, Coraline attends several family meals. Captivated by the alluring aroma, she easily overlooks a small detail. 

Despite the Other Mother’s lavish preparations for their family meals, her plate is always empty. This observation serves as a forewarning of her true intentions, hinting at the sinister nature of the food she consumes. 

However, the Other Father’s plate is always overflowing with food. TikToker Belle DeVelle theorises that the Beldam has no use for him once Coraline returns to the real world. As a result, he may be uncertain about when he will receive his next meal.

@belledevelle Replying to @shea_milley12 ♬ Inspiring Cinematic (Cover) – Pieeto musik

Coraline’s Ominous Soundtrack

A sewing kit containing two black buttons, a needle, and thread, suggesting the materials needed to sew buttons onto eyes, presented on a brownish fabric background.
Coraline (2009). Image courtesy of Focus Features, Laika Entertainment, Pandemonium

The soundtrack of any film remains a pivotal component in crafting a masterpiece of storytelling. While fans and critics have acclaimed the soundtrack, many songs hold a special significance in telling the story. 

Besides two songs, no other tracks used for the film contained any actual words. They were instead made up of Gibberish. Selik and composer Bruno Coulais used Gibberish to provide a sense of unease throughout the film. 

Is The Secret Well a Fairy Ring

A close-up of the Other Mother, smiling with her button eyes and short black hair, showing a cheerful yet unsettling expression.
Coraline (2009). Image courtesy of Focus Features, Laika Entertainment, Pandemonium

When Coraline first explores the grounds of the Pink Palace, she sets out on a quest to find the secret well. Unknowingly stepping on top of it, she discovers the space is already marked with a ring of small mushrooms. 

The circle may be a fairy ring, a folkloric symbol that indicates fairies frequent the land. These rings are considered extremely dangerous for anyone who disturbs or steps inside them. As a result, 

an individual may face misfortune, explaining the frightening events Coraline later faces. They are also said to be portals to another dimension, supporting a popular fan theory that the well is another portal to the Other World. 

The Dark Intent of the Garden

The Other Father, with his button eyes, sits in a room filled with musical instruments, extending his large white gloved hands towards the viewer, wearing an orange and black outfit with monkey slippers
Coraline (2009). Image courtesy of Focus Features, Laika Entertainment, Pandemonium

In one of Coraline’s “three wonders” in the Other World, the Other Father revitalises the once lifeless garden. Later, his efforts are revealed to create an image of Coraline from the plant life. But, despite how heartwarming this scene may seem, the plants of choice all have a dark intent. 

According to floriography, many plants in the Other World are harmful or hallucinogenic: • Pitcher plants are carnivorous prey trappers. 

  • Trumpet vines can cause contact dermatitis.
  • Snapdragons are known to symbolise deception.

The Other Mother’s Repurposing of the Doll

A close-up of the Other Coraline, standing with arms outstretched, wearing a yellow raincoat. She has button eyes and is surrounded by green walls with cobwebs and a starry night sky visible behind her.
Coraline (2009). Image courtesy of Focus Features, Laika Entertainment, Pandemonium

In the film’s opening title, we see the Beldam preparing her insidious doll, removing the features of her last victim to resemble Coraline perfectly. However, as chilling as this sequence is, the further you look, the more depraved it becomes. 

Again, DeVelle spotted that the Beldam’s tools used to create the doll were not mere sewing but 18th-century embalming tools. She made this revelation, explaining that her grandfather and father are funeral directors. Furthermore, as the Beldam repurposes the doll, DevElle explains that the Beldam follows the embalming process step by step. This chilling detail represents what awaits Coraline should she stay in the Other World.

@belledevelle Replying to @head3mpty she’s scarier than you think… #coraline #belledevelle ♬ Inspiring Cinematic (Cover) – Pieeto musik

In Conclusion

A bird's-eye view of an elaborate flower garden arranged to resemble Coraline's face, with blue flowers forming her hair, and red and pink flowers detailing her facial features, while the Other Father is seen tending to the garden.
Coraline (2009). Image courtesy of Focus Features, Laika Entertainment, Pandemonium

No matter how often you watch this film, there will always be new, fascinating details yet to unearth. Selik and the LAIKA Studios team’s meticulous execution delivers a wealth of information for the audience, which has led to a myriad of fan theories. As Coraline reaches its 15th anniversary, a 3D theatrical release will premiere worldwide in August 2024.

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Written by Charles Buttle

Meet our writer, Charles from England, a horror expert and enthusiast of unearthly tales. Growing up in a real-life haunted house, he developed his interest in the unknown at a young age. Charles has always been fascinated by the horror genre and what it tells the audience about human psychology and modern culture.

From gaming, film/television, creepypastas, and urban legends, Charles has explored every horror aspect and uses his expertise to create informative, engaging, and high-quality articles for his readers.

In addition to his work with Horror Obsessive, as a freelance journalist and content writer, Charles has contributed to various publications and websites, covering a diverse range of topics and stories.

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