During the first scene set in Coraline's bedroom you can see that the photo frame containing the photo of her friends from back home is set on a stand in the shape of a Praying Mantis. This links to the Praying Mantis tractor that the 'Other' Father drives later on in the film.
Mr. Bobinsky is wearing the Russian Hero Medal for Service at the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster on April 26, 1986. Which reads on the front "Participant in the clean-up campaign" The "4A3C" indicates "Chernobilskaya Nuclear Power Plant." This medal is unique as it is the only medal in the world awarded for participation in a nuclear clean up. That might explain his skin complexion and odd behavior.
The band They Might Be Giants wrote 10 songs for the movie, but a change in tone from a musical to a darker production meant that all but one was cut; a scene in which Coraline's other father sings along with a piano features John Linnell's voice. The band has said they will release the other songs created for the movie in other projects, including albums.
Coraline's facial combinations consist of 3D printed prototypes. New technology enabled a prototype to be molded by a computer, which was then hand-painted by the modeling department. Each jaw replacement was clipped between Coraline's eyes, resulting in a visible line which was later digitally removed frame by frame. There were at total of 207,336 possible face combinations for the character.
In the initial recording session, Dawn French played the role of Miss Spink and Jennifer Saunders played Miss Forcible. However, director Henry Selick wasn't satisfied with the result, so he had French and Saunders switch roles and re-record their parts. These re-recorded parts were used in the film.
Though not mentioned by name, the setting of the film is Ashland, Oregon (Laika Entertainment is based in Oregon). The stage performers and performances are references to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival held in Ashland.
The painting in the living room that Coraline calls "boring" and changes from the real world to the "other" world looks suspiciously like the work of artist Mark Ryden who is known for bizarre imagery usually involving children.
There are many parallels to this story and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland: the small door that Alice/Coraline go through to a different world, the black cat/Cheshire cat that mysteriously comes and goes. There is also a similarity to C.S. Lewis' The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe: Coraline enters the fantasy world through a portal hidden in the home, where a talking feline helps her overcome a powerful woman who means her harm.
The original sweater the design team had designed for Coraline's father sported a big maize-and-blue University of Michigan logo. However producer Bill Mechanic decided to change the design in favor of his alma mater, Michigan State.
The 'Ranft Bros. Moving Company' that moves Coraline's family into their home, are based on real-life brothers Jerome Ranft and Joe Ranft. Both brothers did work on The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) with Director Henry Selick. The mover at the front door (who is given the $1.00 tip) is modeled after Joe Ranft.
In a deleted portion of the table scene where Coraline's (real) father sings to her, he laments, "I think I have a virus." Coraline's father is voiced by John Hodgman, perhaps more famously known as "PC" in Apple's "I'm a Mac" advertisements, where he often complains of being susceptible to viruses.
The "Detroit Zoo" snow globe featured in the film contains a model of The Horace Rackham Memorial Fountain, or the "Bear Fountain," sculpted by Corrado Parducci in 1939 as the centerpiece of the Detroit Zoo's reflecting pool.
When Miss Spink and Miss Forcible are introduced, framed placards for two shows they were in are shown. The shows are "Julius Sees Her" and "King Leer", with appropriate pictures, indicating Spink and Forcible were likely burlesque actresses.
Many people have tried to decipher the meanings behind the lyrics of the haunting soundtrack to Coraline. In truth, although it sounds like some strange language, it is just a lot of gibberish words that really mean nothing. On a side note, one of the singers in the choir that sang the gibberish words was named Coraline, although she had no connection to the character or book.
Initially the film was going to be live action, and Dakota Fanning was actually going to physically portray Coraline. When it was decided instead to make a stop-motion animated film, Fanning was asked if she would still be interested in providing Coraline's voice. She said yes, as she thought it would be fun to do, and grew even more excited when she saw what Coraline was going to look like.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
When Coraline goes to tell the Other Father that dinner is ready, he sings her a song that, at first listen, seems cute and fun. But if you think about it carefully, and listen to the lyrics, he is actually giving her a warning of what the Other Mother's motive is.
As the Other Mother becomes her true self, we see more insect-like characteristics appear. The Other Mother is an expert at sewing, her clothes become reminiscent of an insect's thorax and abdomen, and in her final form as a spider, the Other Mother hunts in her web (containing the bug furniture that resemble previously caught prey) by vibration just like a real spider.
The ghost children's name for the Other Mother is "the Beldam." This is a reference to John Keats' 1819 poem "La Belle Dame sans Merci" (literally, the beautiful lady without mercy). The poem is about a knight who meets a "full beautiful...faery's child" with "wild" eyes. She takes the knight "to her elfin grot," where she enchants him, but he dreams of others - "pale kings, and princes too" - who warn him that she has him in her thrall. The M.O. of the Other Mother and the warnings of the ghost children to Coraline about what the Other Mother did to them are echoes of Keats' poem. In addition, the English word "beldam," according to a glance at the dictionary, will reveal that the word has two meanings: "an old, ugly woman" (also a hag or witch), or "grandmother".
When Coraline suggests to the Other Mother that they play hide and seek during her first visit, the lightning outside of the window briefly takes the shape of the Other Mother's hand, as do the tree branches on the downed log when Coraline first apologizes to the cat for calling him a "wuss puss."