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.
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.
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 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.
The Other Mother's name "Beldam" is an archaic word meaning: a malicious and ugly woman, especially an old one; a witch. It was once traditional on Halloween night for kids to dare each other to knock on the neighborhood Beldam's door (an elderly woman living near them). In many stories, a Beldam closely resembles a spider and lures children into her home with candy and treats, only to trap them inside a cobweb and liquefy their innards with venom. In other variations, the Beldam just traps kids in her home and eats them. The 'Spider and the Fly' poem is similar to these stories. In Coraline, many of the happenings in the film are also similar to these stories and that poem. Curiously, the term 'Beldam' is believed to have stemmed from 'Belle Dame' (French for 'beautiful lady') from the fairy tale 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci', which again parallels the events of Coraline.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Coraline first has dinner at her Other Mother's house and she suggests to play Hide & Seek in the rain, a lightning bolt strikes through the window in the shape of a hand. A little while later, when Coraline first goes to the actresses downstairs, they read her tea leaves and see a hand much like the lightning. This could be foreshadowing (the other mother's intentions)
As this page already mentions, the character of Wyborn "Wybie" Lovat does not appear in Neil Gaiman's novel of the same title which is the basis for this movie. However in the novel, Coraline is told about a family that used to live in the apartment complex she and her parents live in. That family's name was Lovat.
When Miss Spink and Miss Forcible are arguing over whether Coraline's tea leaves are a "peculiar hand" or a "giraffe" technically they are both correct. The giraffe is a hint to where the beldam hides her parents, because they are in the zoo snowglobe.
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.
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."
After school uniform shopping, when Coraline and her mother pull into the driveway of The Pink Palace, you can see the front of their car is cracked from the accident that her mother references. This is the reason for her neck brace. They also drive a Volkswagen beetle, which is another reference to insects, many examples of which are seen throughout the film.
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.
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.
The three wonders the Other Mother makes for Coraline are references to the real world, as are what the Other people become when the Other world starts to fall apart. The Other Father becomes a pumpkin in the garden, a reference to the real Father's job; the Other Bobinsky simply becomes rats in a costume, a reference to the real Bobinsky's jumping mice; and the Other Spink and Other Forcible are represented as candy, a reference to the real Spink and Forcible's taffy collection.