All you animation buffs have been waiting for Henry Selick’s Coraline, due out February 6, 2009. Selick, of course, is the master of stop-motion animation who brought us Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach.

Coraline is the tale of a young girl who wishes she had another family. She gets her wish when she finds a secret door in her new home and discovers an alternative version of her life, with “other” parents. She also discovers you should be careful what you wish for, and she needs all her determination and bravery to get back to her real home and save her family. The cast includes Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Ian McShane, Keith David, John Hodgman, Robert Bailey Jr., Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

The buzz over Coraline has been building for years and I was able to see a sneak peek of 30 minutes of footage. The lobby of the Clarity Theatre screening room housed an exhibit of Selick’s amazing characters, including Coraline, her parents and her “other” parents among other colorful creatures. Selick was there, and described some of the production.

First, Coraline is the first production of Laika Entertainment, which was the studio that incorporated the former Vinton Studios, in Portland, Oregon. The genesis of Coraline was when Selick met author Neil Gaiman, who showed him the galleys of this story, and Selick immediately saw the possibilities of a stop-motion animation version…in three dimensions. The short book has since won the prestigious Hugo Award and been translated into 30 languages.

Selick relates that he immediately took the galleys to producer Bill Mechanic and his new company Pandemonium. Mechanic came on board as producer, as did Claire Jennings, who was a producer of Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Thirty animators worked on the film, with Laika head of animation Travis Knight as the lead animator.

Just like Nightmare, all the characters, sets and props in Coraline are made by hand, and animated frame by frame by animators. More unusual, Coraline was shot entirely in 3D, the first stop-motion animated feature to do so. “When Wizard of Oz goes from B&W to color, I was looking for the same transformation and found it with 3D,” says Selick. Interestingly enough, the entire film is in 3D, but Selick plays with the depth of field; the “real” world is much flatter and closer to 2D and becomes more extravagantly 3D in the fantasy world.

The 3D was shot with two Redlake digital cameras ordinarily used for medical imaging. The movie will be entirely finished in 3 weeks. “Like the book, it is very dark but with lightness and humor,” says Selick. “It’s for very brave children of all ages.”