Teri Hatcher takes a break from Wisteria Lane and enters the visually spectacular world of Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) in Focus Features’ 3D stop-motion film Coraline. The movie is based on Neil Gaiman’s internationally best-selling children’s book which is about a little girl named Coraline who crawls through a secret door she finds while exploring her new home. She meets her “other mother,” who is a version of her “real mother,” but only better – or so she thinks until she realizes the dangerous consequences she will face if she stays and leaves her family.
Hatcher plays three different roles in the movie and she talked to ComingSoon.net about what her experience was like on the animated fantasy film.
Q: Is this the first time you’ve done voice over work and how challenging is it when you can’t use any physicality?
Teri Hatcher: It is my first animated movie. I’ve always wanted to be in an animated movie and I never dreamed I’d get to be in this level of artistry. I’ve always been a huge fan of Henry’s [Selick] and Neil Gaiman. On top of it all, I got to play these three different levels of people. Interestingly enough when you go in to do your first animated movie I think you imagine you’re going to pull out every accent you ever worked on as a child and every silly cartoon voice you ever imagined making up and Henry had such this imaginative visual thing happening in his mind of how the look of the movie was going to be so he really wanted the voices behind it to be seemingly real, even to the point where you didn’t go, “Oh I hear Dakota Fanning. Oh I Teri Hatcher.” It ended up in a way similar what you would do with any acting job that you would try to find the sort of motivation, the needs, the desires, the situation of who these three people were and what they wanted and what they needed. Then you sort of distill it all down into your voice. Physically I think for the “real mom” I had sort of a posture. Everybody thinks, “Oh you go work on an animated movie and you get to wear jeans and no makeup with your hair in a ponytail” which is true, but for me I still kind of put my hair up in a frumpy way and stood slumpier so that I felt heavy and exhausted to find that voice. The “other mother” was much more postured and mannered so there was still physicality to it although you’re not in front of a live camera.
Q: Did they use that physicality in any of the characters?
Hatcher: I know I was video taped. So I don’t know. I seem to recall that yes, I was giving them interesting ideas. I think I did some sort of creepy head tilt thing in a creepy voice. I might have even cracked my neck like I just did right now. I think that might have been the first time you see her in that most desperate thing when she turns around like that. That might have been inspiried by me, but I don’t want to take credit for their beautiful artistry.
Q: Were you familiar with the story beforehand?
Hatcher: With “Coraline”? No, I wasn’t actually before. I had read “American Gods” so I was familiar with Neil as a writer, but I hadn’t read it. I got it afterwards. I know that they’re different so in a way maybe that wasn’t a bad thing because I think what’s great is that Henry and Neil obviously have some great synergy bringing this vision to life. So I was really directed by Henry and his vision.
Q: Do you think you’re work on “Desperate Housewives” helped you get into any of the three characters you play in this film?
Hatcher: No, I think they’re completely disconnected. I think it’s easy to jump to try to marketing wise make some connection, but they’re very different. I don’t think I’ve see or hear any Teri in the movie and I don’t think I hear Susan either which I’m really happy about. I don’t think they’re similar to the characters on the show. I think the most relatable character in life and certainly in our economy right now and our society is we have a lot of working families – working mothers that are just exhausted and trying to do it all and burden with worry. That makes you neglectful really of your children, but not in a mean way – more in just a way of survival. You can only accomplish so much and you’ve got a lot of parents just running on empty and not being consciously and mindful the way they might like to. I think that’s a really relatable thing and I think on it’s deepest level the movie cinematically shows us that children can be lured away by something that’s enticing and seems like it’s going to be better and seems like it’s going to be the answer to everything and ends up ultimately being very dangerous if not entrapping. What I love about the ending is that you really see Coraline embrace the imperfections in her parents and understand that love is enough. I think that’s a really great message for our world right now because certainly nobody is perfect.
Q: Are you concerned that the darker issues in the movie might be too much for kids? What’s your take on it?
Hatcher: I think it’s really an individual family’s choice. I think you hear about three-year-olds going to see “The Dark Knight” and I didn’t take my 11-year-old to see that movie. There’s conservatism that I think is a personal choice. What I do think about this movie and I know lots of young kids have already seen this movie from screenings so I’ve heard different interpretations. I believe in my own parenting. We’ve always talked about everything. I’ve always said to my daughter, “I know you don’t want to believe this, but there’s nothing that you’re going to feel that I haven’t felt and experienced.” Kids feel alone, they feel ashamed, they feel jealously, they feel anger. They feel things that are necessarily comfortable to talk about. I think whenever you have an opportunity to communicate with your kids in an open and imaginative humorous way which this movie provides, I think even if there are scary feelings that come up I think the communication behind that and the message in this movie makes it worth seeing as opposed to some of this scary kind of trash that’s out there that I think is influencing some of our children on the Internet or in video games.
Q: Did Neil or Henry tell you how they wanted your characters to sound?
Hatcher: Neil was not ever there. I didn’t meet Neil until we started doing the press conferences. Henry never other than [telling me] don’t do a British accent never had specific guidelines. He never said I want that to be lower or I want that to be higher. It was so specific in terms of – I’ll use the example I can remember [which was] that rat crap. The ‘real mother’ says “I found rat crap so I locked up the door.” It was like he must have had a thesaurus for the word crap because we went through rat poop, rat dung, rat s**t, rat, rat, rat. Whatever you could say for rat. He would just sit in the room with his eyes closed and he would just listen. Maybe he would change an a to a the or an it to of. You could see that he saw what it was. What was so fascinating was from my end I couldn’t see anything until I saw the whole movie finished. I saw a couple of sketches and I did get to go to the animation studios up in Oregon and see that. But I never saw my voice being a part of telling a story until I saw the whole movie finished so it’s really his genius that kind of conditioned all of our voices telling the story and how he was going to out it together with the images.