Dakota Fanning practically grew up with Coraline

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Dakota Fanning has spent roughly one-third of her life working on Coraline, growing up alongside her own stop-motion likeness as she worked with director Henry Selick to bring Neil Gaiman's novel to life on screen.

"It's been a really long time," Fanning said in a group interview in Los Angeles last week. "But it's been fun to see it finally."

The stop-motion-animated Coraline's extensive and ongoing voice work was a new experience for the young actress, but she says she had a lot of fun getting to know her over the years. "It's very different than what I usually do," Fanning said. "In between each movie I've done, I've gone to do a session for Coraline. [Now that] it's finally coming out, I'm kind of going to miss that [laughs]."

Starting the project when she was only 10 years old, Fanning said that the transition from tween to teen (she'll be 15 this month) required the occasional modification to her vocal stylings. "Henry would see me and be like, 'Oh, I think your voice got a little deeper,' and I would have to make it a little higher for that session," Fanning said. "That was one of the things about it taking such a long time."

The many themes of Neil Gaiman's story took on different meanings for Fanning as she got older. "When I was younger, I got the message, but now I get it in a bigger way," she said. "It's not just about family and parents; it's kind of about the world and how there's really no perfect world. We can only live with what we have."

Fanning admits there are similarities between herself and her on-screen alter ego, Coraline. "We both are kind of curious and adventurous," Fanning said. "I was trying to think, a few months ago, when I was finishing up Coraline, 'Would I go through that little door?' I think that I would if I was really looking around and so bored."

"She's very brave and would do anything to save her family, and I think that I would do the same," Fanning added. Coraline opens Feb. 6.