Why Neil Gaiman stuck with Coraline director Henry Selick

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Neil Gaiman fanatics may be dismayed by the changes Coraline has undergone in transition from novel to screen, but Gaiman himself is pleased with both versions and admits he even encouraged director Henry Selick to branch out on the film version.

"In Henry's first draft, he was incredibly faithful to the book," Gaiman said in a group interview in Los Angeles last week. "I read his first draft, and the problem with the first draft is it's about a little girl who nobody is talking to. In the novel, it's fine, because you're looking at everything through her eyes, and I get to tell you what's happening."

Perhaps the biggest change is the addition of a new character named Wybie (short for "Why Born?"). "Selick brought in [Wybie] just to give her somebody to talk to, so some of the background could happen in dialogue," Gaiman explains.

Gaiman says that the changes Selick made were necessary and that he believes the overall tone of the film remains quite true to his original vision. "This is now the second film that's been made of one of my books, and it's probably a lot more faithful than Stardust," he said.

In terms of the visual and stylistic look of Coraline, Gaiman credits Selick (A Nightmare Before Christmas) almost entirely. "It's different [from how I pictured it]," Gaiman says. "It's Henry's vision."

A longtime fan of Selick's work, Gaiman said that the director was his top choice to adapt Coraline. "When I finished [the book], I said, 'Somebody is going to want to make a film of this. Let's make sure it goes to the right place.' I had loved Nightmare Before Christmas and Henry Selick's work. It seemed like the right place to start. Henry read it and loved it. Henry and I hung out and talked about it. ... I wanted Henry to do it and kept faith with Henry."

When the project underwent some delays while everyone got their schedules in order, Gaiman says he resisted the temptation to go elsewhere with the project. "There were a lot of film companies and big studios who wanted it," Gaiman says. "I wound up giving Henry a free option for a while, which is something you never do. I had faith in him, and I felt like he took that and made his film." Coraline opens Feb. 6.