Posts Tagged Neil Gaiman

Dave McKean

So, I’ve just seen Mirrormask. What made me watch it was that I know Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman from kids’ books they’ve made.

There’s The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish:

There’s The Wolves in the Walls:

And there’s Crazy Hair:

– all three with Neil Gaiman. There aren’t many illustrations for Gaiman’s Coraline, but McKean did these too. He also did the relatively few pictures for The Graveyard Book, but that deserves a post of its own.

Then, with David Almond there’s The Savage. This book is kind of perfect…

There’s a wildness, a savagery, a violence, about Almond’s writing. And McKean’s art complements it perfectly.

It’s one of Almond’s shorter books and a great introduction to his writing. It’s got all the lean rawness, the harshness and the kindness of his writing, but it can be read by a nine year old.

“There was a wild kid living in Burgess Woods.”


(More pictures here.)

I’ve just discovered there’s another book by this partnership which I’ll have to investigate – Slog’s Dad.

+ addendum

Just read a great blog post about Slog’s Dad – good to find someone who is as enthusiastic about David Almond and Dave McKean’s work as I am – and a lot more articulate about it too!

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I watched Mirrormask last night. Wonderful animation by Dave McKean. More than animation, direction and the creation of a whole host of wonderful phantasmagorical creatures, weird landscapes, layered dream sequences. Brilliant music by Iain Bellamy. Stephanie Leonidas is great as a the main character, Helena, a circus girl who, when her mother suddenly falls seriously ill, disappears into a fearsome Alice in Wonderland world to sort matters out.

Critics have said that the story is its weak point.  Other critics have said that it is too much an imitation of Labyrinth. (Remember Bowie as the Goblin King?) But I liked it. In fact it’s part of a whole sub-genre isn’t it: Girl disappears into Other World to solve this world problem. I think of Childe Rowland:


Burd Ellen round about the aisle

 To seek the ball is gone,

But long they waited, and longer still,

 And she came not back again.

Then there’s Miyazaki’s Spirited Away of course, where  Chihiro has to face all the challenges of the spirit bath-house to release her parents from their pig-form.

There must be lots of other examples. There’s also another subgenre involved – the swap story. Helena’s and the Princess of the Dark City swap worlds. Helena needs to find the mirrormask to get back to her own world. Dave McKean points out that this type of tale goes back to The Prince and The Pauper – it goes further back still to stories of Harun al-Rashid and The Desert Island in the Talmud.

Have a look at some of Mirrormask, here the beginning:

I love the circus music.

And some more, with its wonderfully eery Close To You:

Here’s Gaiman and McKean talking about their work on the film together:

McKean’s sketch for the giants

Really Useful Book

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I’d read Neil Gaiman‘s Coraline a while back: scary, creepy, delightful… a little door that leads Coraline to another part of the house where the Other Mother and Other Father live, just like Coraline’s mother and father, but “better”… and with buttons for their eyes.

We watched the scary, creepy, beautiful stop-motion animation of the story this week. Very true to the spirit of the book, wonderfully put together, very satisfying.

There are some great bonus features with the DVD too – showing how the film was made, in all its myriad details. The woman who knits the minute jumpers Coraline wears, the people who made the mist, the puppet makers… Some of them are on the Coraline The Movie youtube channel. (The website is .)

Most of all I like the story (even though I’m not a fan of creepy stories). The Other Mother, it emerges, is creating this Other World to please Coraline. But it’s not real. Coraline and the cat walk out of the garden into a world where the trees are just bare ideas of trees, everything is just white. The parts of the world the Other Mother hadn’t bothered with. And it all starts falling apart. Somehow, it was all a kind of Nothing, an alluring nothing, that you sense from the start with a kind of dread is just a trap. Now there’s a metaphor for all sorts of things.

(As if that wasn’t enough there’s a graphic novel too, which I haven’t read. You can hear Neil Gaiman interviewed by his daughter about this on this MP3 podcast here.)

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blueberry girl


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