Written by By Chris Riddell, CNN London, Contributing writer
Filling me with nervous energy as soon as I entered the workshop. Looking for the bunny. Like when I first visited this place: old and dusty, but I could see the gleam in the paint, and the layout bore an obvious resemblance to my childhood!
The place is an exhibition center for “Coraline,” an animator’s version of Roald Dahl’s wicked story of the mischievous little girl who has to compete with most adults for the most unusual holiday.
Thus this gift shop, with its velvety perms, glitter blusher and oversize mouse ears, is perfect for those of us who want a little flash with our buying. Or a little bit of twisted sexual horror – if you watch the movie you’ll see that when the witch’s son threatens Coraline it is the voice of Daphne the mouse, singing a black-clad love song, that provokes her for the most subversive.
The shops sell the toys, food and assorted fan-surprises that stand in for all those that Coraline has to worry about – the scary bunnies, the noisy roaches, the creepy-crawly spiders. And they are there with a wide selection of sheets, carpets, cocoa creams, Hot Pockets and balloon baubles. It’s scary.
Everything is sat side by side, hanging off the huge shelves. As I approach the hoardings I can feel a need to scurry away lest I bump into anything from the shop.
By the time I leave, at the end of my tour of the shop, I want a stuffed turtle. Thinking about my childhood, Coraline’s parents can’t afford to give her presents as “Turtle and Cozy Bear” or “For Sandy,” and she has to survive on leftovers like her father: Munching on a spork in the fruit cup, boiling a prawn, licking frosting off her spoon, lying to bed, cooing at the cat.
The massive cotton candy machine is nothing like the iconic one from “Coraline.” It too is full of dolls, but this is the sort of stupid machine that will make me a little bit ill, as it looks like a weeping parasite, moving and pulsing away in my stomach. But I’ve got one. What a sweet doll.
There’s even a table here where you can take your own photos, despite the cross-platform nonsense that surrounds modern day merchandise, issuing out postcards, screencaps, et cetera.
So what was the day like? Well, the shop itself is designed as a graphic novel, what sort of graphic novel is, you might ask? It’s an autobiographical graphic novel, full of dry humor, drawings from life and clever little observations. It’s the first big crowd-pleaser of the museum.
As I left the shop, like an old friend, I turned to the pavement outside, and saw an empty bus stop on the corner. I stepped carefully, finally entering the museum and awaiting my press briefing. As I sat down, a car pulled up. It didn’t even stop.
There was a man inside the driver’s seat, leaning out and heading into a restaurant, with no idea of where he was going.
Maybe he was in Chicago, late at night, waiting for a dinner date in Chicago.
You might think such a thing can’t happen in London. And, of course, you’d be right. But no, it did happen. No, I never left the museum and I’m not embarrassed to admit it.