Why does Wybie Lovat Exist?
Updated: Oct 14, 2021
On February 5th, 2009, Laika studios and Henry Selick introduced the world to the whimsically horrifying claymation film, Coraline. Originally written by famed author, Neil Gaiman in 2002, the story of Coraline Jones and the alternate universe inside her house has impacted and terrified an entire generation of children and their parents. These days it seems like people know Coraline more as a film and not as a book, so what a lot of fans may not know is that the character, Wyborne "Wybie" Lovat was created solely for the film and does not exist in the source material. So... why does he exist at all?
In the 2009 film, Wybie is introduced as a geeky, eccentric, adventurous kid who meets Coraline by the old well near her house. He drives a dirtbike and wears a black coat almost exclusively. For the majority of the film, Coraline is annoyed by him and sees him as nothing but a nuisance. The "Other Wybie" also makes an appearance in the Beldam's alternate world with button eyes and the inability to speak. Perhaps most importantly, he's the one who leaves the infamous spying doll on Coraline's doorstep. But why is Wybie in the movie at all? Well, the truth is...you probably wouldn't like the film as much if he wasn't there.
The creators of the film say that he was written so that Coraline would appear more "social" but there's no way that's the end of the story.
While it may seem so at first, Wybie isn't present in the film simply to fill in plot points. He is what's called a foil, a character meant to contrast and highlight the traits of the protagonist. Historically, foils have typically been villains, think Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. Harry's goodness emphasizes how evil Draco is and vice versa. This isn't quite the model that Coraline and Wybie follow, instead their dynamic is much more interesting. At their cores, Coraline and Wybie are both terminally curious, lonely children, ignored by their parents and constantly looking for adventure. However Coraline starts out as a brat and Wybie first appears as a nervous, antisocial weirdo. Throughout the film, not only does Wybie help her understand more about the Beldam's world, but also plays a crucial role in her character development.
While both characters are extraordinarily curious, Wybie's sense of wonder is for the realistic while Coraline is moreso interested in the other-worldly. We can see Wybie study banana slugs and cats but when Coraline tells him about the Beldam's other world, he calls her "crazy." While different, they highlight eachother's most prominant traits. Through Wybie, Coraline is able learn that being one's most authentic self is better than being ideal. In the Beldam's world where everything is perfect, Wybie appears without an ability to talk, meaning he's been "fixed." Like all characters, including her parents, Coraline realizes that being imperfect is fine after all.
In the 2002 novel, Coraline is the only child present, by writing in another adolescent character, the audience has a better idea of how she is as a person when she's put next to another child. By adding Wybie, the film also gives Coraline a source of information and a reason to have less scenes with only one character present. Simply put, Wybie Lovat just makes the film more interesting for the audience.
Later on in the film, Wybie ends up being the one who comes to Coraline's rescue to defeat the Beldam once and for all. This puts an end to his years as the tentative, nervous kid and turns him into a hero. Together with Coraline, they are able to put an end to the Beldam's reign of terror.
By the movie's last scene, Wybie and Coraline have both changed for the better, because of Wybie, she has developed from an aggresive brat into a personable, curious, delightfully flawed child. While the book was able to convey this message in a similar way, the 2009 film delivers a powerful ending due to character development, which would not have been possible without Wybie's presence.