After a 13-year hiatus, Henry Selick returns to stop-motion feature filmmaking with Wendell & Wild.
The film, which features the voice talents of Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele, is Selick’s first stop-motion film since Coraline in 2019.
Following the story of mischievous demons who befriend a human girl, the film was a huge hit with audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival, with many critics praising the film as a return to form for the stop-motion auteur. This praise also raised the question as to why the filmmaker stopped making his kid-friendly horror stop-motion projects.
Stop-motion animation is a labor-intensive process that involves a large crew working for years. But we don't think the workload is what pushed Selick out of the industry. Selick is quite devoted to working on stop-motion projects, even if they don’t see the light of day.
In 2009, Selick was announced as the director of The Shadow King after the success of Coraline. The fantasy film was about a boy who uses his extremely long fingers to craft shadows that could fight monsters and would have made animation history as Pixar’s first stop-motion feature.
“They screened Coraline at Pixar and everyone liked it, and they offered me a deal to make a stop-motion film,” Selick said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “It had to be for a much lower budget than the GC films. Stop-motion films have never out of the gate been as successful as big GC films. The best stop-motion films live forever, though.”
Unfortunately, the project was scrapped before Selick could finish it.
Why was it scrapped? According to Selick, his methods as a director clashed with Pixar’s collaborative approach. The director believes that former Pixar boss John Lasseter’s interference was what caused the project to go off the rails.
“They rip things apart, they rebuild, rip things apart, rebuild,” Selick said. “[Lasseter] really couldn’t support my vision. He thought he could make it better. And so we kept changing and changing and changing.”
The development process is a regular part of filmmaking. But sometimes it's taken to an extreme.
“Basically, John Lasseter couldn’t help himself,” Selick said.
Lasseter’s attempt to “Disney-fy” the project caused the film’s budget to inflate to the point that Disney ultimately scrapped the film.
Disney tends to have a problem following through when taking risks. It may be no coincidence that this was a turning point for Disney, when fans saw the company turning its attention to pre-existing franchises and live-action remakes.
Defeated by the failed project that he had wanted to create, Selick considered quitting filmmaking, but the inspiration for his latest project came from the lead voices themselves and their satirical comedy.
“... I wasn’t sure I was going to make another movie again. But then the Key & Peele show started on Comedy Central, and it was Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele who kind of inspired me to do another film,” the director said.
Luckily for us and stop-motion fans everywhere, Selick rediscovered his love for filmmaking after the challenges he faced at Pixar.
With Wendell & Wild and Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio landing on Netflix at the end of this year, we might see a rising trend in the animation style, prompting newer filmmakers or legends like Selick to continue to make big-budget animated features for us to enjoy.
What is your favorite stop-motion feature? Let us know in the comments!
Check-Out: Microphones - Best Deals this week
With any & every B&H purchase You will automatically be entered into the Monthly Gift Card Raffle.