After a 13-year hiatus, Henry Selick returns to directing stop motion feature films 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 comeback to form for the author of the stop-motion. This praise also raised the question of why the filmmaker stopped making his stop-motion horror projects suitable for children.
Stop-motion animation is a labor-intensive process that involves a large team working for years. But we don’t think workload is what drove Selick out of the industry. Selick is quite dedicated to working on stop-motion projects, even if they don’t see the light of day.
In 2009, Selick was appointed director of The King of Shadows after the success of Coralina. The fantasy film was about a boy who uses his extremely long fingers to create monster-fighting shadows and would have made animation history as Pixar’s first stop-motion feature.
“They sifted through Coraline at Pixar and everyone loved it, and they offered me a deal to do a stop-motion movie,” Selick said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “It had to be for a much lower budget than the GC films. Stop-motion movies have never been as successful as big GC movies. The best stop-motion movies live forever, though.
Unfortunately, the project was abandoned before Selick could complete it.
Why was it scrapped? According to Selick, his directing methods clashed with Pixar’s collaborative approach. The director believes the interference of former Pixar boss John Lasseter derailed the project.
“They destroy things, they rebuild, destroy things, rebuild,” Selick said. “[Lasseter] really couldn’t support my vision. He thought he could do better. And so we kept changing and changing and changing.
The development process is an integral part of filmmaking. But sometimes it’s taken to the extreme.
“Basically, John Lasseter couldn’t help it,” Selick said.
Lasseter’s attempt to “Disney-fy” the project bloated the film’s budget to the point that Disney ultimately scrapped the film.
Disney tends to struggle to keep up when taking risks. It’s perhaps no coincidence that this was a turning point for Disney, when fans saw the company turning to pre-existing franchises and live-action remakes.
Defeated by the failed project 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. But then the Key and Peele The show started on Comedy Central, and it was Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele who kind of inspired me to do another movie,” 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 and savage and Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio landing on Netflix at the end of this year, we could see an upward trend in the style of animation, prompting new filmmakers or legends like Selick to continue making big-budget animated features for our enjoyment .
What’s your favorite stop-motion feature? Let us know in the comments!