Sunday, November 8, 2015

Stop-Mo Goodness: Henry Selick's 'Wendell and Wild' Enters Development

One question that has been on my mind for ages is this... Where oh where is Henry Selick?

Henry Selick, as nearly every animation fan knows, is the mastermind behind the stop-motion animated masterpiece that is The Nightmare Before Christmas. The public often thinks that Tim Burton, who conceived and produced the picture, is the man who helmed it, but no... It was Mr. Selick! Both had Disney Feature Animation backgrounds and were close collaborators...

After the success of that groundbreaking film, Selick did the stop-motion/live-action hybrid James & the Giant Peach for Disney, which Burton also produced. Sadly, that picture was not the success Nightmare was. Then he did the hybrid feature Monkeybone for Fox, but the studio execs botched it and the film ultimately sunk at the box office. Selick then directed the short Moongirl for LAIKA, and then moved onto directing their debut feature Coraline... And of course, a lot of people mistakenly thought that Tim Burton was behind that film, but it was a success nonetheless and put LAIKA on the map. So what happened next for Mr. Selick?

Selick was once set to direct an all-new stop-motion feature for Disney. The project carried a fall 2013 release date, and was originally titled Shademaker. Later, it became known as The Shadow King. So what happened to it?

Disney's film division was in need of help by early 2012, when the film was halfway through production. The studio's Chairman, Rich Ross, had made quite a few screw-ups during his short two-year tenure. All of it culminated in John Carter of Mars' disastrous box office performance, so he was out on his ear in no time. Taking his place was seasoned movie executive Alan Horn, and one of the first in-development projects to get the boot was Selick's film. Apparently $50 million had already been spent on it by that point...

Why Horn canceled it, I don't know. We were told that Selick and crew were behind schedule, but something tells me that Disney just wanted it off their hands. Maybe Horn thought it was a waste of the company's resources, or maybe he assumed the then-upcoming Frankenweenie wouldn't go over... And it sadly didn't. Given how risk-averse Disney has become in many areas, I wouldn't be surprised if they scrapped the project for the latter reasons.

After all of that, Selick took the picture to LAIKA, but they turned it down, probably because so much was already spent on the film. LAIKA prefers to keep the overall budgets of their films below $60 million, completing Shadow King could've possibly resulted in a film that cost closer to $100 million!

Then in early 2013, K5 International picked it up and would be handling sales... But that's the last we've heard of it. Now, Mr. Selick is at work on a new stop-motion project. He's working with none other than Key & Peele to bring it to the silver screen...

It's called Wendell and Wild... What's it about? Selick says, per Variety:

Wendell and Wild is a comedy about two scheming demon brothers who must face their arch-nemesis, the demon-dusting nun Sister Helly, and her two acolytes, the goth teens Kat and Raoul.

Well, that certainly sounds like something Selick would cook up. It sounds wonderfully weird and oddball, and I just want to see this movie get made. Maybe with Key & Peele involved, it could get off the ground. Maybe. The production companies behind the project are Gotham Group and Principato Young Entertainment.

I've stressed on here quite a few times that I'd love to see more American animated movies that are out-there and bizarro. Movies like Selick's own The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline, LAIKA's ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls, Fantastic Mr. FoxRango, The Pirates!, and so on. Movies like that, I think, really take advantage of the medium. With all due respect to the big studios, sometimes feature animation needs to be a little abnormal and quirky.

Variety's article also mentions that Selick has other projects lined up: One he's doing with Coraline author Neil Gaiman, and an adaptation of A Tale of Dark and Grimm. Not too long ago, he was set to do a live-action take on The Graveyard Book, but that didn't seem to go anywhere, either.

Hopefully this gets picked up, if one of those other projects isn't in the near future. What do you think of this project? Do you think Henry Selick will eventually return to the director's chair? Sound off below!

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