Selick’s attempt to make a stop-motion film for Pixar was such a negative experience that he almost quit acting.
This week’s release of “Wendell & Wild” marks “The Nightmare Before Christmas” director Henry Selick’s return to stop-motion cinema after a 13-year hiatus. Featuring the reunited voice talents of Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele, it tells the story of mischievous demons who befriend a human girl in an attempt to reach the land of the living. The film was a huge hit with audiences when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, with many critics hailing it as a return to form for the stop-motion legend.
The reception has been so strong that many casual fans have wondered why Selick hasn’t done another film since the release of “Coraline” in 2009. His hiatus can be partially attributed to the famous stop-motion animation process- motion, but Selick also spent a good chunk of that time working on a project that never saw the light of day.
In 2009, it was announced that Selick would direct “The Shadow King,” an original fantasy film about a boy who uses his extremely long fingers to create shadows that could be used to fight monsters, for Pixar. It was meant to be the first stop-motion film in the animation studio’s history, but it was ultimately scrapped before Selick could complete it.
In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Selick opened up about the brief rise and eventual fall of his unfinished Pixar film.
“They screened ‘Coraline’ at Pixar and everyone loved it, and they offered me a contract to do a stop-motion movie,” Selick said. “It had to be for a much lower budget than the CG movies. Stop-motion films have never been as successful as the great CG films. The best stop-motion movies live forever. And, as we see with ‘Nightmare’, make billions in merchandising.
While Disney hoped “The Shadow King” might become another stop-motion classic, Selick’s auteur methods ultimately clashed with Pixar’s famously collaborative approach. The director claims that interference from former Pixar boss John Lasseter and his notorious brain trust quickly derailed the project.
“They destroy things, they rebuild, destroy things, rebuild,” he said. “[Lasseter] really couldn’t support my vision. He thought he could do better. And so we kept changing and changing and changing.
The proposed changes ultimately bloated the film’s budget to the point that Disney ultimately scrapped the film. The experience prompted Selick to consider quitting acting, but he ultimately focused on “Wendell & Wild.”
“Basically, John Lasseter couldn’t help it,” Selick said. “He tried Disney-fy until the budget blew. It stopped, and I was a bit depressed, I wasn’t sure I was going to do another movie. But then ‘Key & Peele’ started on Comedy Central, and it was Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele who kind of inspired me to do another movie.