Directors, writers, actors, and almost every other artist who has made an animated film or show have reiterated multiple times that animation isn’t a genre; it’s a medium. And the reason is by categorizing animation as a genre, it’s expected of animated films and shows to be meant for kids only. This notion is so embedded into the general population’s mind that Kid Cudi had to put out a tweet for people who were making their kids watch “Entergalactic” (a movie meant for adults), probably because it looked like “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (a movie meant for kids and adults alike). With that in mind, “Wendell & Wild” is definitely a movie that’s meant for everyone. But it is steeped in political and religious themes that might go over a child’s head. So, if you need any help in explaining those aspects of the film, keep reading.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Kat Elliot And The Natural World
During the opening moments of the film, we learn that Kat’s father, Delroy, is the owner of the Rust Bank Brewery, while Wilma is the owner of the local library. And it seems like someone – which is later revealed to be the Klaxon Corporation – is trying to get him to sell the brewery because they want to build prisons there. But Delroy denies the offer because it’s evident that his brewery is the center for many other local businesses and a source of employment. While returning home, though, the weather deteriorates, causing Wilma to worry about their safety. Delroy assures them that everything is going to be alright. That’s when Kat notices a dual-headed bug in her candy apple and cries out, thereby causing Delroy to swerve off the road and into the river. Wilma manages to get Kat out of the drowning car, but she and Delroy don’t make it.
Kat spends the majority of “Wendell & Wild” hating herself for causing the death of her parents and then directing a lot of that hate toward everyone around her. For that, she faces time in a juvenile jail and is subsequently sent back to Rust Bank (which is completely desolate when she returns there as a teenager) and enrolled at the RBC (Rust Bank Catholic) school for education and discipline. However, due to a chance encounter with a cursed toy bear called Bearz-A-Bub and the two titular demons, she is faced with the temptation of resurrecting her parents so as to rid herself of the guilt that she feels for causing their deaths. And she succeeds, but the effect is only temporary because the device used to bring Kat’s parents back doesn’t offer a permanent solution. Hence, through the persuasion of the shape-shifting Sister Helley and with the help of the demon-trapping janitor Manberg, Kat realizes she has to overcome the hold her memories have over her.
The process whereby Kat gets rid of the internal monster that drives her to be hateful, commit crimes, and wallow in self-pity is very literal in nature (because this is a horror film). However, the message Henry Selick (director and co-writer) and Jordan Peele (co-writer) are sending is very potent. It’s hard for a kid to deal with the loss of their parents. Their most formative years are defined by people who don’t love or care for them unconditionally. Hence, they become prone to all kinds of negative influence, which is represented by Wendell and Wild, and develop a tendency to think about the past, thereby ruining their present and their future. The movie emphasizes the role of a mentor figure and a positive friend circle, which are represented by Helley, Raúl, and even Siobhan, respectively. But, more importantly, it teaches the need for self-forgiveness. It’s true that grief is an unavoidable emotion, and it’s an extension of our love for those who have left us. That said, one has to learn to live with it instead of letting it define the entirety of our existence.
Wendell, Wild, And The Supernatural World
Wendell and Wild are two demons who live in the scariest part of the Underworld, which is ruled by Buffalo Belzer. There’s a theme park on Belzer’s belly called the Scream Faire, and Belzer uses the rides there to torture all the souls coming from the Land of the Living. But Wendell and Wild don’t get to work on that theme park—although they harbor dreams of having a park of their own called the Dream Faire—because they are stuck growing hair on Belzer’s head with the help of a special hair-growing cream. While having a hallucinogenic trip caused by consuming the cream (yes, they do that), they see the younger version of Kat. Later on, it’s revealed that they’ve made a deal with Bearz-A-Bub, who curses people and sends Wendell and Wild that information. Wendell and Wild then lure the cursed person into inviting them to the Land of the Living with the promise that they are going to do anything that the human in question wants from them.
The major problem that Wendell and Wild face, though, is that the only thing that Kat wants from them is the resurrection of her parents, which is a power that the demons don’t have. Initially, Wendell and Wild lie to her that they’re going to fulfill her wishes after she brings them to the Land of the Living. When they figure out that the aforementioned hair cream has the ability to bring back the dead, they assume that they don’t have to lie to Kat and just use it on her parents. So, based on that, Kat summons Wendell and Wild (via Bearz-A-Bub). But, on their way to the Land of the Living, they end up taking a detour to Father Bests’s grave and enter into an alliance with him instead of Kat. According to the deal with Father Bests, if Wendell and Wild resurrect the dead council members, who’ll then vote for the building of Klaxon’s prisons, all three of them will be paid handsomely by the Klaxons. And while Wendell and Wild can use that money to build their Dream Faire, Bests can use it to save his school. However, to ensure that that deal goes through, Wendell and Wild are forbidden from resurrecting anyone else, particularly Delroy, because they could testify against the Klaxons.
Upon comparing Wendell, Wild and Kat’s arcs, we can see that it’s a commentary on nature versus nurture. While Kat suffers due to the absence of a guiding figure, Wendell and Wild are doomed to be evil because that’s what the Underworld and Belzer are synonymous with. The demonic duo didn’t need to lie to Kat. But as they were desperate to get to the Land of the Living, they toyed with her emotions. They didn’t need to forge a deal with the Bests and then the Klaxons, despite knowing that they would need to break their promise to Kat. However, they did it anyway and even tricked her into being their servant. And it seems like they keep doing these kinds of things because they know they are demons. Hence, they have to constantly play the part. They clearly have a nice side to themselves as they want to build a wholesome fair, which is the exact opposite of their father’s fair. All they need to do is tap into that positive side of themselves instead of doing what they are programmed to do.
‘Wendell & Wild’ Ending And Post-Credits Explained: How Did Kat And The People Of Rust Bank Beat The Klaxon Corporation
In addition to Bearz-A-Bub’s curse, the thing that brings the natural and supernatural worlds to a head is the Klaxon Corporation. It has been hinted at before that the Klaxons are eager to build private prisons, of all things, in Rust Bank. For that, they need votes from the council members. The people in the council who are alive and kicking are Raúl’s mother, Marianna, Fawzi, Dr. Ngo, Cassandra, and Sukie Jordan. All five of them are against the Klaxons taking over the town. Hence, the capitalistic duo cheats by making Wendell and Wild literally resurrect the dead and ordering them to vote in favor of causing the destruction of Rust Bank, which they do. Father Bests plays a huge part in this. His intention of keeping his school running seems innocent and pro-educational initially. But, eventually, it becomes clear that he wants to have a steady flow of money from the Klaxons by keeping the school up and running. And then, we learn the connection between the prisons, Klaxons’ business model, and the role Father Bests is playing.
Private prisons are institutions where people are imprisoned by a third party as they have contractual agreements with the government to do so. This third party gets paid on a daily or monthly basis for the number of prisoners in the facility or the number of vacancies available. As you can imagine, when the government and a private party get together, all kinds of laws are bypassed in order to push critics and protesters out of a political party’s way. When money is involved, all sense of humanity and morality also take a hike. Although “Wendell & Wild” doesn’t explicitly state which kind of government is backing the Klaxons, they make it clear that that’s their business plan. During a conversation with Siobhan, Irmgard and Lane explain that they want to keep the RBC up and running so that they can fill it up with unwanted children from all over the world. Then they’ll ensure they fail there, turn into potential criminals, peddle them into prison, and get rich. And the notion of ruining entire generations for money is what puts this film in the horror genre.
Now, in order for all this to happen, Wendell, Wild, and Father Bests need to send Kat’s resurrected parents back to their graves. That plan fails because Delroy and Wilma refuse to do so. This allows Kat, Helley, Manberg, Raúl, and Siobhan to catch up to them and urge the demonic duo to not side with the Klaxons. When Bests says that they’ve already been paid, he finds out that the money in his bag is counterfeit, thereby proving that he has been duped. Using her newfound power (which she acquired after embracing her inner demons) that enables her to look into the future, Kat sees that the Klaxons intend to flood Rust Bank and use that as an excuse to “rebuild” it in their own image. Before they can go out to protest it, Belzer drops by because he’s angry about everything that Wendell and Wild have been doing in the Land of the Living. Inspired by Raúl’s art project, he realizes he has been paying too much attention to his Scream Faire instead of caring for his children. So, he requests Wendell and Wild to come back and rebuild the Faire with him. Since Manberg reunites Belzer with his other long-lost children (whom he was keeping in jars because Manberg is a demon catcher), he leaves Rust Bank without causing too much damage.
That said, Wendell and Wild feel they are responsible for causing all this havoc in Rust Bank and enabling the Klaxons to destroy the town. So, they and the Soul Jockeys (demon birds from the Underworld) fight beside Kat, Wilma, Delroy, Helley, Manberg, and Siobhan and stop the undead council members from flooding Rust Bank. During the fight, Bearz-A-Bub falls into a nearby body of water and drowns, thereby bringing an end to its connection to Wendell and Wild. The fight ends with the second death of all the council members. Realizing that their plan has failed, Irmgard and Lane try to make a run for it but are nabbed by the local police. Additionally, they are charged with murdering the employees of Rust Bank Brewery by causing the fire that burned it down. Irmgard does bring up an important point that there aren’t any witnesses. That’s when Raúl and Marianna reveal that they’ve resurrected the aforementioned employees so that they can testify against the Klaxons. As the effect of the magical cream starts to wear off, Wilma and Delroy start to die again. Kat sends them off with a vision of Rust Bank’s positive future, while Wendell and Wild propose the idea of giving them the best afterlife at the Dream Faire.
The conclusion of “Wendell & Wild” is largely about taking an anti-capitalistic stance and disallowing evil corporations to take over small towns and destroy their identity and culture. But it’s also about religious institutions such as the RBC, which appear to be all about rehabilitation, turning out to be as evil and pro-capitalist as the Klaxons. And as per Selick and Peele, one of the only ways to counter such a menace is by standing together as a community and ensuring that no one gets to walk over them. Kat, Wendell, and Wild’s arcs have a lot to do with parenthood. Kat doesn’t want to live without her parents, and Wendell and Wild don’t want to live with their father. Kat accepts her reality when her parents assure her that she’s going to be fine without them and usher in a bright future for Rust Bank. Meanwhile, Wendell and Wild reject what their core nature dictates them to do when Belzer realizes that he hasn’t been a good father to them and is willing to correct that. So, all in all, it’s a great movie with a relevant message that should be watched and heard by everyone.
But there’s more. If you sit through the credits of “Wendell & Wild,” you’ll be treated to what looks to be the gorgeous concept art for the film or images from the unpublished book by Clay McLeod Chapman and Henry Selick. Then you get to see the animators at work, managing all the insanely detailed puppets and rigs. After that, we see some of the artists providing reference footage for the scene where Kat slides through the slippery floor while looking for Bearz-A-Bub. And then, in the post-credits scene, we see a man complaining about hearing noises from the room next door. When he goes into that room, we briefly see Kat standing behind a mini lighting rig and waving at the man. The video ends on a pretty meta note with the man saying it’s possible that Kat, the character, got bored at the studio and is roaming around. You can look way too deeply into this and say that Kat has somehow traveled from the Land of the Living to take a trip through our world. But it’s probably just a fun little thing the animators put together as a token of appreciation for Kat.
“Wendell & Wild” is a 2022 Animated Adventure film directed by Henry Selick.