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Henry Selick: John Lasseter Ruins “The Shadow King”

Selick’s attempt to make a stop-motion film for Pixar was such a negative experience that he nearly gave up filmmaking.

This week’s release of Wendell & Wild marks the return of The Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick after a 13-year hiatus from stop-motion feature filmmaking. Featuring reunited voice actors Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele, it tells the tale of mischievous demons who befriend a human girl in order to reach the land of the living. The film was a huge hit with audiences when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and many critics hailed it as a return to the form of the stop-motion legend.

Such was the response that many casual fans have wondered why Selick hasn’t made another film since Coraline hit theaters in 2009. His hiatus can be attributed in part to the notoriously labor-intensive process of stop-motion animation, but Selick also spent much of that time working on a project that never saw the light of day.

In 2009, it was announced that Selick would direct for Pixar The Shadow King, an original fantasy film about a boy who uses his extremely long fingers to create shadows to fight monsters. It was intended to be the first stop-motion film in the animation studio’s history, but 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 showed ‘Coraline’ at Pixar and everyone liked it, and they offered me a deal to do a stop-motion film,” Selick said. “It had to be for a much lower budget than the CG movies. Stop motion movies have never been as successful as big CG movies. However, the best stop-motion films live forever. And, as we see with ‘Nightmare’, we make billions from merch.”

While Disney hoped The Shadow King could become another stop-motion classic, Selick’s writing methods ultimately clashed with Pixar’s well-known collaborative approach. The director claims interference from former Pixar CEO John Lasseter and his famous Brain Trust soon derailed the project.

“They tear things apart, they rebuild, tear things apart, 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 caused the film’s budget to inflate to the point that Disney eventually scrapped the film. The experience made Selick quit filmmaking, but he eventually shifted his focus to working on Wendell & Wild.

“Basically, John Lasseter couldn’t help it,” said Selick. “He was trying to outfit it with Disney until the budget went through the roof. It closed and I was kind of down, I wasn’t sure I would do a film again. But then the Key & Peele show started on Comedy Central and it was Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele that kind of inspired me to do another movie.”

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https://www.indiewire.com/2022/10/henry-selick-john-lasseter-ruined-the-shadow-king-1234775353/ Henry Selick: John Lasseter Ruins “The Shadow King”

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