CalArts alum Henry Selick (Film/Video MFA 77) stages a triumphant return to stop-motion animation with Wendell & Wild, a horror-comedy premiering on Netflix this Halloween weekend. Under his direction, the film stars Key & Peele’s Keegan-Michael Key as Wendell and Jordan Peele as Wild, two demonic brothers summoned from the underworld. Lyric Ross, as Kat Elliot, plays a teen girl residing in a rundown town and attending a Catholic school—complete with a demon-expelling nun known as Sister Helly and her terrifying altar boys.
After its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sep. 11, Next Best Picture’s review of the film offered that “Selick once again proves his artistry in an awe-inspiring sub-genre of animation. The director’s signature spooky handcrafted style is crawling all over “Wendell & Wild,” which introduces an exciting collaboration between Selick and co-writer Jordan Peele for a tale about inner demons and family healing.”
Selick had to overcome a few challenges himself in his return to film production. Wendell & Wild, his first feature film since 2009’s Coraline, was primarily produced remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, countless wildfires, and social and political unrest.
According to Mashable, Selick’s latest work continues to prove the power of stop motion:
You truly see the human effort that went into telling this story. That emphasis on the work of the animators was extra important to Selick coming into Wendell and Wild.” In their video interview with Selick, he emphasized that “Since Coraline till now, which is 13 years, I think a lot of stop motion has gotten a little too perfect, too CG-like,” … Me and the animation supervisors for this—Jeff Riley and Malcolm Lamont—we wanted to pull it back to feel more handmade, to make it very clear that this was touched by human hands directly, and didn’t go through all these other steps. The animators literally shaped these characters one frame at a time and breathe a performance into them.
Selick’s previous work includes The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach with fellow alum and film director Tim Burton. In 2009, Selick served as animation director on filmmaker Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Under Pixar and Disney Studios, he is currently producing the live action film A Tale Dark and Grimm, an adaptation of the novel written by Adam Gidwitz, and working with Marvel brother directors Anthony and Joe Russo on a TV adaptation of the video game Little Nightmares.
After studying art and science on the East Coast, Selick ventured west and enrolled at CalArts, where he produced two films that were both nominated for Student Academy Awards: Phases and Tube Tales.