Henry Selick, the Oscar-nominated stop-motion animation director of Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, and Monkeybone,will be returning to Walt Disney Pictures. Selick began his animation career at the mouse house in the 1970′s, and will be returning to the Burbank-based studio in an exclusive long-term deal to make films for the company. Selick is probably the biggest working American director today associated with the art of stop-motion animation.
The filmmaker will set up shop at Pixar’s Emeryville studio in Northern California, where he will write and direct features based on both original ideas and optioned book properties. According to Variety, “Selick hopes to benefit from the Pixar brain trust and technology, but will continue to produce toons using his trademark stop-motion style.”
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As I watched Fantastic Mr. Fox and gradually sensed the darkness of the theater lose out to the autumn-colored, classy, stop motion shenanigans on screen, I began to accept that every silhouette in the audience—fat and small, rich and me—was dressed in ship-shape, semi-formal attire. I pictured moms silently imagining themselves speaking in snooty English accents and serving cups of Earl Grey. And kids ages five through nine on the verge of zzz’ing in handsome jackets of tweed and corduroy; mildly stimulated by what equates to a visually dazzling hipster Sunday School lesson taught with Adderall on its gums and Tryptophan in its belly.
In contrast to Spike Jonze‘s Where the Wild Things Are—itself a furry and visionary 2009 adaptation of a famous kid’s book about nonconformity—Wes Anderson‘s Fox focuses foremost on family via adult characters. Whereas Wild Things united male Eighties Babies with its look at psychological distress, a side effect birthed by so much of that decade’s parental divorce and separation, Fox unites families of the aughts with an increasingly rare and welcome air of sophistication. One is a film about adults-as-wild-animals suitable for families, the other is a film about a child amidst wild animals suitable for would-be adults.
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I really want Laika to be the next Pixar. I know that is such a bold statement to make, especially after only one movie. But I feel like the animation studio possesses all the ingredients. Their first feature film, the groundbreaking 3D stop-motion animated film Coraline, was not only critically acclaimed, but also a financial success. The 3D stop-motion animation company has already built up some powerful brand recognition in the world of animation. Like Pixar, the company operates out of the Hollywood system, based in Oregon, far away from the LA smog.
When I think Laika, I think hand crafted, and I also think of Henry Selick, the animation director who was behind Coraline, and to me was as much a part of the company as John Lasseter was to the early days of Pixar. So it was very surprising to learn that Selick has decided to leave Laika.
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Animation Studio Laika, best known for the 3D stop-motion animated feature adaptation of Coraline, laid off 63 employees in its computer animation department. Laika was originally setup as an animation studio which would produce both stop-motion and computer animated feature films. But Laika has decided that they would rather specialize in stop-motion animated projects.
Before Coraline, Henry Selick directed a computer animated short film for Laika titled Moongirl, which won the Short Film Special Jury prize at the Ottawa Film Festival. The short was a test for Selick, who originally planned to film Coraline as a computer animated feature. For those of you interested, you can watch Moongirl embedded after the jump. More information about the layoffs at Laika and the company’s future plans, also included after the jump.
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Posted on Wednesday, February 11th, 2009 by David Chen
In this episode of the /Filmcast, David Chen, Devindra Hardawar and Adam Quigley share reflections from New York Comic-Con, evaluate the merits of Andrew Niccol’s directorial/writing career, and contemplate a future full of board-game-to-movie adaptations. Special guest Steve Weintraub (AKA Frosty) from Collider joins us this evening.
Tune in next Monday night to Slashfilm’s live page at 9 PM EST / 6 PM PST as we review Tom Tykwer’s The International.
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Coraline director Henry Selick tells cinecon that at one point Disney had been considering making a sequel to his 1993 stop-motion animated film The Nightmare Before Christmas, but they wanted to make it using computer animation.
“A few years back, Disney spoke to me and the sad thing was at the time, they said, ‘If we do a sequel, it will have to be CG.’ I was really disappointed. I asked why and they didn’t think stop-motion was a viable way to make movies. I don’t think they would say that now and I don’t think Tim would allow a CG sequel. There’s been a few stories proposed and a few discussion but that’s really Tim [Burton]‘s decision. John Lassiter, from Pixar, is heading up all Disney animation and he goes way back with Tim. He might possibly persuade Tim to do it. But I kind of think not.”
A CG Nightmare Before Christmas sequel? I can’t even imagine what such a movie would look like. And I agree with Selick, Burton would have never allowed it to happen.
Editor’s Note: This is the debut post by Kevin Kelly, who will be offering his expertise in geekdom in a new /Film daily blog feature called GeekBomb. Welcome Kevin to /Film!
Neil Gaiman’s Coraline opens this weekend, and it’s directed by Henry Selick, one of the few modern masters of stop-motion animation. Although he was trained as a traditional animator, he really came to fame with stop-motion, having directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, and Monkeybone. In the day and age of everything being whipped up in CGI, it’s really a testament to see people work in a medium that requires hours of tedious work on films that can take an extremely long time to produce. Which is why the Sundance opening night film Mary & Max was such a treat.
Whenever someone mentions stop-motion, most people tend to think of one of the above movies, or the equally excellent Chicken Run or Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, both co-directed by the amazing Nick Park. And just to be clear, I’m not calling Monkeybone excellent… but the stop-motion moments are pretty damned awesome. You just have to love a naughty monkey sometimes. Even though most of those films are fairly recent, stop-motion animation has been around in one form or another for more than one hundred years. Click through for the highlights and milestones of this under appreciated art form.
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/Film reader Jerry K sent us photos from SIGGRAPH of miniatures on display from Henry Selick‘s adaptation of Neil Gaiman‘s Coraline. As always, click to enlarge.