Why Henry Selick's Stop-Motion Animated Wendell And Wild Aimed For A PG-13 Rating [Exclusive]

Spooky season is upon us, and there's no better time to introduce the young ones to the thrill of cinematic scares. Thankfully, filmmaker Henry Selick — the man behind some of the greatest eerie kids' movies in recent memory — has a new film coming to Netflix that's sure to terrify the tots ... in the best of ways. Selick is the stop-motion maestro behind the creepy classics "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Coraline," and he's set to deliver a new Halloween release, "Wendell and Wild," premiering on Netflix next month. The film follows a pair of demons, Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Jordan Peele) as they wreak havoc on the human world after convincing a 13-year-old named Kat (Lyric Ross) to summon them there. With a script by Peele and Selick, it's certain to have plenty of thrills, chills, and laughs, but could it all be a bit too much for the kiddos? 

During an interview with /Film's Rafael Motamayor, Selick explained that they intentionally aimed for a PG-13 rating because it was less restrictive, but they knew many kids would still end up watching. After all, what horror-loving kid hasn't watched something made for someone older? 

Something scary for brave kids of all ages

If "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" showed us anything, it's that the PG-13 rating has become pretty meaningless. It doesn't take much to squeak over from PG to PG-13, but then the jump from PG-13 to R seems huge by comparison. PG-13 animated features are especially rare, with only a handful of anime films that were released stateside making the cut. So why not make something new and fresh, a stop-motion animated horror-comedy that gives kids the same kind of catharsis that adults get from the genre? 

Selick explained his ideal audience for "Wendell and Wild":

"[...] so at eight, 10, to 14 years old, they're not making things for them, but those kids are watching scary things. They're watching older things for older people. So they're exposed... I mean, because we have access. So many people have computers and streaming and they can see... Their parents aren't always over their shoulder watching and making them stop. So I feel like I have to compete with, well, if kids are actually watching things that are meant for older audiences, I think I should also put [in] a little bit of older sense because these kids will want to see that. [...] And you're always treading this line. There should be scares and powerful things, but I want to heal. I want it to be for brave children of all ages. That's who my audience is."

The era of streaming has made it much easier for kids to see adult content, and making something more age-appropriate but still "adult" enough to entice them is kind of genius. Selick's other films similarly aren't toned down for young audiences, and that's part of why they've stayed classics as their audiences grew up. 

The freedom of PG-13

The rules for a PG film are pretty strict, especially compared to the ever-varying PG-13. For example, a single instance of drug use automatically earns any film a PG-13. That means if Wendell and Wild wanted to make a weed joke, well, it would have to be PG-13. Anything that suburban soccer moms might find questionable sends a movie into PG-13 town, so Selick and Peele embraced the rating from the start:

"Jordan and I felt that when we first set this up, we wanted it to have a PG-13 rating. We wanted the freedom that gave us. We just felt like, yeah, we wanted to be able to explore some things that most of the regular animated films can't touch by PG-13. And it never meant we wanted to have a lot of violence, a lot of sexuality, a lot of bad language, but we wanted just a little more freedom there."

It seems like "Wendell and Wild" isn't going to push the boundaries of the PG-13 rating and will probably be on the softer end, allowing the filmmakers a little bit of breathing room to create something authentically funny and freaky. The movie is looking to be a horror-comedy for the whole family, just in time for Halloween. 

Check out "Wendell and Wild" when it hits Netflix on October 28, 2022.