Henry Selick's last film, Coraline, has been a critic of several films that failed to materialize in the time since the Neil Gaiman adaptation of The Shadow King for Disney/Pixar relaunched. However, something positive did emerge from the Selicks stop-motion return, Wendell & Wild, the first trailer for which was released today.
Wendell & Wild's first 30-minute sneak peek footage, in which Black teenage orphan Kat (Lyric Ross) becomes an afro-punk hell maiden who bargains with demon siblings Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Jordan Peele), proves that the wait for a new Selick film was worth it. The director has made a brief statement about rebellion and creativity, pushing his craft into new areas of expression and experimentation.
Selick decided to pursue an earlier passion project, which he found inspired by Selick's brother's devilish actions. But Selick said the story of a long-fingered orphan boy who makes hand shadows come to life was more about my two sons, George and Harry, and their demon possessions.
Selick incorporated some of his 2D shadow play techniques into his next film. He said Kat has to face her personal demons, not Wendell and Wild, the bad shit in her life, and deal with it. And thats all her shadow projected on this place I call The Redemption Chamber. I didnt get to finish The Shadow King, but here it is.
Selicks discovery of Key and Peeles eponymous sketch comedy series was even more significant to Wendell & Wild. Peeles' participation as producer and co-writer resulted in the comedians' vocal performances and Peeles' participation as producer and co-writer.
Peele desired more Black participation in the cast of Angela Bassetts' mysterious nun and Ving Rhames Underworld leader and recommended promoting Kat from the supporting cast to the lead role. He directed the 1985 film for Party at Ground Zero by afro-punk icons Fishbone who wanted to demonstrate how a new generation had connected with it through modern fashion and music. With the help of recently hired Netflix animation vice president Karen Toliver, Selick was able to secure needle drops as Fishbones Ma & Pa
Selick, who wanted to anchor his comedy-horror fantasy-fantasy drama around two main themes: children who are kicked out of school and placed on the school-to-prison pipeline, and exaggerated elite villains who want to build a prison [to separate undesirables].
Selick wanted to find the perfect balance between Laika's high-tech sophistication and Wes Anderson's retro, old-school style. I wanted the stop-motion to be more obviously stop-motion, he said. It's more difficult to recreate because of the CG. We've done a lot of stuff before, but I wanted to capture a little more of people's spirit and effort.
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Selick wanted to replicate what Charlie Kaufman did on Anomalisa by keeping the seam line in the middle and lower faces. He said I thought it was brilliant, but on Coraline, they chose to paint out the seam line in post, so I had no difficulty doing what I originally wanted to do. I like that the computer does not do it.
Wendell & Wild: Rhames giant demon Buffalo Belzer was created by Pablo Lobato to resemble Barry White and the Underworld Scream Fair set was built on his belly by production designer Paul Harrod (Isle of Dogs). The set was inspired by one of Selicks childhood haunts, Asbury Parks defunct Palace Amusements, as well as parts of Disneyland (by Hieronymus Bosch).
Wendell & Wild found Selick to be continuing to experiment with 2D cutouts, something he shares with his Nightmare Before Christmas partner Tim Burton, and goes back to some of his background work in the film. Its a lot easier because gravity is not the enemy as it is with puppets.
Selick had to grapple with the challenges of Wendell and Wild's 2D and stop-motion puppetry. The heads ended up pretty flat on dimensional bodies, and we had to find a way to play to faces on film. But then things change when they return to the Land of the Living and theyre more traditional.
Selicks interest in all kinds of animation is certainly kept up by dabbling in all kinds of animation. In Wendell & Wild, he also explored the zeitgeist as part of his ongoing exploration of social misfits in search of family and community.
Wendell & Wild will be released on Netflix on October 28 and wendell at the Toronto International Film Festival.