Wendell and Wild: The Return of Henry Selick

The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline director Henry Selick will be returning to stop-motion horror on October 21st with Wendell and Wild. Wendell and Wild marks his seventh movie as a producer and director. The title gets its namesake from the two demon brothers who both help thirteen-year-old Kat to summon them to the land of the living. The animated movie stars Keegan-Micheal Key and Jordan Peele in the titular roles. With such cult classics under his belt, it’s safe to say that this movie will have more than a few critical eyes on it. While these films have stood the test of time, are they a product of their generation, or rather a unique style of animation that will continue to be timeless?

Animation begins from one drawing, each making up a single frame, with twenty-four frames per second. In an hour-long movie, there would be 86,400 drawings. Around the 1990s, digital animation became more common with Pixar as a pioneer. In 2009, the Walt Disney Animated Studios released their final 2D animated film. Henry Selick released his last movie, Coraline, the same year. In 1993, The Nightmare Before Christmas was released, which not only made five times the budget in box office revenue but also became a classic in present-day pop culture. These two wildly successful Henry Selick projects are still popular with stores like Hot Topic and Etsy selling merchandise based on the movies year-round and in October with popular decorations and costumes. These 3D clay figures provided distinct horror elements to these movies to stand out against the hand-drawn films of the time. However, the rise of 3D animation provided an alternative to claymation which replicated stop motion’s unique style at a fraction of the cost.

Now that Selick has returned “from the dead” is it possible for him to recapture his previous success? Perhaps the lack of stop-motion films could provide an advantage, avoiding an oversaturated market and maintaining the originality of the technique. This persistent relevance in pop culture held by his movies may be an example of the rise in nostalgic content, an advantage that wouldn’t aid Wendell and Wild unless fans of the art form push in favor of the film out of loyalty. Fenwick student Sean Bell writes, “Stop motion may seem outdated, but it is the structure of the theater’s history. The first animations came from stop motion. I think it is good to implement it in the modern world. How people react to the re-introduction of stop motion remains to be seen, but I am excited.” Claymation can be seen as weird or creepy to some and it turns many away from the style entirely. Another student Anna Garcia-Enriquez adds, “I appreciate the work and effort put into stop motion but it honestly just creeps me out.”

Now that Henry Selick’s initial fanbase has grown up, his movies need to as well. This movie needs to appeal to kids as well as live up to the standards of his previous audience. This seems to be the case as compared to Selick’s other movies which were rated PG, Wendell and Wild will stick with a slightly more mature rating of PG-13. This time around Selick’s movies will not only continue to haunt his now much older audience, but also their children. Jordan Peele, an award-winning horror director, with modern classics such as Get Out and Us is a producer on the film, which may result in more mature horror elements being implemented in the film. Perhaps he doesn’t plan on gaining a new fanbase of kids but instead intends to focus primarily on pleasing the adults who grew up with his work.

Despite how close the release of Wendell and Wild is, the movie has not received much press. Few articles online exist about it and the teaser trailer, which was released September 6, has only a little over seven hundred thousand views as of writing this article. Whether stop motion remains successful today will remain unknown until the movie is released, but knowing Selick, anything’s possible.