The stories from our childhoods we remember best, and often times most fondly, tend to be the ones that managed to leave a scar on our psyches. They were the ones we were probably too young to hear at the time, the ones that included some form of gruesomeness that probably shouldn’t have been included in a story for children at all. That’s why all of those disturbingly violent Brothers Grimm fairytales have been repeatedly retold down through the ages, and it’s why people are so fond of Henry Selick’s often dark, sometimes creepy stop-animated movies The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline. There’s just something magical that happens when you mix fairy tale storytelling with the macabre.
All of this is why the latest news regarding Selick’s career is super good news for people who like to make their kids cry. The Wrap has a report saying that the director has just signed on to helm a live action adaptation of a children’s book by Adam Gidwitz called “A Tale Dark & Grimm.” If you can’t tell by the title, this is not only a story that’s meant for children but is still a little bit spooky, but it’s also a story that’s heavily rooted in the Grimm fairytales that have become such a solid tool for scaring young people into seeing the world in the way we want them to see it. Good times for everyone are ahead.
The book was adapted for the screen by John W. Mann and Jon Gunn (The Nutcracker), along with some help from Selick, and its story seems to use the witch-killing characters of Hansel and Gretel as its protagonists. For a better idea of what they do over the course of the tale, we turn to the source material’s Amazon page, which describes it by saying, “Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm (and Grimm-inspired) fairy tales. An irreverent, witty narrator leads us through encounters with witches, warlocks, dragons, and the devil himself. As the siblings roam a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind the famous tales, as well as how to take charge of their destinies and create their own happily ever after. Because once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome.”
Selick said of his decision to take on this project, “I remain completely enraptured by Adam Gidwitz’s marvelous book ‘A Tale Dark & Grimm.’ It’s a hilarious, deeply inventive tale about survival in the world of fairytales and what it takes to forgive one’s parents. So it’s a huge thrill to be joining the team of Kamala Films and FilmNation as the director of the film based on it. Between the great material and a team that really gets it, I hope to make something really special that lasts.” Conversely, a representative from Kamala Films said of Selick, “He is a unique and visionary storyteller whose work deftly walks the line between darkness and light in a way that is perfect for this project.” Sounds like a match made in heaven, no?
Of course, there’s still a bit of a question hanging in the air as to whether or not Selick can capture audiences’ imaginations when working in live action the same way he can when making an animated movie. You can’t chuck a rock down a high school hallway without hitting some goth kid who has based their entire life around The Nightmare Before Christmas, but when Selick released Monkeybone in 2001, to say that audiences didn’t take to it in the same way they have his other works would be the understatement of the century.
Perhaps working with material that everyone already has an attachment to will prove more fruitful for the director than working with Brendan Fraser and a cartoon monkey though. Gidwitz’s book seems like it’s right in the Selick wheelhouse, and it could be just the thing to inspire the director to create a live action world that’s just as rich and resonant as his animated ones. Or, we can at least hope. It sure would be nice to have something else great we could watch with the kids around Halloween every year. That VHS recording of Disney’s Halloween Treat is starting to get pretty wore out.