Henry Selick

Laika Studios

Laika is an animation studio in the ascendant. Both Coraline and ParaNorman, their first two features, were financially successful Oscar nominees. It would be shocking if The Boxtrolls didn’t follow suit, on both counts. The intricate detail of their animation is often witty, warm and breathtaking all in the same moment. No frame is left empty or drab, no opportunity for creativity left behind. That all of this is done using 3D stop-motion makes it seem all the more artful. This is not to say that what Pixar does on computers is any less creative than what Laika does with physical sets and models, but there is certainly a difference in the way the audience relates to the work. Pixar mimics the real world in many cases, focusing on the exact rendering of Princess Merida’s hair in Brave rather than venturing into abstraction. Laika creates universes that enchant through their artifice, rather than in spite of it. Besides, it wouldn’t be too controversial a position to state that all three of Laika’s films are better than all of the last three Pixar features. All of that said, take a second and imagine what a Laika film would be like if it were made using computer animation instead of stop-motion. At one point they were planning on a CG feature called Jack & Ben’s Animated Adventure but it was dropped in 2008 in the context of a major layoff of the company’s employees. When they were founded, all the way back in 2005, it wasn’t clear that stop-motion would become the primary product. At that point […]

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Coraline

Stop-motion animation is a dying art of cinema. Fortunately, the good folks at Laika have been keeping the artistry alive for years. The Boxtrolls is their latest selection to come to theaters, but the process started with Coraline in 2009 and then ParaNorman in 2012. While these movies have not been a mega-money-makers that we see with the Pixar and DreamWorks films, Laika’s films have made enough money to justify making more of the movies, and that’s a great thing for cinema. Coraline, based on Neil Gaiman’s visionary book, started the Laika ball rolling, and at the helm was The Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick. For the 2009 Blu-ray and DVD release of the film, Selick sat down to talk over the film and give some personal insight. Composer Bruno Coulais is also listed as one of the commentators, and he does show up over the final credits to talk about the music, but almost the entirety of the film features Selick’s commentary. This is where pretty much all the relevant information comes from.

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nightmare-commentary1

When it was released twenty years ago, The Nightmare Before Christmas was not an immediate success. However, over the following two decades, it has become one of the most beloved holiday movies, and composer Danny Elfman admits that autograph seekers inevitably have The Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise for him to sign above all other films he has worked on. When the 15th Anniversary 2-Disc Collector’s Edition DVD was released in 2008, Elfman joined in with producer Tim Burton and director Henry Selick to record a commentary track. This track, along with many of the other bonus features, is also included on the 3D Blu-ray, which was released in 2011 (and likely all other annual releases as Disney moves forward). Seeing as we’re at the half-way point between Halloween and Christmas, and since it is the 20th anniversary of the film’s release, it seemed appropriate to revisit the film and hear what the filmmakers had to say about the production.

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grimm

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.

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Nightmare Before Christmas

First Smith, Soderbergh, Spielberg and Spike Lee, and now Henry Selick. The stop-motion master behind Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline is adding his name to an alliterative list complaining about the filmmaking industry and its risk-averse decision-making process. Selick took aim at Despicable Me 2, but by his own reckoning, could have been talking about any animated film these days. “It’s too homogenous. It’s way too much the same,” said Selick, “The films aren’t really that different one from the other. Despicable Me could have been made Pixar, by DreamWorks. It’s not a great time for feature animation if you want to do something even moderately outside the formula.” Selick also championed streaming as a possible new outlet for animators and had more strong words that echo the typical narrative — that Hollywood is broken because they’re betting too big on too many tentpoles, refusing anything that doesn’t fit neatly into their Channing Tatum-starring Profit and Earnings report. The director is certainly qualified to talk about the system shutting out creativity; his latest project, an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book,” was dropped by Disney wholesale late last year and his Shadow King project came close to disappearing before an indie production house picked it back up.

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Over Under - Large

By the time 1993 rolled around, Tim Burton already had projects like Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands under his belt, and had firmly established himself as an auteur director of quirky, weird films. It was probably that year’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – a movie that Burton produced and didn’t even direct – that firmly established him as being a filmmaker with a cult of personality following, and has become his most enduring work, however. A stop-motion animated feature directed by Henry Selick (with strong creative input from Burton) and produced by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures, The Nightmare Before Christmas mixed up Halloween and Christmas imagery in iconic ways (Mickey Mouse has his fingers in all the holiday pies), it captured the imaginations of an entire generation, and it can still be seen advertised all over the backpacks and binders of eyeliner wearing teenagers to this day. That same year another Halloween-themed family film came out of another wing of the Disney conglomerate called Hocus Pocus. But, despite that fact that it starred a trio of actresses who were fairly big names at the time, it hasn’t enjoyed nearly as much attention over the years as Nightmare. And, unless you happen to be a devotee of the movie Newsies (which I know some of you are), chances are you’ve never heard of its director, Kenny Ortega. Sure, Hocus Pocus still gets played on the Disney channel around Halloween every year, as it’s probably cheap programming for the company, but […]

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Henry Selick

According to Variety, Disney has shut down production on Henry Selick‘s forthcoming untitled stop-motion animated movie. He’ll continue to work on The Graveyard Book – based on Neil Gaiman‘s book – for the studio. There’s no telling what the world will be missing because no plot nor concept image has been released at this point, but there’s a possibility that Selick will be able to get another studio to help carry it across the finish line. All hope is not lost for those of us who blindly trust Selick to make something magical – something we don’t even realize we want yet. The article claims that studio insiders pointed to the movie not being where it needed to be. Originally set for an October 2013 release, they hadn’t even hired voice actors yet. Someone, please get on that. The world needs more Selick. However, the mystery remains why they would dump the project wholesale instead of simply push it back. After all, it’s in 3D! That’s guaranteed money!

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Boiling Point

John Carter lightly transported itself into theaters this past weekend, securing a relatively meager $30m opening domestically, though it managed to secure another $70m internationally. While I will eventually make a defense of the economics at play here, it is hard to argue that John Carter isn’t a domestic failure, considering it came in second to The Lorax, which debuted a full week earlier. On top of that, John Carter has a suspected $250m budget with marketing costs guestimated in the $100m range, for a total investment of around $350m. The critics have been somewhat kind to the civil war veteran’s debut – while the average review seems to be “it’s alright,” there have certainly been some hyperbolic highs and very few hyperbolic lows. Consensus is you’ll probably think the movie is okay, but you might want to wait for DVD. Scattered among those are bold claims that film will live on with your children as a classic, which are probably a bit off the reservation. There is little doubt that in at least several ways John Carter failed, ways that were easily avoidable and ways that make me fairly angry with the system.

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The Week That Was

We do this every week. Because no one has time to read every great article we post here on Film School Rejects and be a productive member of society, the weekends provide us an excellent opportunity to get caught up on all the stuff that happened over the last seven days. This week we wrote a big helping of reviews, more than a few excellent, insightful editorials and as always, we were there when news broke to provide the necessary context (and snark). From Johnny Depp as a Hunter S. Thompson lizard to Oscar winners to solving your existential crisis with kids movies, this week that was had many twists and turns — all of which you’ll be glad you followed. So get set to get caught up with The Week That Was.

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The director of such celebrated kiddy fare as The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, and Coraline is putting together his own production studio in San Francisco. Their first project, Shademaker, looks to frighten children and is already boasting some impressive talent behind the scenes. A job recruitment post for the production dug up by Cartoon Brew says this: “Cinderbiter is a new stop-motion company whose mandate is to make great, scary films for young ‘uns with a small, tight-knit crew who watch each other’s backs. Joining Henry on Cinderbiter’s first production will be veteran team member Eric Leighton and the celebrated production designer, Lou Romano. That’s right – Lou Romano!” Cinderbiter has since been renamed to Shademaker Productions, but clearly the important bit of info in that blurb is Lou Romano. He is a production designer who has worked on Pixar projects like Cars, Up, and Ratatouille. Pixar is probably the most successful movie studio going today and Selick’s films have legions of devoted fans (even if 90% of them think that Tim Burton made his movies).

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The fine folks over at ComingSoon spoke with producer Christopher Melendandri who confirmed that, yes, a stop-motion version of The Addams Family was definitely headed down the pike, and that, yes, Tim Burton was involved and looking to direct. A fifth grader could have predicted that Burton would be interested in directing, but he’s the wrong man for the job.

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Henry Selick

How could the already stellar Pixar creative team get any better? Glad you asked: according to Variety, stop motion master Henry Selick (Coraline, Nightmare Before Christmas) has signed an exclusive long term deal with Disney/Pixar.

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culturewarrior-animated09

While 2009 may have been a weak year for movies overall, animated films shined in a way they haven’t in a very long time.

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With everyone clamoring to get more 3D movies in theaters and not enough screens to hold them, it’s a crucial time to either invest more or take a step back and question whether 3D is really going to last a while this time.

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coraline-bdheader

We’ve got an exclusive clip from one of the behind the scenes featurettes on the upcoming Coraline DVD release.

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coraline-review1

From Henry Selick, the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Neil Gaiman, one of the most brilliant writers of our time, comes the clever and delightfully dark tale of a young girl named Coraline and her wild adventure into an alternate reality.

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FSR

Kevin Carr reviews the movies the studios didn’t allow him to see early this week: Pink Panther 2, Coraline and Push.

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The producers of Coraline have unleashed a fantastic series of posters that promises to teach us an adventurous set of ABC’s.

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coraline-header

The man with the creative juices that spilt all over The Nightmare Before Christmas is back to direct an original work of Neil Gaiman’s — a real geekgasm if ever there was one. And while you sit and ponder whether or not you thought Tim Burton directed Nightmare, as that is what you’ve always thought, please enjoy these brilliant behind the scenes featurettes.

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Selick is bringing a perfect world to life with Coraline, and Focus Features has got the first trailer for us to feast our button eyes on.

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