- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
“I got the rights back,” Selick reveals in the latest episode of The Hollywood Reporter’s Behind the Screen podcast, where he says the film could find new life someday. “I’ll owe Disney a little bit of money if we set it up, but maybe [it will get made]. I absolutely feel that it would be successful and for the right price, if [a potential partner] likes what I’ve written and wants that movie, rather than think they like it and then want to turn it into Toy Story 8.”
The director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, Selick says The Shadow King began life when he ran into then-Pixar creative John Lasseter at Skywalker Sound while completing 2009’s Coraline, for which Selick was Oscar-nominated.
“He really loved the movie, loved what he was seeing, and then they screened Coraline at Pixar and everyone liked it. And they offered me a deal to make a stop-motion film. And it had to be for a much lower budget than the CG films,” says Selick. “Stop-motion films have never out of the gate been as successful as big CG films. The best stop-motion films live forever, though. And, as we see with Nightmare, make billions in merchandising.”
They made a deal that Selick would make a film, and he pitched a few, including Shadow King. Then, according to Selick, the project was put through the Pixar system.
“It’s just how all their greatest successes [have been made]. [They] have their brain trust, and they rip things apart, they rebuild, rip things apart, rebuild,” says Selick. “He really couldn’t support my vision. He thought he could make it better. And so we kept changing and changing and changing.”
Then Alan Horn came to Disney as film boss and the movie was shut down. “Basically, John Lasseter couldn’t help himself. He tried to Disney-fy it until the budget went through the roof. It got shut down, and I was kind of down, I wasn’t sure I was going to make another movie again. But then the Key & Peele show started on Comedy Central, and it was Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele who kind of inspired me to do another film. I loved what they did so much.”
Selick had started the Wendell & Wild story years earlier and thought it was the perfect project for their voice acting talents. Peele was knowledgeable about stop-motion and boarded as a producer before he became a name-brand filmmaker with Get Out. Peele ultimately co-wrote the script with Selick.
The movie, which boasts a 95 percent critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, follows scheming demon brothers Wendell and Wild (voiced by Key and Peele) who enlist Kat Elliot, an orphaned teen voiced by Lyric Ross, to summon them to the Land of the Living. The voice cast is also led by Angela Bassett as Kat’s teacher, Sister Helley; Ving Rhames as the demons’ father and lord of the underworld; and James Hong as Father Bests, headmaster at Kat’s school.
Peele suggested the film become Kat’s story, a move that helped things click into place.
“It was, what has she faced? What has she lost?” says Selick. “Right up front, we got a PG13 rating. We asked for that in our deal because we wanted to be able to explore things a little further than most American animated films. There’s a ton of animated films where the kid is an orphan or has lost a parent. There’s not too many where the kid feels responsible for the parent’s death. That’s something new. And that was a tough thing to include, but we felt it was important.”
During the conversation, Selick delves into the making of the movie, elaborating on the story, character design, influences (Rhames’ lord of the underworld took a cue from Barry White), as well as a nod to Nightmare‘s Jack Skellington.
You can listen to the full podcast here.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day