Wendell & Wild director Henry Selick on stop motion, Key & Peele, and would he do a sequel?

by W. Andrew Powell

Henry Selick has made classic films, bringing characters like Jack Skellington and Coraline to life, and after a lot of work he’s back with the charming, fiendishly fun Wendell & Wild.

While the story for his new film comes back to characters he invented for his kids, his major collaborators on it were Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.

Father Bests and Kat in Wendell & Wild
Father Bests and Kat in Wendell & Wild

“They [did more] more than just developing these characters and fantastic performances,” Selick said. “Their show, the Key & Peele show that premiered in 2012 was a sketch comedy that inspired me to try to even do another film after three seasons. I was so continually dazzled by their work. I reached out and asked, ‘Maybe you’d work with me,’ and I met with Jordan face to face.”

“Jordan in particular helped shape the characters and story so, so much.”

“I just stepped back out of the way, gave them time to develop the characters, wrote, rewrote scenes to those characters.”

There’s a life, and warmth to the characters that’s continually amazing, from The Nightmare Before Christmas to Wendell & Wild, and bringing them to life is part of the long process, but it also comes especially back to the story.

“It’s just important to me that people believe in our characters. You know, it’s stop motion. They’re a little cruder and less perfect than the best [computer graphics]. So I think it’s our challenge to help people believe in them,” he said. “So we go for an emotional truth, a warmth, so that people can go along with our stories and this alternate reality.”

Talking about his work over the years, I admitted to Selick what his work has meant to me, and I wondered what inspires him to make such wonderful, creepy films.

“It’s just what I’m meant to do,” he said. “I’ve always liked scary stuff, but not slasher scary.”

“It’s just my jam. It’s the kind of scares with some warmth, original looking characters and worlds. For me, it’s a place I return to again and again and find fresh ideas, fresh looks and stories to tell.”

And while his work isn’t always for all ages, he did admit that Wendell & Wild is perfect for younger kids.

“Really young kids should not watch Coraline, in particular,” he said. “That’s too intense for them. Fairly young kids could watch this film and and really young kids could always have watched The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

So will Selick return to the world he’s built for Wendell & Wild?

“Yeah, there’s a couple of things I would consider doing. And, you know, hopefully people love this new film enough so that it’s seen as a success and we could get the next one up on its feet, maybe a little more quickly than from the time it took between Coraline and this.”

“But yeah, I would be happy to come back for the right project.”

Wendell & Wild is streaming now on Netflix.

Watch our interview with the iconic James Hong below, who voices Father Bests in the film.

Images courtesy of Netflix.

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