Given how long it takes to make a stop-motion film — and how long it takes to convince a studio to produce one — it’s no surprise that stop-motion specialist Henry Selick was among the projects disappears for years. The director of The nightmare before Christmas, monkey boneand James and the Giant Peach has spent the years since its 2009 Neil Gaiman adaptation coral on a variety of stop motion projects that have been shelved or sidelined. But Netflix announced on Tuesday that its latest long-term project is the stop-motion animated film Wendel & Wildwill debut on the streaming service on October 28.
Wendel & Wild stars longtime comedy partners Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as Wendell and Wild, two low-level demon brothers who live and work in a theme park-style hell that exists entirely on the belly of a much larger demon (voiced by Ving rhames). Wendell and Wild dream of opening their own better theme park in the mortal world. So they team up with 13-year-old Kat (Lyric Ross), a troubled orphan with the ability to summon demons.
When visiting the Wendel & Wild Set in April, Polygon learns that the idea for the film came to Selick through his children. “Wendel & Wild started out as a short story I made many, many years ago inspired by my sons who are now grown,” he says. “When they were little, I photographed them as demons. They were sometimes a bit demonic. And I wrote a story about it and shared it with some people, but then I put it away.”
Years later, Selick says, he became a fan of the sketch comedy series Key & Peele. “I was so impressed with their work,” he says. “I just said What the heck, I’ll get in touch. You probably don’t know who I am. But I wanted to work with them. I’m not known for comedy in my movies [though] I think there’s always comedic elements. But I really had this wish [to work] to work with them and bring what they do to a project that I’m involved with.”
He says that both Key and Peele were interested in a joint project and Jordan Peele in particular wanted to meet and work together. Among the ideas Selick came up with was the short story about the two demon brothers. “It seemed like a Key & Peele Sketch, almost that they could be these siblings who are demons but have very human weaknesses and desires. So I shared my pages and talked about it, and he got really excited and basically said, ‘I want to be creatively involved. I want to be a producer.’ He just started his new company Monkeypaw. And that really is the genesis of the project.”
Selick says he invented the basic characters of the story, but Peele “added all sorts of great things to the characters in the story,” particularly in the design of Kat, a black girl who ends up in juvenile court for pretending to be her parents die. Once the early plans and character designs for the film were complete, he and Peele were ready to pitch it to the production studios. But Selick says he had to calm Peele of his anxiety ahead of the premiere of Peele’s directorial debut, the 2017 horror thriller Go out.
“Two weeks before his first feature film Go outHe would publish, he said [highly agitated Jordan Peele impression] “Now we have to go outside and open it! We have to get out now because what if Go out‘a failure?’ I said, ‘Look, look, you’re too nervous to do this. You just have to trust that it will work out.’”
Selick says he knew Wendel & Wild should be an unusual, unique project. “We didn’t want to put it everywhere. Just a handful of places. Netflix is the number one place we thought would give us creative support for something unusual, and that would also support a stop motion film because stop motion has always been the stepchild of the animation industry.”
As Selick notes, his medium is harder selling based on profitability. Studios like Portland’s Laika – the Selicks produced coral and specializes in stop motion movies like Kubo and the two strings – are extremely rare. They also don’t have the marketing budget and reach to help CG movies from majors like Disney, Pixar, and Illumination hit billion-dollar paydays worldwide. (In contrast, coral made about $125 million in 2009 — respectable for a small animated film, just not Disney-level money.)
But Selick says having an ally in Peele helped, especially given how Peele’s fear of his own debut film eventually paid off: “And then Go out is this amazing hit because it’s such a good movie. And then suddenly all doors are open.”
Wendel & Wild will premiere on Netflix on October 28.
https://www.polygon.com/23327310/wendell-and-wild-cast-jordan-peele-henry-selick Jordan Peele thought Get Out would kill Henry Selick’s new film Wendell & Wild