Henry Selick comments on his canceled ‘Shadow King’ movie

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Director Henry Selick is well known in the animation community as the benchmark for stop motion movies. He was responsible for such animated classics as The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the giant peach and Coraline.

Slick left the director’s chair for a while, but returns after 13 years in a new animated film for Netflix Wendell and savage with comedy duo Key and Peele. The film follows two demon brothers who trick a 13-year-old girl into releasing them to the land of the living. A real Halloween treat.

However, while promoting his new movie in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Selick recalled a canceled movie he was working on at Disney, but was canceled before it was released. This being The King of Shadows.

The story would have followed Hap Dagger, a nine-year-old orphan, hides his incredibly strange hands from a cruel world. But when a Living Shadow Girl teaches him how to create incredible hand shadows that come to life, his hands become incredible weapons in a shadow war against a ravenous monster that could destroy Hap’s brother and all of New York.

While Selick was finishing Coraline screened the film for Pixar and was offered a film contract by John Lasseter and Disney. The film began pre-production in 2011 but was canceled in 2012 after Disney pulled out of the deal. Selick said:

He [John Lasseter] really loved the movie, loved what he saw, and then they screened Coraline at Pixar and everyone loved it. And they offered me a deal to do a stop motion movie. And it had to be for a much lower budget than CG movies. Stop-motion films have never been as successful as the great CG films. The best stop-motion movies live forever. And, as seen with Nightmare, making billions in merchandising.

He also explained the troubled production and what led to its cancellation:

Pixar has its self-confidence and tears things up. They rebuild, destroy, rebuild. Lasseter really couldn’t support my view. He thought he could do better. And so, we kept changing and changing and changing. We have hired a whole new team. We were actually in animation and it was one of those things where the budget started going up, going up, and a new guy came in, Alan Horn, at Disney and they were like no, that was going to release cards for the budget because of the constant changes. It was closed and it was a sad day. But it’s also a huge relief because it’s like taking your child to the playground and seeing them beat up every day and then having to take your child home and wipe away their tears. It really wasn’t meant to be.

Selick said he hopes he can still bring the project to life one day:

I got the rights. I’ll owe Disney some money if we set it up, but maybe. And I absolutely think it would be successful for the right price. You know, if people really like what I’ve written and want this movie, rather than thinking they like it and want to make Toy Story 8 out of it. I think a lot of people would love to see this movie.

While it’s always sad to see a Disney movie get canceled / shelved and wonder what might have been, at least we know that stop-motion animation is still considered a great source of creativity. Whether it’s from Laika Studios or the mind of Wes Anderson, we’ll always enjoy these films.

What do you think? Wish Disney had done The King of Shadows? Do you think they could still do it today?

Source: The Cartoon Beer

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