It seems odd that when a movie breaks out and does as well as Coraline ($120 million worldwide), that the filmmaker would leave the animation company behind it. But Henry Selick and Portland, Oregon-based Laika have parted ways at the expiration of Selick’s contract as Laika supervising director. Often the same creative drive and energy that makes a movie like Coraline possible–believe me, without Selick it would not be the same movie– makes a director tough to work with. Laika, which also produces commercials, intends to continue making stop-motion animation.
Selick reportedly got along more cordially with Nike co-founder and Laika owner and Chairman Philip H. Knight and president and CEO Travis Knight (who calls him “a brilliant, inspirational, and visionary artist whose contributions are indelibly etched into the very DNA of LAIKA”) than president of entertainment Claire Jennings, who worked with Selick day-to-day over the five years it took to produce the 3-D stop-motion animated feature Coraline.
“Making Coraline was one of the great filmmaking experiences of my life,” says Selick, who also directed James and the Giant Peach and The Nightmare Before Christmas, working with Tim Burton. “I appreciate the commitment that LAIKA and the Knights have made to stop-motion filmmaking and wish them continued success.”
I’m a great admirer of Selick and hope that he finds a nurturing home to support his next efforts. He reminds me of James Cameron–he’s always pushing the technological limits of his art while demanding a lot of the people around him. And Selick’s still trying to reach an audience, too, as Coraline proves. Focus Features says that Laika and Selick are both continuing to support their awards effort. It could give Pixar’s Up a run for its money in the animated Oscar race.