One of the more interesting stories in the world of animation last year was the very public collapse of the Henry Selick‘s newest movie with Disney, something that was supposed to be the beginning of a very long and fruitful relationship for the “Nightmare Before Christmas” director and the studio. But alas, the film that was at one point designed to be Pixar’s first stop motion feature completely fell apart after Selick continued to lock horns with the Pixar Brain Trust (whose story-comes-first mandate ruffled Selick) and Disney execs over the tone of the movie and its lack of narrative clarity. After building the animators a new studio and paying for a large chunk of the production budget, the project formerly known as “Shademaker” was indefinitely canceled. Now comes word that the movie, now entitled “The Shadow King,” is up and running again, this time produced by “Beasts of the Southern Wild” principle Josh Penn, with funding by K5 International.
The report states that Selick will screen footage from the incomplete work, which the report says concerns a young boy with elongated fingers who can create shadow creatures that are useful in combating an evil monster who wants to murder the boy’s family and destroy New York City (that old story), at the European Film Market in a few days. With a movie to sell, a quick sales poster has been put together with a first look from the movie, and the voice cast has been revealed with: Jaden Betts as Hap, Pamela Adlon as Richard, Brendan Gleeson as Darce, Jeffrey Tambor as Cuzzie Bell and Catherine O’Hara as Miss Fern.
It will be interesting to see what becomes of Selick’s Cinderbiter Studio, which Disney had set up. Keep in mind that Disney had already tried this once before with Guillermo del Toro for his Disney Double Dare You shingle, which got bogged down (and ultimately undone) by del Toro’s prolonged involvement in “The Hobbit” and by the fact that the first “test film,” “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” got an R-rating when it aimed for PG. (Disney ended up selling it off for release.) Many of the principles, including former Pixar designer Lou Romano, are named in the report, so they have clearly stuck around, despite much of the crew being fired when word came down that Disney was pulling the plug. At one point Selick’s old bosses at Laika, who produced the director’s Oscar-nominated “Coraline,” looked like they might step in, but that didn’t happen.
Another Cinderbiter/Selick project for Disney, a stop-motion animated (or, in one scenario, partially stop-motion-animated) feature adaptation of Neil Gaiman‘s brilliant children’s novel “The Graveyard Book,” which seemed pretty doomed once “Shademaker” was canceled, was also recently revived, this time with Ron Howard in the director’s seat. Because if it’s one thing Ron Howard knows, it’s how to be spooky.
We are excited to know that “The Shadow King” is moving forward and wish it the best. While there have been bumps in the road, hopefully now everybody can get on the same page, get back to work, and we can all see “The Shadow King” very, very soon. [Deadline/Bleeding Cool]