Animated Shorts: Henry Selick, 2 - Coraline

Animated Shorts: Henry Selick, 2

Click here for Part One, in which The Nightmare Before Christmas was covered.

If you were to ask Henry Selick if he’s learned one important lesson in his three decades as an animator, it’s this.

“When possible always work with geniuses like Tim Burton.,” he advises, “who are not only creatively inspiring but in his case, also have the clout to protect the film from the studio system.”

One could say the same thing about who Selick is working with now. As everyone now knows, even Disney who put this telephone conference together, Selick has been hard at work on an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s bedtime story Coraline (also recently adapted as a graphic novel by P. Craig Russell). Selick himself is reported to have said he wouldn’t have done the conference if he couldn’t plug the movie, which is being produced by Laika, not Disney.

“The movie version of Coraline is very faithful to the tone and the spirit of the book,” he admits. “In the translation from book to film there are adjustments to story and character that have to be made. The main thing I always felt was I could not disappoint the readers of the book, and though some details have been changed and as well as the order of the sequences, I feel we will be successful. We will complete animation on Coraline in about 6 weeks and plan a February release of ‘09.

“I think that both Tim and Neil are extremely imaginative and real creators. In Tim's case he is a visual artist so the look of the film came from his sensibilities. Neil is not a visual artist, so I created the visual look of Coraline. As far as sensibilities, I think there is a little more whimsy in Tim's work, a little more sweet with the sours, comfort with the scary, but I'd probably exclude Sweeney Todd. Neil goes a little darker, primal like a Grimm’s fairytale. It’s a dark perfect modern fairytale that concerns itself with a primal thought every child considers; I wish I had other parents.

“That, and the button eyes.

“You build on what you know, so there is no doubt that some similarities between the two projects. I also have many of the original Nightmare team members working on Coraline. We've all grown and the visual aesthetic is ultimately a very different one. You'll see great animation like Nightmare, like a cousin of Nightmare. More like a second cousin. The last thing I'd want to do would be to try to rip off a classic film I directed.”

One thing that will be different about Coraline is the technology involved. Called ‘stereoscopic’ it will use a new shooting system that will greatly enhance the three-dimensional aspects of stop-motion animation.

“Shooting stereoscopically just gives you more of what is there,” says Selick, “just a little more sense of the reality of this medium, it does not live in the computer nor is it a series of drawings, it's an actual real set and puppets. Mainly it is the ability to capture images in a computer while you shoot. When we did Nightmare we could capture 2 images total. Now you can shoot the whole scene and play it back while you animate. This assists the animator but actually slows down the process because they keep checking it every time they shoot a new frame. Computers have slowed down what is already a time consuming process.”

This discussion about technology then moved things back to putting out Nightmare on Blu-Ray. Selick acknowledged the precautions he and Burton took when shooting the original are really going to pay off with this new release.

“The fact is the film was originally shot in 35mm film,” he said, “each image is pristine with no blur, so the source material is already high def, more so than a standard film. So the mastering is less of a challenge. Some of the details that may become apparent in Blu-ray are that we tried to add texture to all the characters and backgrounds as if they were an engraving. For example you'll see that Jack's stripes on his suit are hand drawn, and the hills behind also have hand made textures built into them. Additional details would be things like the leaves that Sallie is stuffed with, the bugs inside Oogie Boogie. Look into the shadow areas, there are hidden details there that have never shown up on previous DVD but will show up on the Blu-ray.”

Which in turn led back to the enduring appeal of the movie and the stop motion process.

“It is simply the fact that what were shooting really exits,” said Selick. “So you get immediate feedback and can make adjustments accordingly. I'd actually done stop motion prior to working on The Fox and the Hound, including some life size figures for an independent film of mine. While I enjoyed 2d animation while working at Disney, stop motion had a more visceral charge to it and was therefore where I was always going to end up.”

Besides, Selick admits there’s more than a bit of him in the movie itself.

“The character I'm closest to is Jack Skellington,” he said, “because as a director you often have to act out various characters for your animators, since I resemble Jack Skellington more than the other characters, I think more of my gestures got into Jack.”

As for his future? It sounds like Selick is going to be busy for some time to come.

“Sure I'd love to do a short film for Caroline Thompson's company,” he said. “She did a great job shaping the film's story from Danny's songs. There have been discussions over the years about a possible sequel [to Nightmare]. When those discussions came up about 7 years ago it was unsettling that it was suggested this time it would have to be done in CG. I'm glad that did not happen. As far as coming up ideas for a sequel, you have to admit there are a lot of other great holidays for Jack Skellington to take over.”

That would be cause for celebrating, wouldn’t it? Personally, wouldn’t you love to see what Jack would do to the Easter Bunny.


FUNimation has released a statement regarding its recent activity regarding fan subs. Apparently they’ve been telling some sights to quickly remove certain shows they’ve been posting, or face the (legal) consequences.

Considering the legal nature of the issue, we will go word-for-word here:

"We can confirm that FUNimation Entertainment has obtained has obtained an agreement authorizing FUNimation to act on behalf of d-rights and Enoki Films, Ltd. to prevent infringement on specific titles.

The authorization agreement for d-rights is for 5 series in total:

Monochrome Factor

Nabari no Ou

Kateikyoushi Hitman Reborn

Bamboo Blade

El Cazador de la Bruja

We also have an authorization agreement for Enoki Films Ltd for Slayers Revolution.

Though these series have not been licensed to a local distributor in North America, it is important to note that the rights owned by Japanese producers are still applicable, and enforceable, worldwide.

Industry watchers and anime fans have long known our stance on the unauthorized distribution of anime, especially prior to localization. The practices of illegal downloads and 'fansubbing' are very harmful to our Japanese partners and as part of the longstanding relationship between FUNimation and d-rights and Enoki Films, we have been asked to monitor and take action against unauthorized distribution of these titles. Because we believe that this will benefit the industry, we have agreed to do so."

‘Nuff said.


Just the titles he worked on alone are impressive. They include Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Beauty & The Beast, Lion King, Nightmare Before Christmas and the upcoming The Princess and the Frog.. This October, Don Hahn will publish his second book about the animation industry, and it sounds like one well worth reading. It will be entitled The Alchemy of Animation and looks at the various processes that exist inside the rapidly growing animation world.

“It’s been almost seven years since I wrote my first animation book, Animation Magic,” says Hahn, “and what I really wanted to do this time, was write a book about the making of animated films in the modern age, for a slightly older audience. I think this book is for everybody/people who love animation, people who are intrigued by the process, but most of all, people who just love movies. We were fortunate to be able to pack it with amazing, never-before-seen art from Disney and Pixar films through the ages, including a few sneak peeks at art from upcoming projects such as Bolt and The Princess and the Frog!.”

The book ships on October 7.

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