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Director Henry Selick Describes How John Lasseter Crashed Pixar’s First Stop Motion Movie ‘The Shadow King’

For those who don’t know, Pixar Animation Studios almost had their first stop motion animated movie The Shadow King from The Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick.

After the success of his stop motion film Coraline, which screened at Pixar to much delight, director Selick was brought into Disney/Pixar and given a four-picture deal. He wrote his own script for a story about a young orphan in New York City who has hands with unusually long fingers which the child hides from others. When the child is taught how to make “amazing hand shadows that come to life”, they become his weapons in a shadow war against a monster intent on killing the child’s brother and ultimately, New York as well. The film began pre-production in 2011, with an expected release date of October 2013, but ultimately never materialized.

Selick, who also directed Disney’s James and the Giant Peach, recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter’s Behind the Screen podcast and he went into detail on why the project ultimately didn’t come to fruition, citing John Lasseter as the culprit. “It’s just how all their greatest successes [have been made]. [They] have their brain trust, and they rip things apart, they rebuild, rip things apart, rebuild,” says Selick. “He really couldn’t support my vision. He thought he could make it better. And so we kept changing and changing and changing.”

The Shadow King had a voice cast set, which included Pamela Adlon, Brendan Gleeson, Jeffery Tambor, Catherine O’Hara, and Jaden Betts.

Fast forward to today, Selick’s newest movie for Netflix Wendell and Wild starring Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele is receiving tons of buzz and is currently sitting at 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. So, will Selick revisit The Shadow King? Well, maybe the director says, “I got the rights back, I’ll owe Disney a little bit of money if we set it up, but maybe [it will get made]. I absolutely feel that it would be successful and for the right price, if [a potential partner] likes what I’ve written and wants that movie, rather than think they like it and then want to turn it into Toy Story 8.”

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