Henry Selick Buys Back the Rights to The Shadow King

Things are looking up for Henry Selick. The famous stop motion artist, director, producer, and musician, has announced he has bought back the rights to a formerly canceled movie from Disney and Pixar. That movie is called The Shadow King!

The Shadow King first came to life when Pixar’s then-CEO, John Lasseter, reached out to Selick. After seeing the critical and financial success of 2009’s Coraline, Lasseter was interested in collaborating on a project with the director’s unique style. Selick accepted the offer and stepped away from Laika, forming an all-new studio in the process. Sadly, the project would not make it to completion. This was due to multiple issues in the creative process. Selick tells Entertainment Weekly that Lasseter became too ambitious with the film’s budget. According to Selick, Lasseter “just couldn’t help himself” and kept coming up with new concepts and changes to the script that continued to raise costs.

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Another issue was Disney not knowing what to do with the dark movie, which isn’t exactly surprising considering the company’s track record of trying to sell their darker movies. What ultimately ended up killing The Shadow King was another Tim Burton movie, Frankenweenie. The stop motion film that received modest success told the higher-ups that stop motion was not profitable enough to invest in. By the time the film was shuttered, Selick had about five minutes of footage completed.

Out of the Shadows

Netflix

But a new ray of light has pierced into the world of shadows. Earlier this month, Selick sat down with Korey Coleman of Double Toasted to discuss the director’s newest creation, Wendell & Wild. While discussing what the future has in store, Selick commented about his most recent victory, which was getting the film rights back.

“Guess what? I got the rights back from Disney and maybe if… [Wendell & Wild] is considered a success, maybe I’ll revive The Shadow King… It’d be different, it’d be like my original story, which they claimed they loved, but then changed everything in it… in my mind it was sort of like a darker in tone Dumbo. You know, Dumbo is made fun of for his big ears and turns out, ‘my god, that elephant can fly’, well this was a kid with deformed hands and maybe they’re not as cute as big ears and that was their problem, but that’s a really messed up thing. He’s gonna get taught by a living shadow girl how to use those hands to not only make the greatest hand shadows in the world, but hand shadows that can come to life. I thought that was a good story and still think it is.”

The Shadow King follows a young boy with the power to shape his fingers into whatever shape he desires. After meeting a mysterious shadow girl, the boy learns how to create fantastic shadow puppets that come to life. But things get out of hand in the shadow world, and the children find themselves tangled in a literal war among the shadows!

As sad as the falling out with Disney was, perhaps the success of Wendell & Wild could bring about a new opportunity for Selick and his shadow world! Considering how Selick still feels about the marketing behind his most famous Disney projects, another studio will likely give him the credit he deserves. Wendell & Wild currently has an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes, with praise from critics and audiences. Paired with the upcoming Pinocchio film by Guillermo Del Toro, this could be Netflix’s year of stop motion, and perhaps it could end with a proposition for an entry into a shadow world! Fingers are crossed!