Henry Selick

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Henry Selick
Henry Selick 2009 (cropped).jpg
Selick on a panel at South by Southwest in March 2009
Charles Henry Selick

(1952-11-30) November 30, 1952 (age 67)
EducationRutgers University
Syracuse University
California Institute of the Arts
  • Director
  • producer
  • character designer
  • stop motion animator
  • storyboard artist
Years active1977–present
Spouse(s)Heather Selick

Charles Henry Selick (/ˈsɛlɪk/; born November 30, 1952) is an American stop motion director, producer, and writer who is best known for directing the stop-motion animation films The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), James and the Giant Peach (1996), Coraline (2009), and his upcoming stop-motion film Wendell and Wild (2021) with Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key. He studied at the Program in Experimental Animation at California Institute of the Arts, under the guidance of Jules Engel. In April 2019, Diego Molano, creator of Victor & Valentino, called Selick one of his "animation idols."[1]

Early life[edit]

Selick was born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, the son of Melanie (née Molan) and Charles H. Selick.[2][3] He was raised in Rumson.[4] Selick did little but draw from ages 3 to 12. His fascination with animation came at a young age, when he saw Lotte Reiniger's stop-motion film The Adventures of Prince Achmed and the animated creatures of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad by Ray Harryhausen. He graduated from Rumson-Fair Haven High School in 1970.[5]

After studying science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick and art at Syracuse University and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, Selick eventually enrolled at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) to study animation. His two student films there, Phases and Tube Tales, were nominated for Student Academy Awards.[6]

Film work[edit]


After his academic studies, he went to work for Walt Disney Studios as an "in-betweener" and animator trainee on such films as Pete's Dragon and The Small One. He became a full-fledged animator under Glen Keane on The Fox and the Hound. During his time at Disney, he met and worked around the likes of Tim Burton, Rick Heinrichs, Jorgen Klubien, Brad Bird, John Musker, Dan Haskett, Sue and Bill Kroyer, Ed Gombert, and Andy Gaskill. Years later, he claimed he learned a lot to improve his drawing, animation, and storytelling skills from Disney legend Eric Larson.

Freelance work[edit]

With a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Selick was able to make the short film Seepage, which won an award.[7] Then he spent several years freelancing in the Bay Area, directing still-famous commercials for the Pillsbury Doughboy and Ritz Crackers, and sequences of John Korty's animated feature Twice Upon a Time. He also storyboarded fantasy sequences for Walter Murch’s Return to Oz and Carroll Ballard's Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (with designs by Maurice Sendak). When he created an acclaimed series of MTV station IDs and an award-winning six-minute pilot for an animated series called Slow Bob in the Lower Dimensions, Selick attracted the attention of director Tim Burton, whom he had known at CalArts, and was catapulted into features directing.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)[edit]

Selick made his feature-directing debut in 1993 on Burton's production The Nightmare Before Christmas — the first full-length, stop-motion feature from a major American studio. While the film was a moderate success at the box office, it received critical acclaim and eventually achieved status as a cult classic. Nightmare was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and won the International Animated Film Society's Annie Award for Best Creative Supervision, beating out The Lion King.

James and the Giant Peach (1996) and Monkeybone (2001)[edit]

In 1996, Selick followed with a second feature, James and the Giant Peach, his live-action/stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic children's book. The innovative film received widespread critical acclaim (Time Magazine's Richard Schickel said it was even better than the book),[8] and it won the top prize for an animated feature at the Annecy Film Festival in 1997, despite low box-office receipts.

Selick's third feature was Monkeybone, a live action/stop-motion adaptation of an underground comic. The film was a flop both commercially and critically.

Life Aquatic (2004) and Moongirl (2005)[edit]

After developing stop-motion animation on Wes Anderson's feature The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Selick joined the Portland, Oregon-based animation studio LAIKA in mid-2004 as supervising director for feature film development. After joining LAIKA, Selick directed his first computer-generated animation film, the award-winning short film Moongirl, the inspiration for Candlewick Press's children's book of the same name.

Coraline (2009)[edit]

Selick's first feature with LAIKA was Coraline, based on the novel Coraline by acclaimed author Neil Gaiman, and released in 2009. It was the first stereoscopic stop-motion animated movie.[9] The film received generally positive reviews from critics. Coraline was nominated for an Academy Award, a BAFTA, and a Golden Globe, all for Best Animated Feature.

Working with Pixar and present work[edit]

Selick left Laika in 2009.[10] In 2010, Selick joined with Pixar and The Walt Disney Company in a long-term contract to exclusively produce stop-motion films.[11] This not only returned Selick to his original roots, but also reunited Selick with numerous former friends and co-animators. His new studio, called "Cinderbiter Productions", was self-described as "a new stop motion company whose mandate is to make great, scary films for young 'uns with a small, tight-knit crew who watch each other’s backs."[12]

Selick and Cinderbiter's first film under this deal, a project called ShadeMaker, was set to be released on October 4, 2013.[13] In 2011, The Shadow King was green-lit for production.[14] In August 2012, it was reported that, after spending a reported $50 million, Walt Disney Pictures canceled the project,[15] due to "a creative and scheduling standpoint, the pic wasn't where it needed to be to meet its planned release date." Selick now had the option to shop the project to another studio.[16][14]

In February 2013, it was reported in a press release by Selick that K5 International would be handling sales at the European Film Market.[17] It is unknown when the film will actually be released. In August 2016, a rep for Selick said the film is "in turnaround again" while Selick is continuing work on his other two projects: A Tale Dark and Grimm, and Wendell and Wild.[18]

On 28 April 2012, it was announced that Disney had optioned the rights for Neil Gaiman's novel The Graveyard Book. Later that same day, it was announced that Selick would direct the film after work was completed on ShadeMaker. It is currently unknown if the adaptation will be live action or stop motion.[19] After the studio and Selick parted ways over scheduling and development, it was announced in January 2013 that Ron Howard will direct the film.[20]

On October 16, 2013, it was announced Selick is working on a live-action adaptation of Adam Gidwitz's children's novel A Tale Dark and Grimm.[21]

On November 3, 2015, it was reported that Selick is developing Wendell and Wild, a new stop-motion feature with Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key based on an original story by Selick.[22] In 2018, the film was picked up by Netflix.[23]

In June 2017, Selick was reported to direct the pilot and subsequent episodes of a Little Nightmares TV adaptation produced by the Russo Brothers. The release date of this adaptation was not revealed.[24]

Style and creative temperament[edit]

Joe Ranft, Selick's friend and sometime collaborator, stated in a 1999 interview in Salon magazine[25] that Selick had a "rock 'n' roll-meets-Da Vinci temperament." In Ranft's words: "He'll still go off to his office to play guitar or electric piano to ease off and think," but at the same time Selick operates scientifically. "He gets an outrageous premise—something that comes from a real dream place—then approaches the aesthetics of it like a mechanical engineer: What can we build on this foundation, how do we buttress it? If we have a mechanical shark, how does it kill? Will it shoot things from its snout?" Ranft said Selick has an uncanny gift: "He can articulate things through animation that people couldn't say otherwise."



Year Title Credited as Notes
Director Producer Writer
1993 The Nightmare Before Christmas Yes No No
1996 James and the Giant Peach Yes Yes No
2001 Monkeybone Yes Executive No
2009 Coraline Yes Yes Yes
2021 Wendell and Wild Yes Yes Yes Post-production[26]
TBA Little Nightmares Yes No No TV series[24]

Short films[edit]

Year Title Credited as Notes
Director Writer Producer
1981 Seepage Yes Yes No
1991 Slow Bob in the Lower Dimensions Yes Yes Yes
2005 Moongirl Yes Yes No Also voice actor



In 2012, the Academy Film Archive preserved several of Selick's short films: Phases, Seepage, and Tube Tales.[27]


  1. ^ Molano, Diego (April 25, 2019). "Animated People: Diego Molano, Creator of Cartoon Network's 'Victor and Valentino'" (Interview). Interviewed by Animation Magazine staff. Calabasas, California: Animation Magazine. Archived from the original on April 26, 2020. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  2. ^ Block, Maxine; Rothe, Anna Herthe; Candee, Marjorie Dent (2009). Current Biography Yearbook - Google Books. Retrieved 2013-08-09 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ "CHARLES H. SELICK, 80, of RUMSON". Asbury Park Press. May 4, 2006.
  4. ^ Beckerman, Jim. "A FUZZY NIGHTMARE, BROUGHT TO SCREEN", The Record (Bergen County), April 7, 1996. Accessed December 13, 2007. "We were literally rolling a 20-foot peach, says Selick, a Rumson native..."
  5. ^ Staff. "Filmmakers, students present their work at annual film festival", The Monmouth Journal, June 19, 2019. Accessed October 4, 2019. "In February, the Film Club went to a local theater complex to view Coraline, a major feature film created by another RFH graduate. Henry Selick, RFH Class of 1970, adapted the children's story for the screen and directed the stop-action animation film that some theaters showed in 3-D."
  6. ^ "Henry Selick biography". Tribute.ca.
  7. ^ IMDb: Best short film at Chicago International Film Festival 1982
  8. ^ Corliss, Richard (April 15, 1996). "CINEMA: TAKING OUT THE BUGS". Time.
  9. ^ Dunlop, Renee. 12 February 2009 Coraline; One Step at a Time for the Puppet of a Thousand Faces Archived 2012-03-27 at WebCite
  10. ^ Kapko, Matt (October 6, 2009). "Breaking News: Henry Selick Leaves Laika". Animation World Network. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  11. ^ Cunningham, Joe. "Henry Selick To Join Disney/Pixar". Front Row Reviews. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
  12. ^ Amidi, Amid (2010-12-20). "Henry Selick's New Studio Cinderbiter Hiring Head of Story". Cartoon Brew. Archived from the original on 2012-04-05. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
  13. ^ "Disney Setting Marvel and Pixar Mystery Films for 2014; New Henry Selick Film on October 4, 2013 | Collider | Page 108082". Collider. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
  14. ^ a b staff (February 4, 2013). "Henry Selick revives 'Shadow King': Josh Penn produces stop-motion project". Variety. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
  15. ^ Fritz, Ben (September 13, 2012). "Disney takes $50 million write-down on canceled animation project". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
  16. ^ Graser, Marc. "Disney pulls plug on Selick stop-motion pic". Variety. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  17. ^ Goldberg, Matt (February 5, 2013). "Henry Selick's THE SHADOW KING Finally Moves Forward; Plot Synopsis Revealed". Collider. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
  18. ^ Rome, Emily (August 25, 2016). "'Kubo' studio Laika moves forward while 'Coraline' fans wait for the next project from Henry Selick". Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  19. ^ "Disney Acquires Neil Gaiman's 'The Graveyard Book' Adaptation [Updated]". Screenrant.com. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
  20. ^ "Ron Howard in Talks to Direct Disney's 'Graveyard Book' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. January 22, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
  21. ^ "Henry Selick Gives Up Animation For "A Tale Dark and Grimm"". 16 October 2013.
  22. ^ Flores, Terry (3 November 2015). "Henry Selick, Key & Peele Developing Animated Feature 'Wendell and Wild' (EXCLUSIVE)".
  23. ^ Mike Fleming Jr. "Netflix Wins Stop-Motion Animated 'Wendell And Wild': Henry Selick, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key Aboard".
  24. ^ a b Kit, Borys (12 June 2017). "The Russo Brothers Adapting Video Game 'Little Nightmares' for TV (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  25. ^ "Toy Story Man". www.salon.com.
  26. ^ Trumbore, Dave (November 6, 2018). "Netflix Sets Guillermo del Toro's 'Pinocchio' and Henry Selick's 'Wendell & Wild' for 2021". Collider. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  27. ^ "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.

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