Henry Selick Henry Selick
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Disney Has Halted Production On Henry Selick’s Stop Motion Feature

Entertainment industry website Deadline.com published a report this afternoon that Disney has halted production on the new feature directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline). Selick was producing the film at his new San Francisco-based studio Cinderbiter (aka Shademaker Productions):

The crew on Henry Selick’s untitled stop motion animated film were told this afternoon that Disney is not proceeding with this project. Though the film had no title, it had a October 4, 2013 release date, and about 150 San Francisco-based artists ready to go, so it’s a blow to the animation troops out there. Started shooting last summer, but I’d heard it just wasn’t coming together in a manner that pleased the studio. Selick has been given the chance to take the project to other studios…[I]t’s unclear what this does to his plans to helm Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book,” a project Disney acquired in April.

Is Deadline’s report accurate? If you have details, share them anonymously in the comments or contact me directly.

UPDATE: Local 839 IATSE business rep Steve Hulett confirmed on the animation union blog that Disney contacted the union on Tuesday morning to inform them of the impending shutdown. Hulett wrote, “I have no idea why Henry [Selick]’s project was shut down so deep into production…whatever the actual reason, we’re saddened to see so many animation professionals lose their jobs off a feature that appeared to be in full flight. Here’s hoping that Mr. Selick sets the feature up someplace else and folks can continue working.”

Meanwhile, Variety reported that, “Sources close to the production said from a creative and scheduling standpoint, the pic wasn’t where it needed to be to meet its planned release date and [Disney] decided not to continue production as a result. While the pic had been in production since last summer, Disney had yet to hire thesps to voice characters. Studio also had yet to reveal any artwork from the project during its production or as promotional materials, making it easier for another distributor to pick up the film. ”

  • A Stop Motion Fan

    Wow, Sad news for Henry, sad news for Stop-Mo Animation & very sad for all the animators & other talented production staff at Cinderbiter. A lot of whom, like Ms Heidi Smith also recently worked for Mr Travis Knight at his powerhouse Studio in Oregon, or Mr LOU ROMANO, a Pixar, Warner & CN veteran. Everyone looses!… THANKS Disney Management! I bet ya dropped this because ParaNorman made ya’ll wet your panties.

    So sad that the whims of the mighty few fell the hard labour of the many.

  • A Writer

    Well if Deadline reported it, it is probably and sadly true. All those artists…damn shame

  • http://oye-studio.daportfolio.com Seni

    Man, all that hard work! If Disney didn’t acquire the project, I’d say “give it to Laika since they seem to appreciate Stop-Motion more”.

    • hmm

      laika’s already got projects of their own lined up and they could do better than adopt someone else’s failed project.

      • http://www.dittybox.co.nz gavin mouldey

        It may well be a failed project, but it’s also a Henry Sellick project, which already puts it above most successful projects in my view.

      • hmm

        [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, “It is OK to post with a nickname or alias, but your email address (which we will NEVER share publicly), must be a real, permanent email address. Comments with fake or non-permanent emails will be deleted.”]

      • http://www.darklady.com Darklady

        Laika has worked with Henry and knows how much money it takes to see a stop-motion project through to the end with him.

  • Jackson

    Honestly can’t say I’m surprised. Disney seems to have chosen story and character over visuals. A wise choice, considering their business. Too bad–maybe they could have had both.

  • beamish13

    Clearly, independent-minded artists no longer have a home at a Lasseter-run studio. He’s too unique to have his ideas get watered down by the Mouse House. Whatever happened to loyalty and trust? Selick’s been there off and on since the late 70’s, and his design sensibilities and story ideas never fail to impress.

    • Glen

      Lasseter fought for Selick to be set up at Disney, but Alan Horn shut it down. You know nothing.

      • Sardonic Tuba

        “A new broom sweeps clean”.

    • http://www.elliotelliotelliot.com Elliot Cowan

      I don’t think there’s a home for any independent animation artists at any studio.
      And why would there be?

  • Muck

    Sadly true – just saw a group of approximately 30 laid off Cinderbiters at Southern Pacific in the Mission a couple hours ago…

    • Huh?

      Jeez, what is this, Gawker? Let us commiserate and drink in private please.

  • James

    Hopefully he’s able to find another studio to continue the unnamed project. Even if it is ultimately scrapped, Selick and his team are too talented not to be contributing to the recent boom in stop-motion animation.

  • http://numynumynomnom.blogspot.com M.V

    What a waste. I know its not an uncommon thing but Cinderbiter was a brand new studio that the Bay area needed after losing so many. Perhaps if Paranorman exceeds expectations it’ll peak some interest.

  • Matt Justice

    I would have loved to have seen Lou Romano’s take on stop motion, hopefully they will at least release some art on the project .

  • William Fink

    Disney just shot themselves in the foot again. They really need a good film, and I don’t feel that Wreck it up Ralph is going to be another Disney hit. Is it just me but or is Disney and Pixar on their way out? I’m sure Dreamworks would love to grab it from Henry.

    • http://www.daryl-rhystaylor.co.uk DarylT

      They already have one it’s called Tangled.

  • Spot on

    Why?,this is a sad day.

  • http://totald.blogspot.com/ Darlie

    I like Henry a lot. I hope he gets another project. I worked on it so, yeah, I’m probably going to be discounted for being biased but I liked the idea.

  • http://Www.hunteachother.com Max W

    I know of multiple people who moved to San Francisco just to work on this film. That’s not an easy thing to do. It’s too bad that Disney couldn’t make as Strong a commitment to these people as they made to Disney’s film.

  • just some guy

    Just a guess…but this feels like a typical bean-counter studio economics move post-huge loss (John Carter). Some few flunkies sweep through the balance sheets, take a look around and trim with an ax.
    Not defending or lamenting, just commenting.

  • http://hobsonproductions.blogspot.com/ Kevin

    Poor Henry Selick. I was really looking forward to seeing this one next year. I wish Disney understood how successful Cinderbiter could have become in the future.

    Disney would do 2D films, Pixar would do CGI films, and Cinderbiter would do Stop-Motion films.

    Hopefully Selick and his staff will find another studio to promote their project.

  • Satorical

    As with Brave, anyone who wasn’t there doesn’t really know what happened. Any distributor that picks up the film will have likely set some stringent conditions to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

  • derik

    Why not go with Kickstarter, fellow Cinderbiters? Clearly the majority of these artists who were working on the film are well known and have tons of supporting friends.

    Why do these people need something like Disney anyways when we the fans can be the producers now? I’d give more than my two month’s rent right now if Henry started a Kickstarter for this project. When it works, and it will, it’ll be a really big step in stop-motion and animation movies in general. Screw these corporate rich swines who have no interest in art. Let’s finally just get rid of this useless out of date way of doing things and let’s start green lighting projects our selves.

    • http://artnote.blog.com Stephen

      I suggested the same thing on Facebook. Kickstarter could at least provide funds to keep the crew together while the project is offered to other studios.

    • christy karacas

      this is a good idea! i hope they are reading this!

    • akira

      i’d donate especially if you’re offering some production artwork… armatures, replacement heads, etc. isn’t there tons of that stuff used to make these movies that would draw some serious cash from stop motion fans?

      if you can’t raise enough money to make the whole movie, how about animating a part at least through kickstarter?

  • Warhead

    Another important thing is Disney pretty much failed to recognize that stop motion is one of the most time consuming artforms out there. Something like ParaNorman can take years to make, from pre-production to actual animation to post-production. Rushing it will only make it look worse.

    • Bud

      That’s silly. ALL of these big budget animated films take years to develop and make. Brave: 7 years. Sleeping Beauty: 6 years, Ratatouile: 4 years. Tangled (all versions): close to 8 years. The Black Cauldron: 10 years.

      So no, that’s probably not it.

    • http://hobsonproductions.blogspot.com/ Kevin

      That’s true. Which is why James and the Giant Peach was rushed in production that they had to film the first and last acts in live action.

  • Stop-mo animator

    In the future people will look back on this time as the point when the U.S. stop-motion mantle was passed from Selick’s productions to Laika’s.
    I do not work for Laika.
    I wish the Cinderbiter crew the very best luck.

  • akira

    What movie are we lamenting the loss of? “Henry Selick Project”? is there a script?

    Why is it so top secret that there is no info available?

    Was Henry taken in by Disney just so that they would have some pieces in place to set up a possible Nightmare Before Christmas 2 deal?

    Sanders, Keane, Selick… who’s next?

    • Bud

      “who’s next?”

      Just because they might have visual flair doesn’t mean they can tell a story well.

      • http://progresscityusa.com MC

        …except for the fact that Sanders and Selick have proven they can.

      • Glen

        Sanders without Dublois = American dog. Awful.

        Nightmare? Awful story . Monkeybone?

    • Glen

      Nightmare wasn’t really Selick’s–he just directed it. It’s Burton’s film, and Disney would probably let him direct it or choose a director.

  • http://MrFun Floyd Norman

    You don’t necessarily have to be on the “inside” but you do need experience to know what went down. I’ve been watching these clowns for decades and pretty much know how their “game” is played.

    Business is business and “creatives” are expendable. Trust me.

  • AK

    i’m so sad to hear this. as a student, i was so excited that there was a returning stopmotion in san francisco.
    to a student like myself, laika is awesome and godly, but i would so like there to be more…
    so sorry to the artists up there. we are rooting for you…

  • Nipplenuts McGurk

    It would be interesting to hear an objective insider’s take on this. How much had been shot, if any. No voices were recorded…so I imagine not much actual footage was shot. Was it a good story or was it clearly something that truly wasn’t working? I find Selick to be really interesting and generally like his work – but could this have been another Monkeybone?

    • wever

      Voices are often the most important part of early production in an animated feature. If no voices were recorded when they STARTED animating, they had a real problem!

  • http://pickledperfection.blogspot.com/ Andrea

    Will the people involved in the production of this film have contracts that protect them in a situation like this? It seems like work contracts should really have something in them to protect employees. I never thought about this before in regards to the animation industry but I imagine it’s common in other industries. (?)

    • Bud

      MOST contracts in these run of show contracts are there to protect the studio, not the employees. I am not 100% sure, but believe they may have had the extra added benefit of being under The Animation Guild.

  • CG Animator

    Well that sucks.

  • Mark Attarck

    I know a couple animators who were on the project, they said it was looking really good, but I was also hearing some pretty wacky stories of mismanagement and waste… So I’m not entirely surprised to hear this.

  • hellohue

    This time I’m really inclined to listen to Floyd Norman’s cynical point of view. Proves little trust or respect for creatives. This is the most many will likely hear about it; Disney’s publicists will make sure it remains mysterious and we won’t hear if it was creative or financial decision-making.

    On paper, though, it is depressing. A Henry Selick feature is a gem, yet instead we’re getting a slate of films like Malificent. Why make a Henry Selick stop-mo when you can shit out a High School Musical in a few months?

    Is it just me, or isn’t this exactly the sort of thing that John Lasseter et al lamented Disney turning into when they were graduating and finding jobs at the studio themselves?

    The suspicious thing about this is a Henry Selick film, whilst expensive, isn’t quite John Carter in budget. Would extending the deadline REALLY have burned Disney so bad? They’re Disney for Christ’s sake. Fishy.

  • ShouldBeWorkin’

    The Nightmare Before Christmas, Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, Coraline, The Corpse Bride, Frankenweenie, ParaNorman, and now The Graveyard Book?…..
    Does every other stop-motion feature have to be dark in theme?
    Perhaps Disney saw they were repeating themselves.

    • Aaron

      Yes, all stop-motion must be in in theme, Satan commands it.

      • ShouldBeWorkin’

        I just think they are just trying to make their own Mad, Mad Monster Party.

  • TStevens

    It is too early to say exactly why this project got canned. Many of the above postings imply everything from poor financial management to script or story issues(ie not recording character voices with a little over a year left in production). However, for all anyone knows, it could have been a conflict with an existing property that Disney felt was better. Heck, it could even be something as stupid as a single executive not liking the the tone of the film. Remember the stories surrounding Roy Disney killing “The Wild” or the death of My Peoples??? Those are only two examples in a long list of never to be seen concepts.

    I think a lot of these films get green lit on treatments rather than scripts and they get in to production without having completed storyreels. At that point, regardless of whether the concept is good or bad, it is pretty much open for anyone in a power position to start calling shots on story. Eventually animation directors will have to negotiate contracts for final edit. If live action directors can do it on $200 million films, animation directors should be able to say “I want final cut.” I know this won’t happen because there are too few animation directors out there with a track record to get that status. With Selick, his record is scattered at best: Coraline was OK but you have to consider Monkey Bone as well as the fact that Nightmare is really a Tim Burton film from concept to design.

  • http://www.darklady.com Darklady

    Didn’t Disney notice that Coraline ran more than a year past deadline and had to get additional funding from Phil Knight himself?

    Given that he completely changed his mind about what the visuals should look like, requiring a complete redesign and remolding, etc. none of this should come as a surprise to anyone.

    He does good work, but he’s not necessarily the most disciplined director.

    • Barney Miller

      Darklady, I worked on Coraline from the beginning and it was always a Laika production (ie. Phil Knight’s money).

      Also, Henry did not do an entire redesign of the film. The only thing that had a drastic shift later in production was the design of the final form of Other Mother.

      I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but it is incorrect.

  • Animator

    Hate to say “I told you so”, but I told you so.


  • Stopped-Mo

    I’m surprised and bummed about the crew being laid off and the project not getting finished, particularly for the people who moved out to SF for this gig.

    But at the same time, I have always felt Henry was pretty weak on story and wonder if the Disney execs KNEW what they were doing.

    Peach sucked despite having dope animation and being a great children’s book… Monkeybone was beyond heinous even though he incorporated some kick-ass compositing using a stop-mo character.

    It’s a shame to have a proven, talented crew working intensely for years on something that’s ultimately got nothing going for it in the bigger scheme. It’s a blow to stop-mo.

    So while I admire some of Henry’s work (shorts), I’d love to see new star directors (who aren’t unpleasant to work with…) emerge for stop-mo features who can bring solid storytelling leading to consistent success and more work for all of us in this unique trade. The beauty of animation only goes so far in a feature.

    • Animator

      Amen, brother. I couldn’t agree more.

    • Say wha?

      I thought Coraline was a very strong adaptation. Great storytelling there, imo.

  • Blasko

    It did seem odd to me that Selick was making this feature between two worlds: Disney and his own new production label. I wonder if Disney felt that the film was getting off-brand, or beyond the bounds of what they could control? It is a shame, and Selick’s departures from Laika and Disney in the last few years might make it more difficult for him to establish steady funding to complete this feature, or to start others. I certainly wish him, and the artists who worked on this production, much success in the future. My guess: if ParaNorman and/or Frankenweenie are modest hits, this unfinished film will get new life fairly soon. Though Selick didn’t have a hand with either, he will win by association (and rightfully so, considering his contributions to the art).

  • James

    Why does everyone assume Henry Selick wrote the screenplays for “James and the Giant Peach” and “Monkeybone”? He was only the director.

    “Coraline” was the first movie in which he was writer/director, so that should be the only yardstick for “how well Selick can tell a story.”

    • akira

      and they should read the book, too! it was by no means a simple adaptation. he did an awesome job with it and with Nightmare! the idea was burton, the execution : selick… i just don’t understand why there is no info on the film that has been killed, other than the director, animation style and location where being made… the timing before paranorman and frankenweenie is very questionable, too

    • Stopped-Mo

      I, personally am not assuming Henry wrote his bad films but ultimately the buck stops with the director — if it’s not working he/she needs to make changes or find a writer who can make it better. Ditto for casting.