“Everyone’s got demons,” young Kat says. “My demons have names.”
Wendell & Wild is an upcoming American stop-motion animated dark fantasy comedy horror film directed by Henry Selick. The screenplay was written by Selick and Jordan Peele (who also serve as producers), and it’s based on Selick and Clay McLeod Chapman’s unpublished book of the same name. It stars Keegan-Michael Key and Peele as the titular characters, with Lyric Ross, Angela Bassett, James Hong, Sam Zelaya, Tamara Smart, Seema Virdi, Ramona Young, and Ving Rhames in supporting roles. The film marks Selick’s first feature film since 2009’s Coraline. Wendell & Wild is set to have its world premiere at the 47th Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2022, and is scheduled to be released in select theaters on October 21, 2022, before its streaming release on October 28, 2022 on Netflix.
The new trailer introduces us to Kat Elliot (played by Lyric Ross), a teenage Goth girl who is forced to face her demons. And while we all have our share of guilt and regret to carry around, Kat’s demons actually have names: Wendell (played by Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (played by Jordan Peele). The trailer doesn’t reveal why Kat is being targeted by the titular demons, but it looks like the movie will deal with repressed trauma and a scarring childhood. That’s because, in the trailer, the young protagonist is led by a nun to face her fears and ends up discovering the demons that haunt her nightmares.
Selick employs the use of 2D cutouts as well as 3D puppets, taking inspiration from fellow stop-motion projects such as Charlie Kaufmann’s Anomalisa and Wes Anderson’s Isle Of Dogs.
“We start with hand-sculpted stuff, and I work with 2D animators to figure out the expressions,” Selick explains to IndieWire. “I don’t like that being done on the computer.”
“I love origami, paper sculpture—this interplay between flat stuff and dimensional stuff,” he adds. “It’s a lot easier ’cause it’s flat, and gravity is not the enemy as it is with puppets.”
While current technology can really smooth out work made using stop-motion, for this project Selick really wanted to lean into the look and feel of the traditional medium. The result is dynamic, gritty, and all-around spooky (just in time for Halloween).
“I wanted the stop-motion to be more obviously stop-motion. There are more flaws in it. We shot more on 2s, even 3s. Laika does the prettiest stop-motion in the world, but sometimes I feel like it’s CG, and I wanted to make our film look a little rougher. And I love what Wes has done—his last [animated] film, Isle of Dogs, is a masterpiece—but that’s his particular style. I was building on what I’d done in the past but maybe going back a little, not fussing so much. There were fewer rehearsals; I wanted to capture a little more of the spirit and efforts of people and not go through so many steps.”
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