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Henry Selick

Henry Selick
Selick on a panel at South by Southwest, March 2009
Born (1952-11-30) November 30, 1952
Glen Ridge, New Jersey, U.S.
Other names C. Hernry Selick
Occupation Film director, film producer, character designer, stop motion animator, storyboard artist
Years active 1977–present
Spouse(s) Heather Selick

Henry Selick (born November 30, 1952) is an American stop motion director, producer and writer who is best known for directing The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and Coraline. He studied at the Program in Experimental Animation at California Institute of the Arts, under the guidance of Jules Engel.


  • Early life 1
  • Film work 2
    • Disney 2.1
    • Freelance work 2.2
    • The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) 2.3
    • James and the Giant Peach (1996) and Monkeybone (2001) 2.4
    • Life Aquatic (2004) and Moongirl (2005) 2.5
    • Coraline (2009) 2.6
    • Working with Pixar and present work 2.7
  • Style and creative temperament 3
  • Filmography 4
    • Director 4.1
    • Others 4.2
    • Producer 4.3
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Selick was born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, the son of Melanie (née Molan) and Charles H. Selick.[1][2] He was raised in Rumson.[3] Selick did little but draw from ages 3 to 12. Selick's fascination with animation came at a young age, when he first saw both Lotte Reiniger's stop-motion movie The Adventures of Prince Achmed, and the animated creatures of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad by Ray Harryhausen.

After studying science at Rutgers University and art at Syracuse University and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, Selick eventually enrolled at CalArts to study animation. While a student at CalArts, his two student films, Phases and Tube Tales, were nominated for Student Academy Awards.

Film work


After his academic studies, he went to work for 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

With a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Selick was able to make the short film Seepage, which won an award. 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)

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 initially under performed 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)

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),[4] and it won the top prize for an animated feature at the Annecy Film Festival in 1997.

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)

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)

Selick's first feature with LAIKA is Coraline, which is based on the book by acclaimed author Neil Gaiman and was released in 2009. It is the first stereoscopic stop-motion animated movie.[5] The film has 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

In 2010, Selick joined with Pixar and The Walt Disney Company in a long-term contract to exclusively produce stop-motion films.[6] This not only returns Selick to his original roots, but also reunites Selick with numerous former friends and co-animators. His new studio, called "Cinderbiter Productions", is 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." [7]

Selick and Cinderbiter's first film under this deal, a project called ShadeMaker, was set to be released on October 4, 2013.[8] In August 2012 it was reported that Disney had stopped production on the project, saying that due to "a creative and scheduling standpoint, the pic wasn't where it needed to be to meet its planned release date." Selick now has the option to shop the project to another studio.[9]

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.[10]

On February 5, 2013, it was announced that the ShadeMaker project, now known as The Shadow King, went back into production. Josh Penn (Beasts of the Southern Wild) will produce for the German company K5 International.[11]

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.[12]

Style and creative temperament

Joe Ranft, Selick's friend and sometime collaborator, stated in a 1999 interview in Salon magazine[13] 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."






  1. ^ Current Biography Yearbook - Google Books. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  2. ^ "CHARLES H. SELICK, 80, of RUMSON". Asbury Park Press. May 4, 2006. 
  3. ^ 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..."
  4. ^ Corliss, Richard (April 15, 1996). "CINEMA: TAKING OUT THE BUGS".  
  5. ^ Dunlop, Renee. 12 February 2009 Coraline; One Step at a Time for the Puppet of a Thousand Faces
  6. ^ Cunningham, Joe. "Henry Selick To Join Disney/Pixar". Front Row Reviews. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  7. ^ Amidi, Amid (2010-12-20). "Henry Selick’s New Studio Cinderbiter Hiring Head of Story".  
  8. ^ "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. 
  9. ^ Graser, Marc. "Disney pulls plug on Selick stop-motion pic". Variety. Retrieved 17 August 2012. 
  10. ^ "Disney Acquires Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Graveyard Book’ Adaptation [Updated]". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  11. ^ "The First Image From Henry Selick's The Shadow King". 2013-02-05. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  12. ^ Henry Selick Gives Up Animation For “A Tale Dark and Grimm”
  13. ^ "Toy Story Man". 

External links

  • Henry Selick at the Internet Movie Database
  • Layers: A Look at Henry Selick
  • Director's Bio
  • HENRY SELICK - Slow Bob in the Lower Dimensions
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
  • Selick Talks Vinton Projects
  • Henry Selick talks "Coraline" - They Might be Giants to compose music for the film; the casting includes British actresses Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders
  • Selick To Direct Coraline
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