Henry Selick Comments On His Canceled “Shadow King” Film


Director Henry Selick is well known amongst the animation community as the go-to when it comes to stop motion films. He was responsible for animated classics such as The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and Coraline.

Slick has been out of the director’s chair for some time, but is returning after 13 years in a new animated film for Netflix Wendell & Wild with comedy duo Key and Peele. The film follows two demon brothers who trick a 13 year old girl into releasing them into the land of the living. A real Halloween treat.

However, while promoting his new film in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter Selick reminisced on a canceled film he was working on at Disney, but was canceled before release. That being The Shadow King.


The story would have followed Hap Dagger, a nine-year-old orphan, hides his fantastically weird hands from a cruel world. But when a Living Shadow Girl teaches him to make amazing hand shadows that come alive, his hands become incredible weapons in a shadow war against a ravenous Monster who could destroy Hap’s brother and all of New York.

While Selick was finishing up Coraline screened the film for Pixar and was offered a film deal by John Lasseter and Disney. The film began pre-production in 2011 but was canceled in 2012 after Disney backed out of the deal. Selick stated:

He [John Lasseter] really loved the movie, loved what he was seeing, and then they screened Coraline at Pixar and everyone liked it. And they offered me a deal to make a stop-motion film. And it had to be for a much lower budget than the CG films. Stop-motion films have never out of the gate been as successful as big CG films. The best stop-motion films live forever, though. And, as we see with Nightmare, make billions in merchandising.

He also elaborated on the troubled production and what lead to its cancellation:

Pixar have their braintrust and they rip things apart. They rebuild, rip things apart, rebuild. Lasseter really couldn’t support my vision. He thought he could make it better. And so, we kept changing and changing and changing. We hired a whole new crew. We were actually into animation and it was one of those things where the budget started creeping up, creeping up, and a new guy came in, Alan Horn, at Disney and they just felt no, it’s going to go off the charts for the budget because of the constant changes. It was shut down and it was a sad day. But it’s also a huge relief because it’s like taking your kid to the playground and watching your kid get beat up every day, and then having to take your kid home and wipe the tears away. It really wasn’t meant to be.

Selick stated that he hopes he can still bring the project to life someday:

I got the rights back. I’ll owe Disney a little bit of money if we set it up, but maybe. And I absolutely feel that it would be successful for the right price. You know, if people truly like what I’ve written and want that movie, rather than think they like it and want to turn it into Toy Story 8. I think a lot of people would like to see that movie.

While it is always sad to see a Disney film get canceled/shelved and wonder what could have been, at least we know that stop-motion animation is still seen as a great source for creativity. Be it from Laika Studios or from the mind of Wes Anderson we will always enjoy these films.

What do you think? Do you wish Disney had made The Shadow King? Do you think they could still make it today?

Source: The Cartoon Brew

Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.