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Henry Selick Talks Fighting Wildfires During 'Wendell & Wild's Production

By Amanda Caroline  •  September 12, 2022  •  138

Things were heated during the film’s production.

Wendell & Wild director Henry Selick talked about the animated film's complicated production, as the crew had to rescue stop-motion puppets from wildfires in Oregon. Collider's own Alyse Wax visited Wendell & Wild’s set and got to talk about Selick about past, present, and future projects, while also uncovering secrets of the filmmaker’s first movie since Coraline.

After helming cult classics such as Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and James and the Giant Peach, Selick became a stop-motion legend. It’s been a while since we saw any Selick movie, so we are all very excited about Wendell & Wild, which is expected to hit Netflix this October. However, the movie is being released long after Selick intended, as the production had to deal with Oregon’s 2020 wildfires, a destructive event that forced the crew to plan a puppet rescue. As Selick retells it:

“We have been through hell and back, in terms of interruptions. We had forest fires. They had fires here in Oregon that they never had before. It actually threatened the studio. There had to be a puppet rescue. Afterwards, we were put in cars and taken away when the smoke was getting close, with the idea that, if the studio burns, we can rebuild the sets, but we can’t replace the puppets. That’s very labor intensive. We had this thing called the Heat Dome, you know, one once in a thousand years. It was the hottest place on earth here, in Portland. For a few days, 116 or 120, you know, a street car caved, the plastic around some of the cables melting it was like we went through a lot.”

After losing assets due to the wildfires, Selick feared the movie would become too expensive for Netflix to fund. That concern extended through 2020, as the COVID pandemics forced the animation studio to shut down after the Oregon fires were already under control. However, as Selick underlines, the streaming platform was extremely supportive. In Selick’s words:

“We said, ‘oh, man, they’re going to stop the movie now. Oh, yeah, Netflix is going to stop the movie now’. But they never did, they have always supported us. Then, when we had to shut the studio down for COVID, initially before we learned to live with it, they paid everybody even if they couldn’t work from home. Um, and the costs overages, but they were willing to not lose the crew. So we did find an amazing level of commitment to us. And the movie. It definitely added a year, year and a half to the schedule.”

Based on an unpublished book by Selick and Clay McLeod Chapman, Wendell & Wild follows two demon brothers (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) who enlist the help of a 13-years old goth girl (Lyric Ross) to escape Hell and invade the Living World. Selick directs from a script he wrote with horror genius Jordan Peele.

Wendell & Wild will have its world premiere at the 47th Toronto International Film Festival on September 11. After that, the animated movie will come to Netflix in October, just in time for Halloween. Check out the film's teaser below.