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[Annecy] Henry Selick Talks 'Coraline' Remaster, Next Film and 'The Shadow King'

At this week's Annecy International Animation Festival there are numerous exciting events and panels. Among them was Variety's LAIKA Celebrates Coraline's 15th Anniversary. At this event, commemorating the 15th anniversary of LAIKA's debut, there was a surprise appearance: : Coraline director Henry Selick.

Selick has rarely been associated with LAIKA since he parted ways with the studio after Coraline was released. So much so you might be forgiven for wondering how amicable a split it was. This appearance signifies that if there ever was any bad blood, it's all water under the bridge now.

“I was never more spoiled. I got support there like nobody’s business" Selick says of his time at LAIKA. "Nobody was saying: ‘No, we don’t need that, we don’t believe in that.’ It was a place that would take crazy risks."

Selick confirmed that he has seen the new anniversary 3D restoration of Coraline and was suitably impressed."It’s gorgeous" he said. "I saw it about a week and a half ago and it very much represents the original dream of how to use the 3D really well," He said that changes are "minor" and "won't make a difference to the audience."

Based on the novella by Neil Gaiman, the 2009 film follows the misadventures of Coraline Jones. Stumbling on a doorway to another world that is somewhat similar (but also very different), she soon discovers that the grass is not always greener on The Other Side.

The film's iconic imagery and child-friendly creepy atmosphere have assured that it's considered a modern classic of stop-motion.

Coraline will be re-released in cinemas worldwide later this summer.

Henry Selick also appeared later at an event of his own, where he looked back at his career, and also looked ahead to his future.  He confirmed that he is once again teaming up with Neil Gaiman for a planned adaptation of his 2013 novel The Ocean At The End Of The Lane. Selick plans to make it his next feature.

The plot (taken from the stage show adaptation) features [a man] "returning to his childhood home, ..[he] finds himself standing beside the pond of the old Sussex farmhouse where he used to play. He's transported to his 12th birthday when his remarkable friend Lettie claimed it wasn't a pond, but an ocean–a place where everything is possible... Plunged into a magical world, their survival depends on their ability to reckon with ancient forces that threaten to destroy everything around them."

Selick compares the film to Coraline, describing it as "a companion piece" and "almost a sequel" to the earlier film. "Instead of a child going to this other world with a monstrous mother, it’s a monstrous mother who comes into our world to wreak havoc on a kid’s life,"

Selick has a finely honed 35 page treatment and many pages of concept artwork and designs, The stop-motion master is now shopping the project around. He has hinted at interest from Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio studio ShadowMachine, while praising his former partners LAIKA as the home of "the best talent and the best resources,”

Selick also discussed reviving his infamous lost project The Shadow King. The film has gone on to develop an almost mythological status since it fell apart after being in production at Disney/Pixar. Selick is now considering reviving the project as a graphic novel, as a potential way to generate interest in a potential future film that could be passed on to another director.

Attendees were given a chance to see five minutes of nearly completed footage from the original cancelled film.

Selick reflected on the medium and on competition from digital animation."[CG] did kill us, but then, we were resurrected many times,” he said. “[Stop-motion] is based on the first trick photography and the original movie magic. [The format] can’t grow old, because it’s already old, but that doesn’t mean it’s musty and should be locked away in the attic. That just means it’s connected to something deeper and more historic."

"Our films have always had a smaller market, But they last longer, and will have a much longer life… The best stop motion films aren’t just of this moment. They’re for all time."