Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Henry Selick Interview

I was recently contacted by Focus Features asking if I'd like to do a phone interview with Henry Selick regarding his latest film, Coraline, and here it is:

CZ: Hopefully my questions are different enough from what others are asking.
HS: That's okay. I try to answer differently each time.

CZ: Just wanted to start off by saying that I was at the screening last year when you showed the first 30 minutes of Coraline.
HS: I'm interested in your thoughts on that compared with the final version.

CZ: Well, if I can remember correctly I don't think I saw the bit with the Ranft brothers until I saw the final version. Was that missing in that first cut then added in later?

HS: Yes, and there was a segment in that initial cut that we liked that we unfortunately had to cut where Coraline comes into the kitchen and inadvertently flicks a bug into her mom's drink and the mom doesn't notice and the bug crawls out drunkenly. We didn't have anything against the scene but had to begrudgingly remove it so that Coraline would encounter the Other World more quickly.

CZ: Oh, okay, so the part with Joe and Jerome Ranft as the Ranft Bros. Moving Company was added in later. How did you get the idea to add that in?
HS: They actually had their own moving company when they were in their late teens and early twenties. Being the big guys they are their friends and family would always call on them first for moving help so they put "Ranft Bros. Moving Company" on some t-shirts and would trade their services for food, pizza, beer, etc. And of course it was nice to have an homage to Joe. But, yes, they actually did have a moving company, so to speak, in real life.

CZ: How does creating a stop-motion film today differ from back when you directed The Nightmare Before Christmas? Anything easier or harder?
HS: Well, on every movie we make we try to top ourselves so there is always something difficult about the process.

CZ: What components of the graphic novel were the most important to include in the film?
HS: I actually never saw the graphic novel. Neil showed me a few pages of his work before he actually got it approved. Every prospective publisher kept turning it down for being too dark but we were able to develop a script based on what we got from him before his graphic novel was published.

CZ: Is it true Coraline was originally planned as a musical?
HS: No, but we did have They Might Be Giants demo a number of songs, all of which turned out great but no matter how hard we tried it didn't seem like we could work them into the film without shoehorning them in.

CZ: The character Wybie Lovat isn't in Neil Gaiman's original Coraline novel. What inspired you to create the character?
HS: He started out as a development note to add more kids to the movie. I didn't want to add more kids but as we developed the film I saw it was fine to work one kid in so that Coraline would have a human ally in the Other World, especially since the cat doesn't speak much. And then we were able to bring in the bit about Wybie's grandmother.

CZ: All of the stop-motion films you’ve directed could be considered darker family films. What draws you to that type of material?
HS: If you look at the early Disney films such as Snow White they were also dark with lots of disturbing moments. I mean the queen wants to kill Snow White and sends a hunter after her to bring her heart back. I like a good, dark fairy tale but I put them in a more modern setting. Anyway, I think kids deserve a good ghost story...

CZ: It seems a lot of people think Tim Burton directed Nightmare Before Christmas. When Coraline was advertised as being, "From the director of Nightmare," some people assumed Burton directed it as well. What are your thoughts on that?
HS: Well, that's just coming from people who are lazy and don't pay attention to the credits when they start rolling to see the name of the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Tim Burton is a genius and he created an amazing world but he was down in Los Angeles working on two live-action films while we were up in San Francisco creating Nightmare. But Coraline has received a lot of attention and has done good things for us.

CZ: What are your current plans?
HS: I've got a new stop-motion film I am working on. Oddly enough stop-motion is in more demand than ever. Laika's keeping busy. Aardman's keeping busy.

Thanks to Henry and the people at Focus, including Yannina and Tara, for facilitating this interview. Also check out the prior interview I did with Henry about Moongirl at Animated News and Views. Coraline is available from Focus Features/Laika Entertainment in several DVD packages including 3D Blu-Ray:

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