Henry Selick, a giant in the pocket-sized world of stop-motion animation, is almost finished with production on his next film, an as-yet-untitled project for Walt Disney Co.
The director of "Coraline" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" has been supervising a crew of about 150 craftspersons and animators from his new studio, Cinderbiter, based in an old chocolate factory in San Francisco's Mission District. The film will be Selick's first since signing an exclusive deal with Disney in 2010.
"It’s an original story of mine," Selick said of the film, which has so far remained shrouded in secrecy.
The project will hew to the spooky-sweet tone of Selick's previous work, he said.
"It won’t come from totally left field," he said. "What I personally gravitate toward tends to be fantasy, medium dark -- not too dark -- fairy tales and sci fi. Stop-motion takes something on the page that’s really dark and adds a little sweetness to it, a living toys realm."
Selick, who attended the California Institute of the Arts with Disney/Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter and Pixar director Brad Bird in the 1970s, said he consulted with the animation studio's creative leaders several times while developing his script. Taking story notes from Pixar's candid "brain trust" was a new and sometimes arresting experience for Selick, who historically has been more of a lone tinkerer as a director.
"The first time, I thought, ‘Oh my God, I don’t know if I can handle this, Why did John [Lasseter] agree to help me make my films?' " he said. "But then I found out it’s that way with everybody, even their best filmmakers. When you see what they produce, it’s like, 'OK, [I] don’t take any of it personally.' ''
The gist of the notes, Selick said, was, "Don’t get caught up in eye candy. They said, 'Let’s try to make your story as clear as possible and give it as much heart as it deserves.' "
Selick described the 2013 release date listed by IMDB.com for his film as "tentative."
Photo: Henry Selick with a puppet from "Coraline." Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times