Apologies to you – and to Stephen – for not getting to this earlier today. But Tuesday night I went to the Tex Avery award presentation, which honors achievement in animation. As we’ve noted, Henry Selick was this year’s winner. Selick had a great conversation with Gary Cogill, which was broken up by three clip reels highlighting Selick’s feature films (Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach); his student work and other shorts; and his commercial work. Here are a few things I learned:
- Selick credits Lenny Lipton for making Coraline possible. Lipton invented Real D, the 3-D system theaters are using now, along with a lot of other 3D technology. He also wrote “Puff the Magic Dragon” when he was 19.
- Selick is tall, thin and long-limbed. Not unlike Jack Skellington in Nightmare Before Christmas. Which is not a coincidence. Selick says there’s a lot of himself in Jack. And Jack may enjoy making cameos. “Jack might be in every film that I’ve done,” says Selick. Though, for legal reasons, if you think that too, “that’s just your imagination.”
- The great thing about stop-motion is that it’s “all real stuff, touched by human hands,” Selick says. 3D is great for it, because it shows off some of the imperfections inherent in handmade work. This is also why Selick sometimes shoots his work at fewer than the usual 24 frames per second. Slowing down makes things jumpier, another way to reveal the human touch.
- Selick also gave the Pillsbury Doughboy a makeover. And you can see shades of the visual style of Coraline and Nightmare (skeletons, scissors) in the station IDs he did for MTV.
- The film is Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Burton wrote the poem that sparked the story. But Selick actually directed the picture. Burton was making Ed Wood at the time. It’s only been in the last four years or so that the film has been marketed under the Disney name. (It was originally released through Disney’s Touchstone division.)
- Selick lives in Portland. Cogill is also from Portland. Both men were profoundly moved as kids by The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and the other animation of pioneer Ray Harryhausen.