Coraline and Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick is a meticulous craftsman with a strong vision, which is not the same thing as “a guy who knocks out work quickly and on corporate deadlines.” Disney recently dumped his latest film project, leaving it homeless and at one point officially dead in the water. But now it’s picked up a firm title (The Shadow King), a new producer, a new partner, and some new hope.
Back in 2010, Variety broke the news that Disney had partnered with Selick for a series of stop-motion features. The marriage didn’t last long; the plug was pulled on Selick’s first solo Disney film in August 2012, when it became clear that it wasn’t close to making its planned October 2013 release date. And a couple of weeks ago, news broke that Ron Howard might take over Disney’s film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which was also previously on Selick’s plate.
Briefly, it looked like Selick’s film would find a home with Laika, the production company behind Coraline and 2012’s ParaNorman, but budget complications led Laika to decline, and Selick informed his staff that the film was dead. It’s showing significant signs of life again, though; German-based production and distribution company K5 International has signed on to partner with Selick to shop the film around for funding. They’ll be presenting it to investors at February’s European Film Market, the business wing of the Berlin International film festival. K5’s website now prominently features a poster for The Shadow King, featuring characters obviously in Selick’s visual style. The site also posted this plot summary:
Hap Dagger, a nine-year-old orphan, hides his fantastically weird hands from a cruel world. But when a Living Shadow Girl teaches him to make amazing hand shadows that come alive, his hands become incredible weapons in a shadow war against a ravenous Monster who could destroy Hap’s brother and all of New York.
K5 also lists Beasts Of The Southern Wild producer Josh Penn as coming on board to produce, and offers a cast list, featuring Pamela Adlon (King Of The Hill’s Bobby Hill), Brendan Gleeson, Jeffrey Tambor, and Catherine O’Hara. All of which makes Shadow King sound much more like a film in progress than a painstakingly manipulated and hand-formed gleam in Selick’s eye. But it’s still worth noting that it doesn’t do a film much good to have a cast, a plot, a producer, and a distribution partner if it doesn’t actually have funding yet. Here’s keeping our fantastically weird fingers crossed.