Why Coraline director Henry Selick doesn't want to be Pixar

Henry Selick, writer-producer-director of the upcoming 3-D stop-motion-animated feature Coraline, told SCI FI Wire that he's mulling several movies as his next project, including Paranorman and a big-screen version of Philip Pullman's children's book Count Karlstein. Both are in keeping with Selick's offbeat aesthetic sensibility: He tells us he doesn't want to be another Pixar.

For now, Selick has nothing lined up at the moment, but he addessed both potential films during a recent exclusive interview about Coraline, which will open nationwide on Feb. 6. Following are edited excerpts of the conversation.

What is Paranorman about, and how far along is that?

Selick: Paranorman is something that I am not going to direct. But I will be the creative producer on it. My head story artist is a young guy named Chris Butler. It's his own original story and something I believe in. It's kind of a funny zombie tale [about a teenage boy leading his town's fight against an influx of the undead]. I'm helping him put together the team and looking for partners with our studio [Laika]. So my first effort is going to be to help him put the team together. Paranorman is moving quite well. There's a second draft of that screenplay that's just about finished. I have hopes for that. There are some characters designs, and we're talking about talent. So that's really starting to heat up.

And what about Count Karlstein?

Selick: That's on the back burner. It's a Philip Pullman kids' book from before The Golden Compass and His Dark Materials. A friend of mine and I, we basically cooked up a story for it a few years ago, and now I've been able to option it. Count Karlstein, it's sort of a re-imagining of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. What I love about it is that the hero is an incredible liar. And instead of being the boy who cried wolf and being punished for that, it turns out it's a great gift. And it's the thing that is her weapon against evil. So that's something where I already have worked out a film story, but I haven't written the screenplay yet.

Do you actually have a next project, or is it all pretty much riding on what happens with Coraline?

Selick: There's a huge amount riding on what happens with [Coraline]. I don't know if it will be black and white. The investors, they don't need their money this week, but as long as they see that through the theatrical release to the DVD release, and all those revenue streams, that they can pay for the film, they'll be happy. So, yeah, a lot is riding on it. But a lot of it is riding on it just in terms of creativity. Can we [Laika] go our own path and not just be another Pixar or DreamWorks wannabe animation studio? That's a huge part of this, because I'd like us to keep doing a little more unique projects and subject matter.

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