Later this month marks the 20th anniversary of Henry Selick's "The Nightmare Before Christmas," a delightful stop motion fable from the imagination of Tim Burton and Disney that would eventually become something of a cultural phenomenon, complete with a yearly holiday redo of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion attraction and untold millions of dollars in merchandise sales. In the years since though, Selick's career has been unusually spotty, culminating in the out-and-out disaster that was his deal with Disney and Pixar to create four original films, which ended before the first movie could be completed (the studio terminated his contract and lost $50 million on the project). Well, never count a good animator down. FilmNation has just hired the director to helm "A Tale Dark & Grimm," a live action adaptation of a children's book by Adam Gidwitz that reinterprets the original Grimm Brothers' fairy tales.
What's interesting about this is that it isn't an animated feature. This is, from the sounds of it, a completely live action film. Selick's involvement in live action is even more worrisome than his animation work, with the first half of Disney's "James and the Giant Peach" and most of the disastrous "Monkeybone" being realized with real people, both to truly terrible effect. One of the movie's intended for his Disney/Pixar deal was a live action/animated adaptation of Neil Gaiman's "The Graveyard Book," which would have been pretty phenomenal if ever realized, and this seems to be sort of along the same lines, as it "follows two unsuspecting children who run away from their own dark fairy tale in search of a better life only to find themselves amidst eight other tales just as fearsome." Could work.
“I remain completely enraptured by Adam Gidwitz’ marvelous book A Tale Dark & Grimm,” said Selick in a statement. “It’s a hilarious, deeply inventive tale about survival in the world of fairy tales and what it takes to forgive one’s parents. So it’s a huge thrill to be joining the team of Kamala Films and FilmNation as the director of the film based on it. Between the great material and a team that really gets it, I hope to make something really special that lasts.”
Selick's last film, the aborted Disney project "The Shadow King," is in some unfinished state, despite Selick vowing to try and sell the film at this year's European Film Market (nothing ever came of it). He had a whole crew and a new studio called Cinderbiter that Disney had built for the project, whose core creative team included many Disney and Pixar vets, including Lou Romano, the talented story artist and voice of Linguini in "Ratatouille." Who knows if it will ever see the light of day.
While any new project from Selick is reason enough to get excited, we can't muster much enthusiasm for a live action feature. The director has never been gifted in this department, although we imagine there will be some aspect of stop motion animation involved in "A Tale Dark & Grimm." [Deadline]