Is Wendell & Wild Stop-Motion Animation?

By Amanda Guarragi
Published: October 29, 2022 (Last updated: February 15, 2024)

Wendell & Wild has hit the Netflix top 10s, and the film has made audiences and critics happy, but is it stop-motion animation? We explore the makings of the movie.

The themes in Wendell & Wild explore a young girl’s friend after losing her parents at a young age. We see the young woman she has grown into because of her past trauma. Kat (Lyric Ross) still has trouble moving forward because her past haunts her.

In this film, two devious demon brothers, Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Jordan Peele), have to face their arch-enemy. Sister Helley (Angela Bassett) is notorious for expelling demons, and she ends up helping them.

However, the brothers are not just plagued by her but also her altar boys. The film is directed by Henry Selick and co-written by Jordan Peele. The theme of grief carries that emotional weight and is powerfully explored through the stop-motion animation.

However, the direction of the story is a bit messy. The pacing of the film felt rushed because the character introductions were cut short and not explained. At some points, the story with Kat is placed on the back burner because of the other storylines being explored. There is a connection with the underworld to Wendell & Wild that is also a weak link to Kat because they use her to bring them back to the Land of the Living.

Anything is possible through animation, so her theoretical demons manifest into physical beings for her to see. Unfortunately, Kat blames herself for her parent’s death and carries this with her. She goes to a new boarding school and discovers that she has different powers that link her to the underworld. Wendell & Wild has strong themes of grief and guilt that come through in the stunning animation. Kat’s feelings are manifested in Wendell & Wild, but they’re never fully explored. It’s almost as if her storyline is cut short because of situations at the school, in the underworld, and in the corporate business. We only get to know the character through her trauma and not as a young girl trying to process it fully.

The animation in this film is quite stunning as director Henry Selick raises the bar on how it can improve. Stop-motion animation is incredibly difficult to craft and produce, and at this point, technology can do incredible things. He wanted to be able to elevate the medium after becoming a filmmaker that has created such importance for stop-motion in his career. Sometimes stop-motion animation can be a bit distracting because of the movements, but Wendell & Wild completely changed that. Jordan Peele saw the potential of working with Selick with a story centered on a young Black girl and her mental health.

Selick had been coasting by, waiting for the right moment to return. It’s an ambitious feat as the story explores a multitude of ideas and is uniquely executed through stop-motion animation. The medium has trouble with the general audience and the demographic they market to at times because there are some people who strictly believe that animation is just for children.

However, when there are adult themes present within animated features, it really does cater more to adults than children. Sure, the animation is beautiful, and children can enjoy the fun creatures that are created, but they never fully grasp the symbolism or meaning of the story until they are older. There’s a certain appreciation for filmmakers who are able to create something for children while addressing social issues for adults.

In a way, it’s a complex way of creating layers within a medium that has so much freedom in visual storytelling. Labeling it as “just for kids” is derogatory, and animators filmmakers like Henry Selick, and even Guillermo Del Toro have been fighting for the medium for a very long time. These stories only have power in the execution of the visuals because there are no boundaries when crafting scenes. A balloon can turn into a frog and have some sort of symbolism that live-action just can’t create the magic for. Henry Selick’s Wendell & Wild takes stop-motion animation to new heights and the possibilities are now endless with the technology we have.

Where does Wendell & Wild take place? 

Wendell & Wild take place in Portland, Oregon. After Coraline, Henry Selick felt stop-motion animation had to become so smooth it had to be indistinguishable from computer animation, defeating some of the purposes of stop-motion.

When did Wendell & Wild come out?

Wendell & Wild had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and was officially released on Netflix on Friday, October 28th.

Is Wendell & Wild stop-motion?

Wendell & Wild is indeed stop-motion animation and is considered an adult animated horror comedy film.

What studio made Wendell & Wild?

Even though Henry Selick has worked with the Hillsboro-based stop-motion juggernaut Laika Studios with Coraline, and Wendell and Wild were shot in Portland, there is no direct affiliation to the studio. Instead, Peele’s production house MonkeyPaw Productions and Netflix Animation was used.

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