Many believe it's a forgone conclusion that Pixar's "Up" will win the Best Animated Feature at this year's Academy Awards, but if any film could provide an upset it's "Coraline."  A unique critical and box office stop motion hit, the Henry Selick directed adaptation of Neil Gaiman's novel has a strong fanbase within the industry.  If -- and it's a big if -- "Up" gets a traditional Best Picture nomination as expected, it wouldn't be that surprising for some voters to conceivably change their vote in the Animated Film category for "Coraline."

After landing an impressive 10 nominations for this year's Annie Awards (arguably more prestigious to animators than the Oscars), Selick jumped on the phone this week to talk about the success of "Coraline" and his future projects.

"I went all over the charts, but generally was assuming far less," Selick says regarding "Coraline's" $75 million take. "Honestly, you don't know. You know what you have to make to convince people to make another one.  People catch on like viruses and there is no explaining [what they will and won't like]. We're just glad we caught it at the right time."

Selick credits Gaiman's increasing fame and the 3-D aspect, but was also grateful Focus Features didn't try to promote the dark fairy tale like a film it wasn't.  He notes, "The marketing did a great job of selling the movie we made instead of pretending it was like the other animated films out there when we weren't anything like them."

This past October, the director best known for "The Nightmare Before Christmas" made a surprising exit from Portland based animation studio Laika.  Laika financed and helped produce "Coraline," but both parties seem ready to move on.  Selick told Awards Campaign he has three projects in the works.  One is a new collaboration with Neil Gaiman (possibly "The Graveyard Book"? ), another is a personal screenplay he's worked on for the past ten years and the third is a previously unknown original story he's discovered. 

Selick is going to return to his homebase of the bay area and hopes to create a new film collective with the many stop motion artists he's worked with over the past 20 years.  He'll soon be announcing a new distributor or producing partnership for the three projects and then a financing arrangement to allow all three to be greenlit at one time. 

"I hope to have financing lined up in Feb or March,"
Selick says. "My [new company] announcement will be in the next couple of weeks. I am gonna make another stop-motion film. As long as someone is going to see them, I'll make them."

With the industry and audiences embracing both CG, stop-motion and the return of traditional hand drawn animation all within 12 months, Selick admits he's excited about the future prospects for the medium.

"It almost doesn't even make sense," Selick says. "There has only been five or six stop motion pictures that have been made recently and to have a couple in one year and a few indie films like '999,' which was excellent, and now there are gonna be three big [stop-motion] features going at once.  It feels wonderful that people believe in this."

There has been lots of discussion about Selick being involved in the early stages of Wes Anderson's own stop-motion animated tale "Fantastic Mr. Fox," but Selick dismisses his involvement as negligible.

"Wes asked me to come in and create stop motion creatures for the 'Life Aquatic' film and he wanted to do a stop motion picture for 'Fox,'" Selick recalls. "I didn't do much work and we discussed it and when I finished up he was gonna be writing the script with Noah Baumbach and eventually sent it me. I had been working on 'Coraline' and when I got a greenlit I couldn't be involved. I did recommend some of the crew. His animation director, Mark Gustafson, very talented guy who I recommended him for that position. And there were other people I sent his way too. In theory, it's a nice idea, but Wes is a very strong director and it's probably best he directed it himself."

As for "Coraline's" upcoming Oscar prospects?  Well, you can't fault Selick for being honest.  He humbly reveals, "I'm not counting on it, but I'd be deeply disappointed if it wasn't nominated."

He literally has nothing to worry about.

What do you think "Coraline's" chances are of upsetting "Up" for best picture? Share your thoughts below.

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