‘Wendell & Wild’ Review | A Delightfully Wicked Stop-Motion Adventure
From the delightfully wicked minds of Henry Selick and producer Jordan Peele comes “WENDELL & WILD”, an animated tale about scheming demon brothers Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Peele), who enlist the aid of Kat Elliot — a tough teen with a load of guilt — to summon them to the Land of the Living. But what Kat demands in return leads to a brilliantly bizarre and comedic adventure like no other, an animated fantasy that defies the law of life and death, all told through the handmade artistry of stop motion.
“Wendell and Wild” is a solid return to Stop-Motion Animation from Director Henry Selick & Jordan Peele who reunites with Keegan Michael Key for this spooktacular! macabre adventure that features stunning visuals, dark comedy, and a touching story about facing your personal demons whether physically or mentally.
Henry Selick makes his triumphant return to stop motion as he masterfully handcrafts a nightmarish world once again. The Academy Award-nominated director has ventured and brought to life “James and the Giant Peach”, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Coraline. Now after thirteen years he’s crafted a core thrilling narrative about a misfit young girl alongside co-writer/producer Jordan Peele, who also stars as one of the titular demons alongside his long-time comedic partner Keegan-Michael Key, Peele brings his unique voice and flavour to the project.
Adapted from an unpublished book that Selick wrote with horror author Clay McLeod Chapman, Wendell & Wild showcases the story’s 13-year-old protagonist. Kat (Lyric Ross) is a green-haired outsider with a tragic past who has come to Rust Bank Catholic School for Girls to disturb the peace, blasting punk rock through her dad’s prized boombox, the Cyclops. Through a magic toy bear called Bearz-A-Bub (Phoebe Lamot) and a nun named Sister Helley (Angela Bassett), Kat learns she’s more than a chip-on-the-shoulder punk rocker — she’s a Hellmaiden, a girl who can summon demons.
Lyric Ross gives a powerful performance that brings to life the pain Kat has suffered, haunted by her past she puts on this gruff front to keep others away because her broken heart cannot endure any more grief. Her character design indeed illustrates her pain and disguise with a goth-punk aesthetic that includes facial piercings, her green hair, and her school uniform pierced with safety pins, paired with fishnets, and black platform boots.
the attention to detail throughout the stop-motion adventure is incredibly artistic as Kat has roughly 160 individually hand-curled strands of hair on her head, each made of dyed wool. The costuming team thinks through every detail of each outfit, down to creating scale-correct wrinkles and creases in clothing, including Kat’s school uniform plaid Rust Bank Catholic skirt that she rips up and remakes to look more punk, which took
the costuming team 45 steps and five days to make. Kat’s skirt has a vertical plaid pattern, and the rest of the RBC girls have a straight pattern, visually setting her apart.
Kat’s story is intertwined with that of Wendell and Wild, two demons who want more out of life than being stuck at the Scream Faire as they plot their escape from Buffalo Belzer (Ving Rhames), who also happens to be their father. Wendell, Wild’s hot-tempered older brother, and the brains behind this duo of scheming demons. Built like a walking stick, he and Wild dream of one day escaping their miserable lives in the Underworld to build something amazing in the Land of the Living. Once there, Wendell’s ample wit and charm are bound to win over any naysayers.
Wild on the other hand is the younger half of this demonic duo, a stout rulebreaker and slacker who gulps stolen hair crème to “tickle his tummy.” When Wild brags to the wrong demons about their secret plans, he and Wendell are exiled to the barren hinterlands of the Underworld with only a giant pet bug named Sparky for company.
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are a phenomenal duo and the chemistry between the two truly carries the film. Their puppet counterparts are a spitting image as the puppeteers have managed to capture their likeness and characteristics. To help character designer Pablo Lobato prepare for designing the characters, Selick suggested watching Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key’s comedy show KEY & PEELE. Selick specifically noted the sketch “Prepared for Terries” — the famous sketch was two eccentric airline passengers preparing to combat a hypothetical terrorist plot.
Wendell and Wild’s father, Lord of the Underworld and Ruler of the Scream Faire — an afterlife destination for the Souls of the Danged. He’s mean, scary, and vain, but he’s got a soft spot in his heart as big as the bald spot on his head. The scope and scale of his puppet are immense, the design for Belzer’s giant hands, which were built separately, was inspired by King Kong’s iconic hand design from the 1933 film, and The puppet for Belzer was cast using silicone and sugar pearls, the same kind you would use to decorate baked goods, to give him a squishy, stretchable, lightweight body.
I also loved the use of the colour green. Green is an important colour throughout the film, and ties into the Underworld. Wendell and Wild’s eyes go green when they’re angry, and Sister Helley’s redemption chamber is full of green. Kat’s green hair visually ties her to the green colours throughout the Underworld, a nod to her Hellmaiden powers.
The great Angela Bassett’s vocal performance is another outstanding role. SISTER HELLEY is a nun with a dark past, she is the charismatic science teacher at Rust Bank Catholic School for Girls who wows her students with presentations of shape-shifting octopuses and carnivorous plants.
The rest of the colourful cast of characters is incredibly designed as Kat shares the screen with Sam Zelaya’s trans character Raúl Cocolotl A talented artist, and now the only boy at Rust Bank Catholic School for Girls. He’d like to be friends with Kat, who keeps him at a distance before reluctantly enlisting his help to deal with the chaos her arrival creates. Raul wants to use his art to expose the monsters who are gobbling up their town. Raúl’s character design was influenced by Mayan sculptures, Mexican masks, and voice actor Sam Zelaya.
Tamara Smart voices Siobhan, the lifestyle ringleader at Rust Bank Catholic School for Girls. Sweet and earnest, Siobhan might seem simple at first, but there’s hidden depth and a rebellious streak lurking behind those blunt bangs. Siobhan’s character design was influenced by the character Cher Horowitz in the 1995 film CLUELESS and Nicki Minaj’s famous blonde wig with blunt bangs.
However, Wendell & Wild aren’t really the villains throughout the film. Selick’s approach is that the film basically suggests that there are worse things on Earth than demons in Hell—those who profit off the misery of others. The material shows the corporate monsters who are literally willing to murder for profit and capitalism. IRMGARD KLAXON (Maxine Peake) and LANE KLAXON (David Harewood) are wealthy British builders who specialize in private, for-profit prisons, the Klaxons have been trying to take over Rust Bank for years to build a new monstrosity: Klax Korp. And they will stop at nothing, including murder. Their sweet daughter, Siobhan, has no idea who her parents really are but when she does, it’s full rebellion. Both Peake and Harwood give two over-the-top performances including James Hong as Father Bests.
Stop-motion animation is actually the oldest type of animation. It’s drawing things, generating them on computers or moving them — small positions at a time and then capturing each movement. And when you play it back, it comes to life. Stop motion is having these really beautifully built puppets accompanied by incredible animators who then reposition those puppets slowly, very slight amounts, and perform through the puppets, capturing each frame of that performance. And when you play it back, it gives the illusion of life.
Great animation and great characters are what really matter and the medium keeps evolving with new techniques and technology in order to get the best performance out of the puppet. They now CG to print out 3D face replacements, and there’s a seam between the upper and lower face so that you can change eyebrows separately from the lower — it helps multiply the range of expressions. Selick and Co have chosen to keep those seem’s rather than digitally erase them. Across all of WENDELL & WILD, there are 342 individual puppets with 129 unique designs. There are 165 unique sets total, most of which were then broken into smaller sets and redressed for specific camera angle needs.
With an Afropunk vibrant culture of music, style, and attitude, “Wendell & Wild” is the perfect film for this Halloween season. It has all the scary stuff you might expect — demons, zombies, ghosts. It’s got the feel of a Halloween film, but the story will be really refreshing, especially for families. The attention to detail and character design are outstanding as is the touching story about facing your demons.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem | Teaser Trailer – Paramount Pictures
The Turtle brothers as they work to earn the love of New York City while facing down an army of mutants.
Animation, Action, Adventure
August 4, 2023
Jeff Rowe, Kyler Spears
Paul Rudd, Giancarlo Esposito, Rose Byrne
The Turtle brothers as they work to earn the love of New York City while facing down an army of mutants.
Netflix to Team with Legendary Entertainment for Live-Action Feature of ‘My Hero Academia’
Netflix seems to be in on almost everything anime or manga-related including live-action iterations for some of the more popular franchises. First, having made a Death Note film back in 2017, followed by a live-action Cowboy Bebop series before pivoting to focus on the One Piece and Avatar the Last Airbender series, it seems that they are taking another swing on a big anime property for their streaming service.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix will team with Legendary Entertainment, best known for their monsterverse films centering on Godzilla and King Kong on a live-action feature film based on the popular manga, My Hero Academia. Joby Harold (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Army of the Dead) will write the script as Shinsuke Sato (Alice in Borderland, I Am a Hero) will make his English-language debut as director for the film. My Hero Academia debuted in 2014 and has quickly ascended into one of the more popular manga titles before gaining attention and turning to anime where its currently in its fifth season.
Legendary boarded the property all the way back in 2018 aiming to create a live-action movie and will aim to generate a wide-scale audience by teaming with Netflix. My Hero Academia revolves around a world in which 80 percent of people have a power called “quirks.” Lead character, Izuku Midoriya, or Deku, is a superhero fanboy who happens to be a part of that unfortunate 20 percent without powers and is discouraged. However, after meeting the legendary hero, All Might, he sets on a path to become the ultimate hero himself.
DC and Warner Bros. Discovery on Cusp of Animation Deal with Amazon
There has been much anticipation in waiting to see the unveiling of the structure of James Gunn and Peter Safran as the new heads of DC for Warner Bros. News came just this week from Gunn that the comic book flagship money maker for Warner Bros. that he and Safran are aiming to make everything cohesive within their vision connecting movies, television, video games and animation throughout the universe. However, a new report from Deadline sees that they may be looking at a new (or additional) streaming home for animated content surrounding their heroes and villains.
In an article originally reported from Deadline, Channing Dungey, the Chairwoman of Warner Bros. Television, has alluded to “closing a big deal” with Amazon featuring DC branded content in animation on their streaming platform, Amazon Prime Video. Though she also explained that HBO Max will be the “first stop” for all things DC, it’s interesting to note a deal such as this potentially going through with a company and competitor as big as Amazon, no less.
While it’s hard to imagine any major DC characters synonymous with the brand such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or Green Lantern getting animated foray onto Prime Video, it begs the question, could we see Amazon as a pipeline to popularity for some lesser-known characters getting introduced to a larger audience? There is so much potential and richness of characters within the DC landscape that have yet to be introduced through live-action or animation so this seems like a risk that might be worth taking, especially considering the financial troubles that Warner Bros. Discovery has been reported to have.
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