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Henry Selick returns to Disney

'Coraline' director signs deal to make stop-motion features

Henry Selick is coming home — to the Mouse House, that is.

The “Coraline” director, who began his animation career at Disney in the late ’70s, has struck an exclusive long-term deal to make stop-motion features for Disney/Pixar.

Disney Animation topper John Lasseter’s decision to bring Selick into the Disney/Pixar fold is another boost for the painstaking hand-crafted technique, while representing expansion beyond strictly computer-animated fare for the company.

The reunion also is a personal one, putting Selick in business with a number of long-time friends, including Lasseter and “Ratatouille” director Brad Bird.

“I first met John Lasseter when we were classmates at CalArts,” Selick said in a statement. “I’ve watched with awe and amazement as Pixar created a new way to make animated movies with computers.”

The helmer, who’s been spotted in recent months at Pixar’s Emeryville, Calif. campus, will set up shop in the Bay Area, where he plans to write and direct features based on both original ideas and literary properties. Selick hopes to benefit from the Pixar brain trust and technology, but will continue to produce toons using his trademark stop-motion style.

Selick made his directing debut at Disney in 1993 with the Tim Burton-produced “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” which has earned more than $75 million in box office receipts for the company. But his followup, “James and Giant Peach,” was a box office disappointment and ended the studio’s involvement with stop-motion.

“I’ll quote Dick Cook right after ‘James and the Giant Peach’ was finished. He said, ‘We don’t believe this is a viable medium anymore, and we’re not going to do it,’?” Selick told Daily Variety. “A few years later they shut down 2D. It’s great that both of those things are back.”

At least four feature toons were produced using stop-motion animation last year, including “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Mary and Max” and “A Town Called Panic.” “Coraline” was by far the most successful of last year’s stop-motion crop. Directed by Selick at Portland-based Laika, the Focus-released film earned $75 million in its theatrical release and an Oscar nomination.

Selick’s Disney/Pixar deal was negotiated by Ellen Goldsmith-Vein at The Gotham Group.

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