Why did the ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ visionary leave the ‘Kubo’ animation studio?

Kubo and the Two Strings hit theaters this past weekend to ecstatic praise from critics and audiences alike, giving the many artists in Kubo“s closing credits cause to celebrate. But there is one notable filmmaker whom close watchers of the animation world will notice is not in those closing credits: Henry Selick.

The celebrated animation director (known for The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach) helmed Coraline, the first feature from Kubo stop-motion studio Laika. That film put the unique company on the map.

After Coraline“s success, Selick was expected to work on more Laika films, but he departed the Oregon-based studio about half a year after the movie”s release. According to a 2009 Variety report, the filmmaker moved on after his contract expired, as no new project emerged at Laika. A rep for Selick confirmed this account to HitFix. (Now the days of Laika having no new project on the runway are behind them, with the ability to now host multiple films in production, following the expansion of their facilities that has given them more space for sets.)

Selick, however, hasn”t released any films since 2009″s Coraline.

The director had been in production on an untitled stop-motion film for Disney with an October 2013 release date, but that project was canceled in August 2012. According to reports from February 2013, that film, since titled The Shadow King, was revived by Beasts of the Southern Wild producer Josh Penn and production company K5 International with Selick still aboard. But now Shadow King is in turnaround again, according to a rep for Selick.

Selick is also attached to direct and co-write a stop-motion film with Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key called Wendell and Wild, Variety reported last November, as well as direct a live-action adaptation of A Tale Dark and Grimm, a 2010 book of irreverent fairy tale retellings. A rep for Selick confirmed he is still working on those two films.

If Selick makes his way back to Laika, he”ll find a studio that”s further embraced a unique hybrid of stop-motion and digital animation. Though the Nightmare Before Christmas director is known best for his stop-motion work, he probably wouldn”t be averse to delving into a more digital realm.

Coraline is “more of a purist stop-motion film than anything else that we”ve done, but Henry fully appreciated the use of technology to tell the film in the best way,” Laika CEO Travis Knight told HitFix, revealing, “At one point when we were developing Coraline, where nobody was interested in partnering with us on the film, Henry, his solution to that was to make a CG film. He was completely willing to make Coraline as a CG movie. The final decision to make it as a stop-motion film was my decision. I said, ‘There”s absolutely no way we're making this as a CG film. This is a stop-motion movie.””

Coraline did, of course, end up being a stop-motion animated film, as were Laika”s subsequent three features, all blending some digital effects into the labored process of stop-motion. The studio did make a short film released back in 2005 called Moongirl, which Selick directed – and which was completely computer animated. (Don”t expect any other short films from Laika any time soon though, Knight told press in June.)

“Ultimately Henry wanted to try something different,” Knight said of Selick“s departure from Laika. “But Henry and I remain good friends. We talk about projects all the time. I would love to do another film with Henry, and I think it”s very, very possible that that happens again.”