Henry Selick is best known for his stop-motion animated features: Coraline (2009), which he wrote, directed and co-produced; The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), which he directed; and James and the Giant Peach (1996), which he directed. Selick
As a boy, Henry Selick drew all the time – pictures of eagles and horses and lions and dragons and later, Jaguar XKE sports cars. And he loved unusual and scary animation, like Night on Bald Mountain from Fantasia or The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and he especially loved the Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion features. He had a recurring dream that the Cyclops from The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad was growing ever larger in his family’s huge fish tank.
Like his sister and brother, Selick took piano lessons from Edna Johnson, a large patient woman whose house was filled with the smell of boiling cabbage. He tootled his father’s old clarinet in the school band, and when his sister Linda grew tired of her Kay electric guitar, he used it to join a rock band called The Reviled. In high school, he starved himself to make weight on the wrestling team and excelled in physics, inspired by teacher Mr. Mitchell, who wore Elvis Presley sideburns and drove a muscle car.
Selick discovered independent animation while studying illustration at Syracuse University in the 1970’s. There, he made his crude first short film, TUBE TALES, which was nominated for a Student Academy Award. He continued his studies at CalArts in both Jules Engel's Experimental Animation program as well as the new Disney-backed Character Animation Program beside fellow students Brad Bird, John Musker, and John Lasseter. His award-winning short film, PHASES, was completed at this time and his next short, SEEPAGE, begun.
After graduating, he began work at Disney as a trainee animator under original Nine Old Men member Eric Larson. At this time, he met and befriended Tim Burton. Like Burton, Bird, and Lasseter, Selick eventually left Disney to move to San Francisco where he did storyboards for several live-action films and directed a bunch of commercials and created and directed animated station I.D.’s for MTV. This work led to a reunion with Burton and the opportunity to direct The Nightmare Before Christmas.