Laika has optioned “Wildwood,” the debut HarperCollins children’s novel written by Colin Meloy, lead singer and songwriter for rock band The Decemberists, with illustrations by award-winning artist Carson Ellis.
The announcement was made Thursday by Travis Knight, president and CEO of the Portland, Oregon-based animation studio. Laika, which produced the Oscar-and BAFTA-nominated feature film Coraline, is currently in production on the 3D stop-motion animated feature film ParaNorman.
“Wildwood is a marvel, an exquisite, staggering, and lyrical work of art,” said Knight. “It’s an uncannily perfect fit for Laika, commingling the time-honored qualities of classic fantasies and fairy tales with a bold, contemporary sensibility. Colin’s captivating, melodic prose and Carson’s gorgeous, spellbinding illustrations form a rich bounty of ideas, language, and imagery. Wildwood is a wonderful work of literature, and Laika is fully committed to honoring it with an exceptional, groundbreaking film.”
Wildwood, the first book in an epic middle-grade fantasy series full of magic, wonder, and danger set in an alternate version of modern-day Portland, Oregon, tells the story of Prue McKeel, whose ordinary life is changed forever when her younger brother is abducted by a murder of crows and taken to the Impassable Wilderness, an enchanted and forbidding forest on the edge of Portland. No one’s ever gone in — or at least returned to tell of it. Within this secret world, Prue and her friend Curtis embark on a rescue mission and find themselves entwined in a violent struggle for freedom amidst warring creatures, peaceable mystics, and powerful figures with the darkest intentions.
Filled with 85 intricate and beautiful illustrations by artist Carson Ellis, Wildwood is published by HarperCollins’ Balzer + Bray imprint. To view the animated trailer created by Laika/house for the book, visit www.laika.com/details.php?id=399&company=house.
“Hands down, there is no other movie studio in the entire world besides Laika that I would entrust Wildwood to,” said Meloy. “Carson and I were prepared to stonewall any and all suitors for the movie rights, so close was this book to our hearts. However, when Laika came calling, our defenses promptly came down. There is no doubt in my mind that they will come to this story with the passion, imagination and general awesomeness required to make this book into a truly beautiful animated film.”
“I’m a stop motion enthusiast,” said Ellis, “and I’ve been a fan of Laika since we saw Coraline a couple of years back. When we visited the studio and saw all the brilliant creative work happening there — someone building a waist-high New England village in painstaking detail, someone else sewing pinhead-sized rivets on tiny blue jeans — we were won over completely. It’s an amazing place staffed by patient, meticulous, super-talented people who wouldn’t work there if they didn’t love stop-motion animation. I’m so excited to see what Wildwood will look like in their hands.”
Meloy once wrote Ray Bradbury a letter, informing him that he “considered himself an author too.” He was 10 years old at the time. Since then, he has gone on to be the singer and songwriter for The Decemberists, where he channels all of his weird ideas into weird songs. This is his first time channeling those ideas into a novel.
Ellis, who first rose to prominence for creating The Decemberists’ album covers, illustrated the bestsellers The Composer is Dead (Lemony Snicket) and The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Lee Stewart), as well the notable children’s books The Beautiful Stories of Life, Stagecoach Sal and Dillweed’s Revenge.
Meloy and Ellis live with their son Hank in Portland, Oregon, quite near the Impassable Wilderness.