Studio Laika announces Wildwood as next film adaptation

A young girl looks across the river in Portland in a black and white illustration of Wildwood

One of the beautiful illustrations by Carson Ellis from Wild forest series.
Picture: HarperCollins

Laika, the creator of beautiful stop-motion animated films such as Coraline and Kubo and the two strings, announced his new project: an adaptation of Wild forest, the 2011 YA novel by Colin Meloy, singer-songwriter of indie rock band the Decemberists, and illustrated by his wife Carson Ellis. The film will be directed by Travis Knight, president of Laika and director of the excellent Transformers spin off Bumblebee.

I hadn’t heard of the book before this morning, but the official recap seems to be right in the alley of Laika i.e. a modern fairy tale that’s just dark enough to provide some suspense: “Beyond the city limits of Portland lies Wildwood. You’re not supposed to go. You are not even supposed to know it exists. But Prue McKeel is about to enter this enchanted wonderland. Her little brother Mac has been taken by a murder of crows deep in the forest, and she, along with her hapless classmate Curtis, goes to get him back. Prue might think she’s too old for fairy tales, but she just found herself at the center of a tale. One is filled with weird talking animals, mischievous bandits, and powerful characters with the darkest intentions.

It sounds like Laika to me, and the studio must have thought so too because Variety reports that Laika actually opted for the rights to Meloy and Ellis’ book in 2011, shortly after its publication. He took the studio a full decade to finally begin production on the stop-motion animated adaptation, but it really shows just how much he has remained interested in the project during all these years. Knight is also a native of Oregon, and Wild forest is extremely Portland-y, which probably helps too. (According to Wikipedia, literary critic Anna Minard called the characters “children with glasses, on bicycles, looking for vinyl records, referring to Kurosawa”, so, yes.)

Wild forest was the first in a trilogy, which was followed by Wild Undergrowth in 2012 and Wildwood Imperium in 2015. If the film is a success, there may be more Wild forest on my way.

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