Wendell & Wild: Why This Netflix Stop-Motion Movie Is One Of The Best Animated Films Of The Year

Lyric Ross' Kat in Wendell & Wild
(Image credit: Netflix)

Those who know me know I like two things – the best horror movies, and animated films. Granted, I like a heck of a lot of things, but those two are pretty high up on the list. And, you want to know what usually combines those two movie types? Stop-motion films. 

Granted, not all stop-motion films lean in the horror genre, but they do pretty often. I mean, think of some of the most popular ones: Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride are a few of the stop-motion films that combine the loveliness of animation with elements of horror, and that is what leads to what I’m going to talk about today – Wendell & Wild, the latest stop-motion animated film on Netflix that came out as part of the 2022 movie release schedule. 

I think this film should seriously be getting the praise that it deserves, so I’m going to list all the reasons why I think this film (which is directed by Henry Selick, written by Selick and Jordan Peele, and stars Peele and Keegan-Michael Key as the titular characters) is one of the best animated films of 2022. 

Kat in Wendell & Wild.

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Animation Is So Smooth For Stop-Motion

Like I said before, I’m a pretty big fan of stop-motion. I have seen several different types of stop-motion animation, starting with A Nightmare Before Christmas. I watched Coraline as a fresh-eyed little girl new to the world of scary movies. I saw both of Wes Anderson's directorial efforts in stop-motion films,  Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs. I’ve seen so many. 

And yet, none of them, animation-wise, stood out as much as Wendell & Wild. 

While many of these other films are much more colorful than Wendell & Wild, since the movie takes place in a town that has pretty much been abandoned and there’s no color anywhere, it’s the animation that does it for me. It’s so smooth, like, uncharacteristically smooth for what I would expect from stop-motion – which goes to show just how far the genre has come. 

But somehow, it still has that same uncanniness that you would expect in stop-motion. It’s so well-done and something I seriously love about this movie. 

Key and Peele's titular characters in Wendell & Wild.

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Comedic Duo Of Key And Peele Never Fails

If we’re being honest, there were two things that brought me in for this film. The first was finding out that Henry Selick, the director of Coraline, was coming back to direct Wendell & Wild. I consider Coraline a huge stepping stone for how much I love horror now, because that movie was surprisingly eerie to me as a child, and I knew that Selick made good films. 

But, the other big part was that Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key were going to be reunited, even if it was just in voice form. 

For those who don’t know, they were a part of a popular sketch comedy series called Key & Peele, which had some of the funniest sketches ever and still makes me laugh over and over again to this day. It came to an end after six seasons, and both actors went on to do incredible things. Key appeared in some hilarious movies and TV series, and Peele has made his own horror movies, as well as other projects. 

Even so, there’s nothing like having these two come back together and combine their classic comedic charm in the recording booth. Listening to them speak, it felt like returning home to something I was familiar with, and so many times, I was laughing at their antics. 

The whole Wendell & Wild cast is great, and performs their parts perfectly, but these two are just off the charts. 

Raul in Wendell & Wild.

(Image credit: Netflix)

It Has Great Representation For Today’s Children

In a world that is filled to the brim with emerging animation for this generation, with under-the-radar shows like The Owl House and more, there’s something so refreshing about the representation in Wendell & Wild. Every character design is so different and specific, showing everyone’s differences. 

What really makes Wendell & Wild stand out from other stop-motion films are its lead characters. Kat, a young Black teenager, is voiced by This Is Us cast member Lyric Ross, and Raul, a young transgender boy, is voiced by Sam Zelaya, a young trangender Latino actor. The representation is off the charts and I am so, so, so excited to see this type of stuff in a genre that has severely lacked it. It’s seriously making history

To be honest, Coraline was my moment where I saw myself in stop-motion – a young girl just looking for acceptance from her family and friends, but Wendell & Wild can be that film to so many more people, and that is something I can seriously support. 

The titular characters in Wendell & Wild.

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Music Is Killer

This is sort of silly to bring up, but I love the music in this film. 

Wendell & Wild isn’t a musical by any means, but it features music from different artists that truly set the tone and meld well with the animation as well. I love the fact that there is a score, but it’s separated from the actual important moments of the film, where they often use rock music or hip hip music to symbolize the bond that Kat had with her father. 

It’s a great way to keep people entertained, but to also use music to tell a story. I’m always a fan of musicals, especially modern musicals, but I’m happy that Wendell & Wild didn’t go that route and instead stuck with classic music that seriously had me bopping my head. 

Kat in Wendell & Wild.

(Image credit: Netflix)

It’s A Genuine Coming Of Age Story Mixed With Some Horror Elements

Now, keep in mind that Wendell & Wild isn’t your typical coming-of-age story. It’s all about Kat, a young teenager who is trying to literally come to terms with her demons in order to fight her past, and the memories of the day she lost her parents. While the movie is animated, it’s not really for kids. 

It’s not something that's going to have a super happy ending. The plot is a girl literally trying to make friends with her demons and attempting to move past that time in her life, despite her insecurities and her memories about that time controlling her. It’s a deep message for anyone that has gone through something serious in their lives and suffers from PTSD or something like that.

Something else I love about Selick's films is that he’s not afraid to infuse horror elements into it. He did it in Coraline and I loved it, and he did it here, and I loved it. 

There was death, murder, literal zombies spewing worms at Kat, and guts everywhere, and yet, it still didn’t detract me from the main message – make friends with your demons, and move on, because if you keep letting memories control you, then you’ll never grow. It honestly follows a running theme from Jordan Peele’s other films.

Granted, I still don’t think it's for children. However, I’d say that as a tween, or even a teenager, you can find a lot of similarities with Kat – and honestly, you’ll find even more as an adult. It’s such a great coming of age story, with a horror twist. 

While I know there have been plenty of great animated films this year, like The Bad Guys or even Disney+’s Turning Red from Pixar, I seriously think Wendell & Wild should be up there in the race for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars in 2023. It’s such a diverse film, featuring a beautiful message about growth, and it’s a movie that I think everyone should see just once.  

Alexandra Ramos
Content Producer

A self-proclaimed nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, Alexandra Ramos is a Content Producer at CinemaBlend. She first started off working in December 2020 as a Freelance Writer after graduating from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Journalism and a minor in English. She primarily works in features for movies, TV, and sometimes video games. (Please don't debate her on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!) She is also the main person who runs both our daily newsletter, The CinemaBlend Daily, and our ReelBlend newsletter.