This Disney-trained stop-motion animation specialist worked successfully in advertising and "personal" short subjects before making a triumphant feature directorial debut with the popular and playfully macabre "Tim Burton's 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'" (1993). Selick became a Disney animator after graduating from the first class at CalArts to complete Disney's character animation design program. As he rose through the ranks to become a full animator, Selick worked on "Pete's Dragon", "The Small One" (both 1977) and "The Fox and the Hound" (1981) before taking off eight months in 1979 to work on his own projects with American Film Institute backing. One such was "Seepage" (1979), a stop-motion depiction of a poolside chat that utilized watercolor animation of two figures--one in profile, the other looking straight ahead. The film garnered prizes on the animation festival circuit.
Selick left Disney and Burbank for northern California where he founded his own production company, Selick Projects. He became known for producing dense, jam-packed promos for MTV including a Clio award-winning spot called "Haircut M" in which a fanciful insect carves the station logo into a red big hairdo. Working for the San Francisco-based Colossal Pictures, Selick also revitalized the then 28-year-old Pillsbury Doughboy campaign. He also helmed the award-winning Ritz Bits ad in which hundreds of crackers ski down peanut butter slopes and fly to the moon in search of cheese.
MTV sponsored Selick's most ambitious project up to that time--"Slow Bob in the Lower Dimensions" (1990), a surreal six-minute short combining stop-motion and live action. He was subsequently recruited by fellow Disney alumnus Tim Burton to helm his "Nightmare", the first full-length stop-motion animated feature produced by Walt Disney Pictures. Selick Projects transformed into Skellington Productions in 1991 for this massive project. A critical and commercial hit, "Nightmare" led to another stop-motion feature for Disney, "James and the Giant Peach" (1996). Even more complex than its predecessor, the film combined stop-motion animation with elements of computer-generated imagery and live-action. Selick also directed the film's extensive live-action prologue. The film opened to critical and commercial acclaim.