‘Wendell and Wild’ fills gaps in the claymation genre

The 2022 release proves that everything Jordan Peele touches turns to gold



Wendell and Wild breaks down barriers within the claymation genre, making it an important step in the world of animated movies.

Olivia Schaer, Staff Reporter

In the year 2022 Netflix startles us once again with its recent delivery of the first stop-motion film starring a Black, female, protagonist. 

Nominated for a Netflix oscar, produced by Monkeypaw productions, written by Henry Selick and Jordan Peele, and starring fan favorites like Keegan-Michael Key, Angela Bassett, and James Hong, the film was almost set up to be a success.  

As a lover of stop and clay animated movies, I had my doubts when I first viewed the brief and jarring preview in early 2022, however “Wendell and Wild”  entirely swayed my opinion within the first 15 minutes.  

I figured that this film would attempt to alter decades of clay or stop animated films without a single Black or brown main character. However, the film finds subtle ways to speak on race and the issues in our country without making that the focal point of the film. 

The film follows a 13-year-old girl named Kat, whose parents die when she is 8. She falls down a dark path during the next five years and goes through a series of foster homes while her town starts to deteriorate due to a corporate private prison company.  

The story officially starts when Kat is brought to a catholic girls’ school by her foster care worker, Ms. Hunter, played by Tantoo Cardinal. This was the first eye-catching moment in the film due to the sudden attention to detail during the drive, like a single shot of the van’s tire running over and cracking some ice on the street.  

The film follows traditional stop-motion animation techniques but breaks tradition when it comes to the facial features of each character.

For instance, Ms. Hunter is portrayed with tunniit (face tattoos) on her chin and cheeks and has long gray and brown hair. She shows as much concern for Kat as a supportive mother figure and is subsequently the first accurate animated portrayal of an indigenous woman I have seen within my lifetime. 

When Kat arrives at the school, she is welcomed by three young girls in her class, Siobhan, Sweetie, and Sloane voiced by Tamara Smart, Ramona Young, and Seema Virdi.  

She is later introduced to her trans classmate Raul, who becomes her close confidant as the film progresses.  

It doesn’t take long for Kat to see that she is no ordinary girl when she summons her own demons from the underworld through wishes of reuniting with her parents in the world of the living, Wendell and Wild voiced by Jordan Peele and Kegan-Michael Key.  

From here the film takes a few wild turns and the attention to detail remains superb, which can be observed through the film’s use of paper cutting and felt props.  

Although the film is seemingly simple, with a fun eerie plot, it emphasizes alternative behavior, shown through her expressive style, taste in music, and rebellious nature, more than anything else, calling our main character a “disruptor” and “breaker of the status quo.”  

Although Kat dresses more “alternatively” than her classmates and listens to rock, written exclusively by Black artists, the message around exploring differences connects to her perspective as a young Black woman more than her difference in taste.  

This is also seen through her parallels, Wendell and Wild,Everything Jordan Peele touches turns to gold when they are punished for trying to make an idea of their own come to fruition.  

Their actions are labeled as a rebellious insurrection, both words that have been frequently targeted throughout American history towards Black and Indigenous people.  

The rest of the film encapsulates other modern ideas about how we manipulate the system to get laws passed in our country, the basis of racial identity, fighting negative internal dialogue, the poorly constructed prison system, and the acceptance of trans students and children.  

This film encapsulates everything that I feel animated television should be in 2022. Because the messaging is subtle it is perfect for young kids and is still a wacky, attainable and special film.