Save Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are"

by Eric Melin on May 15, 2008

in Blogs

This isn’t the newest of news, but scary stuff is happening with the Spike Jonze/Dave Eggers adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are.” Here are some photos from the movie and a link to the petition being circulated to save Jonze’s vision fo the film, which is supported 100 percent by the book’s author, Maurice Sendak

Where are the wild things? Too scary for the cinema, apparently
Michelle Griffin
The Age

When classic picture book Where the Wild Things Are was published in 1963, critics said it was too scary and weird for children. Now the movie of the book, filmed in Melbourne in 2006 by director Spike Jonze, could be scrapped and reshot to make it more family-friendly.

Hollywood studio Warner Brothers is considering big changes to the movie after audiences at test screenings complained that the film frightened children and confused adults, according to film industry websites.

where the wild things are movieThe project was a wild rumpus from the start. Maurice Sendak’s book of monsters was adapted for the screen by iconoclastic author Dave Eggers and directed by Spike Jonze, the man behind the genre-warping film Adaptation – which, appropriately, deals with the impossibility of turning books into movies.

Jonze rejected computer animation, commissioned monster suits from the Jim Henson Company, and filmed in the Australian bush. But the moguls don’t want art-house raves, they want the box office of films such as Shrek or The Grinch.

One test screen report said “kids at my screening began to cry and asked their parents to leave, so that should give you an idea”.

The lead actor was also a problem: “Max comes off a bit weird and off-putting. He slaps his mum and he seems confused and not charming at all.”

Studio executives at Warner Brothers and co-producers Legendary Pictures are considering a reshoot, says Devin Faraci, editor of Hollywood industry news site Cinema Happenings Under Development.

“We’ve heard that Spike is very unhappy with Warner Brothers. Nobody knows 100% what will happen, whether they’ll reshoot, whether Jonze will take his name off it.”

The film’s release has been delayed several times – it was originally going to open this May, then October – and is now scheduled for 2009.

The film is “far too scary” in places for younger children, says Brian Collins, a web editor who saw a test screening in December last year in Pasadena, California.

“One of the monsters you like throughout the movie goes crazy and has his own tantrum and starts tearing down trees and attacking other monsters,” Collins says.

where the wild things are movie

“It doesn’t look like a kids’ movie, it’s not all bright colours. It’s got a real dry look. It was an adult-oriented movie disguised as a kids’ film. If they make it cute and fluffy for four-year-olds, we’ll lose something really interesting.”

“It’s not actually a kids’ film,” agrees a member of the Melbourne crew. “It would find a great audience with an older crowd. It is a little bit dark – but kids need to be exposed to horrible things so they can work them out. There’s not a single fart joke in the script – they’re not pandering to a typical market. And there’s no violence either like kids’ films (often show), full of guns and blowing up stuff.”

The book’s author, Maurice Sendak, has vetoed many attempts over the years to turn it into a film, but told The New York Times he was “in love with” the current version.

“If Spike and Dave do not do this movie now, I would just as soon not see any version of it ever get made.”

The book Where the Wild Things Are got the same negative reaction when it was released, says Albert Ullin, the first bookseller to import the book into Australia in 1963.

“People thought it was too strange and scary. Librarians were very sceptical, a bit reluctant to buy any.

“But once it was on the shelves, it took off quickly.”

Mr Ullin says the darkness is what makes the book such a classic.

“Our dreams as children often are quite scary,” he says, “but we deal with them.”

where the wild thing are book

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 cleavy May 19, 2008 at 8:59 pm

Oh wow! – This news sucks! Where the Wild Things Are was one of my favorite books as a child. My mom read it to me over and over again. Jonze’s version looks amazing, just from the couple of stills here. I’m so repelled by CGI at this point, and have always been in love with Jim Henson’s creatures. I’ll take a puppet, animatronics, or a “guy in a suit” over CGI any day. Maybe it’s a hang-up, but I can’t take things seriously that my subconscious mind knows I can’t touch. A little more on topic, I’ll be the first to admit that when my mom took me to the theater to see The Dark Crystal we left after the first or second scene with me terrified and in tears. Needless to say, it’s been one of my favorite movies in adulthood. Maybe Jonze’s version of Where the Wild Things Are isn’t exactly for kids? Maybe it’s for the adults who grew up with the book as kids? There’s a lot of us, I’m sure. Or, maybe it could tap into the same audience as Pan’s Labyrinth – a fairy tale for adults? What’s so wrong with that? Jeez! Anyway, if Warner Bros manages to reshoot or cut Jonze’s vision into Shrek Part Infinity, I desperately hope that Jonze’s version will survive and be released in some way, shape, or form.

Reply

2 cleavy May 19, 2008 at 8:59 pm

Oh wow! – This news sucks! Where the Wild Things Are was one of my favorite books as a child. My mom read it to me over and over again. Jonze’s version looks amazing, just from the couple of stills here. I’m so repelled by CGI at this point, and have always been in love with Jim Henson’s creatures. I’ll take a puppet, animatronics, or a “guy in a suit” over CGI any day. Maybe it’s a hang-up, but I can’t take things seriously that my subconscious mind knows I can’t touch. A little more on topic, I’ll be the first to admit that when my mom took me to the theater to see The Dark Crystal we left after the first or second scene with me terrified and in tears. Needless to say, it’s been one of my favorite movies in adulthood. Maybe Jonze’s version of Where the Wild Things Are isn’t exactly for kids? Maybe it’s for the adults who grew up with the book as kids? There’s a lot of us, I’m sure. Or, maybe it could tap into the same audience as Pan’s Labyrinth – a fairy tale for adults? What’s so wrong with that? Jeez! Anyway, if Warner Bros manages to reshoot or cut Jonze’s vision into Shrek Part Infinity, I desperately hope that Jonze’s version will survive and be released in some way, shape, or form.

Reply

3 Megan May 26, 2008 at 12:18 pm

There’s a really good interview with Maurice Sendak on YouTube in which he talks about his work and illustrating and storytelling for children. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZTQib7G2Hs
It’s part of a big exhibition at the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia, http://www.rosenbach.org.

Reply

4 Megan May 26, 2008 at 12:18 pm

There’s a really good interview with Maurice Sendak on YouTube in which he talks about his work and illustrating and storytelling for children. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZTQib7G2Hs
It’s part of a big exhibition at the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia, http://www.rosenbach.org.

Reply

5 ChrisKnudsen May 30, 2008 at 8:21 pm

I swear kids these days must be pussies or something of that sort. My dad made me watch a Clockwork Orange when I was 4 and I don’t think my life has ever been the same.

Reply

6 ChrisKnudsen May 30, 2008 at 8:21 pm

I swear kids these days must be pussies or something of that sort. My dad made me watch a Clockwork Orange when I was 4 and I don’t think my life has ever been the same.

Reply

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