Harold and the Purple Crayon

Before Where the Wild Things Are, and even before Being John Malkovich, Spike Jonze was developing a big screen adaptation of the acclaimed 1955 children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon. Harold and the Purple Crayon tells the story of a curious four-year-old boy who draws his reality and lives in the imaginary world he creates. The film famously fell apart a mere two weeks before principal photography (more information about that after the jump) but it now appears that development is alive again at Sony Pictures Animation.

According to Pajiba, Date Night and Shrek the Third scribe Josh Klausner has been working on a a script, which is being compared in tone to A Neverending Story, and the animated feature will be produced by Maurice Sendak, set up at Will Smith’s Overbook Entertainment. No director is attached , and while I doubt Spike Jonze will come aboard this latest attempt, I would love to imagine the movie he might have made.

Jonze first met with Sendak, not for Wild Things, but about developing a film adaptation of Harold. For those of you who don’t know, the author of the Harold, Crockett Johnson, is one of Sendak’s mentors. Jonze spent over a year developing Harold into a feature film which would combine live action and animation in a way that had never been attempted before. Producer John B. Carls recalled to the New York Times a scene in the third act, where there was “a live-action boy riding an animated rocket out into real space where he battled live-action characters to rescue a real space mission.” Two months before principal photography was scheduled to begin, a regime change happened at TriStar, and the new bosses didn’t get Spike’s vision and pulled the plug.

The original story was adapted into a seven minute short film in 1959, directed by David Piel and narrated by Norman Rose. HBO also aired a 13 episode television series which adapted some of Harold’s stories in 2002. If you’re curious about the appeal of Harold and the Purple Crayon, listen to this three and a half minute report from NPR’s All Things Considered.

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