“What a transcendent life this is, doing that I’m doing everything I want to do.” – Maurice Sendak, 2009

Maurice Sendak, the author famous for books like Where the Wild Things Are, Outside Over There, and In the Night Kitchen, passed away today at 83. The New York Times reports that complications from a recent stroke were the cause of death. While Sendak’s books were typically marketed as children’s books, he did not like to be called a children’s author. Rather, Sendak simply called himself an author; it was merely that other people saw his concoctions of text and masterful illustration as children’s material.

Sendak’s books are beautiful due in part to the manner in which they use a peculiar brand of fantastic storytelling to express sensations ranging from elation to dread, in ways that are intimately, instantly familiar. Sendak’s work was not confrontational. It was supremely communicative; his books told kids, and everyone, that they’re not the only ones who fear and desire all the things we do.

Maurice Sendak released Bumble-Ardy, the first book he both wrote and illustrated in 30 years, last September. The quote above is from Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak, the documentary made by Spike Jonze and Lance Bangs during the period in which Jonze adapted Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. You can watch the specific clip from which that quote originates, as well as the entire film, below. Read More »

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.

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 Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life

Spike Jonze has produced a new live-action/animated adaptation of Maurice Sendak‘s Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. The film, a collaboration between the National Film Board of Canada and Warner Home Video, will be included on the Blu-Ray release of Where The Wild Things Are, which hits stores on March 2nd. The 23 and a half minute short film was created by Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, the Oscar-nominated team behind the short Madame Tutli-Putli, and features the voices of Meryl Streep, Forest Whitaker and Spike Jonze.

Once Jennie had everything. She had two bowls to eat from, two pillows, and for cold weather, a red wool sweater. She even had a master who loved her. But Jennie didn’t care. In the middle of the night she packed everything she had in a black leather bag with gold buckles and looked out of her favorite window for the last time… Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life follows Jennie’s surreal, suspenseful and unexpectedly moving journey to gain new experiences and realize her dream of becoming the star of the World Mother Goose Theatre.

Warner Bros Home Video has supplied us with some photos, posters and clips from the film, which you can see after the jump.

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While in Ireland this week for a set visit, two of the more interesting dinner discussions amongst peers regarded the dismal state of studio poster art and the box office potential for Where the Wild Things Are. It’s my belief that if WTWTA is a hit, it will signal a shot-call for a new era of mainstream films, ones that put creative cred, talent, and integrity ahead of this generational notion that people are generally dumb as shit and desire basking in dumber shit. But before the latest tracking figures for the film arrived, the general sentiment— one I didn’t share–was that the film would not open to boffo numbers; even $20 million was said to be unlikely. Now the inside word has the film tracking surprisingly well, possibly even as high as $40 million. If this becomes a reality, it will partially be due to the same 20somethings and teenagers decried by the olds for not watching and fellating The Hurt Locker.

No “shit.” While many people associated with the film and even staffers at /Film feel the movie strays from the family film norm (omg no!), the connected, youthful branches of WTWTA run deep underneath a dying and blind old media. As a whole, the project represents nothing less than an important pop cultural movement, one that encompasses a generation’s best rock groups (Liars, Yeah Yeah Yeahs), fashion cachet via establishments like Opening Ceremony, and the global new media influence that is the Vice corporation and its video offshoot VBS.tv. Spike Jonze is the hands-on creative director at VBS, and as such, they are releasing privy interviews with the creatives behind Wild Things. Below is a very cool and candid interview with Sonny Gerasimowicz, an art school drop out and graf artist hired by Jonze to envision and help create the look of the creatures (with WTWTA creator Maurice Sendak‘s blessing, also discussed) for the cinema.

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As viewers and the media gear up for next month’s release of Spike Jonze‘s Where the Wild Things Are, we expect to read more articles and essays waxing on the film’s relevance and meaning in pop culture. To me, the project already represents the ideal and inevitable amalgamation of two of the more important, influential, and cynic-exhausted youth subcultures of the aughts: the geeks (as ushered in by Ain’t It Cool) and the hipsters (as ushered in by Vice magazine). As the pioneers and personalities behind these still-crystallizing cultures enter their 30s and 40s, parenthood awaits and so does the desire to help shape the next generation in style, curated nostalgia, and matters of refined taste.

Realizing that members of ’00s bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Liars have left art-damaged fingerprints on what is possibly one of the definitive and more magical family films (of all time?) is both a secure and wild sign of the future. Another unlikely, lesser known contributor to WTWTA (and friend of Liars) is Sonny Gerasimowicz, a street artist off Hollywood’s radar who was hired by Jonze to bring Maurice Sendak‘s Things to the screen.

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How hungry are you to see new footage from Spike Jonze‘s Where the Wild Things Are? At this point, anything from this movie is welcome, even if it’s only a few seconds. The UK version of that Maurice Sendak featurette we saw back at Comic-Con has about ten seconds of stuff that previously had only been seen by the public in Hall H. Check it out after the jump. Read More »

Movie Trailer: Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are

where the wild things are

It premiered this morning on the Ellen show; now it’s hit the internet for your consumption. The trailer for Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are is by turns beautiful, moving, and thrilling. I’ve always believed that Jonze could deliver a magical adaptation and this certainly does a lot to reinforce my faith in him. Your mileage may vary but either way, hit the jump to check out the trailer and, as always, let us know what you think in the comments. [Update: A big thanks to various /Film commenters for pointing out that the songs used in the trailer are different versions of “Wake Up” by Arcade Fire.]
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Time to cap the day with a few beers, the robot, and a slightly promising tidbit: Warner Bros. has finally set a (final???) release date for Spike Jonze‘s Where the Wild Things Are. You know, the family film based on the children’s book that has united geeks, author Maurice Sendak, hipsters and lil’ kids in a bitter internet warz against The Man and overprotective parents. Coming Soon reports that we can all meet up and celebrate our giant WIN….over a year from now, on October 16, 2009. Yah mon, this is the same release date that was announced back in February before the film was wiped off the slate. GlugGlug\o/Glug.


On June 5th, reshoots are scheduled to begin in Los Angeles on Where the Wild Things Are, director Spike Jonze‘s borderline infamous adaptation of the classic, visceral and delightfully weird children’s book by Maurice Sendak. Jonze’s mission? Stop the nation’s emo kids (and parents) from crying and having vewey scary nightmares.

According to Bloody Disgusting, the reshoots, as ordered by Warner Bros., will continue for the duration of June, and casting calls for stand-ins are apparently happening as well. We recently tried to send out a Slashfilm Scanner to read Spike Jonze’s mind at a hip cafe in order to figure out the severity of the reshoots, but alas, the scanner’s head exploded all over Kirsten Dunst’s tank top/dangling cigarette.

Recently, Jonze’s film has received “everything is cool, I’d go see it” endorsements from actor/Wild Thing Tom Noonan and the film’s assistant editor James Haygood. Noonan told Cinematical during Cannes that not only was Jonze “perfect” for the job, but that Sendak was very hands-on and candid…

“Maurice Sendak was involved. We’d do these video conferences with him where he’d be like, ‘if you can’t be children, don’t be in the fucking movie.’ He’d say, ‘I want to see children. I don’t know any adults who are able to be children,’ and he’d give us these pep talks where he’d say, ‘don’t do what you always do, do what you’ve always needed to do.”

We’ll keep you posted as we learn/hear more. At this point, who knows how this will turn out.

Cool Posts From Around the Web:


Sabotage!?! There’s incredibly weird, and increasingly depressing, buzz coming off Spike Jonze‘s Where the Wild Things Are, and now Chud reports that execs at Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures are considering reshooting the entire $75 million friggin’ movie! This news, of course, comes on top of the rather cool test footage that leaked last weekend, and the rather subdued statement Jonze released yesterday concerning the early footage. There are even wild rumors circulating more and more in the industry that Jonze might take his name off the project, and Devin’s report at Chud doesn’t persuade against that speculation. This is serious, people. Take this excerpt for example…

“Yet I’m hearing that just such a massive reshoot is what is on the table right now. And it’s not because of technical issues, unless you want to consider the lead kid actor and the script technical issues. Sources tell me that the suits at Legendary and Warner Bros are not happy with Max Records, the actor playing Max, the mischievous boy who is crowned King of the Wild Things. Worse than that, they don’t like the film’s tone and want to go back to the script drawing board, possibly losing the Spike Jonze/Dave Eggers script when they do it. Apparently the film is too weird and ‘too scary,’ and the character of Max is being seen as not likable.”

It’s not yet in the open whether Jonze has final cut on the children’s flick. If so, and if this news is well-founded, that could mean a major tug-o-war with execs and possibly end up with Jonze removed from the project altogether. With his former girlfriend, Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, doing the soundtrack and a tight-knit crew, that would be one ballsy move by WB. Do they really want to play knock the hipsters off the island? Jus’ sayin’.

Of course, Jonze’s statement yesterday mentioned no such drama, but he didn’t release an elated in-progress statement like James Cameron just did below, either. Early audience reports from test screenings late last year were prototypically alarming, calling the film “dark,” “not suitable for small children,” complaining about “some desert place” et al. But Maurice Sendak‘s book is, as many /Film commenters have smartly pointed out, about monsters, imagination and the free realm where kids play. Sendak is also said to be on board as a consultant to Jonze and co-screenwriter Dave Eggers on the film, and Eggers, the co-founder of McSweeney’s and a literary darling, is even writing a spin-off novel to accompany the film.

This chic house of cards would lend credence to Spike and Co. staying with the project, which has been delayed until 2009 due to reported visual effects difficulties pertaining to the Wild Things’ faces (the Jim Henson Company created their costumes). But, what if, just what if…

More on this (and probable Free Spike Jonze t-shirts) as it develops. In the meantime…

Discuss: If this is true, tell Warner Brothers what you think! They are listening. Do you want a version of WTWTA on par with traditional family fare like 2003’s The Cat and the Hat and A VeggieTales Movie?