SDCC 09: Where the Wild Things Are Sneak Peak
Get a sneak peak at Spike Jonze’s new project.
There’s been quite a lot of talk about Spike Jonze’s long-in-development adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are. Over the years, we’ve heard and reported on production delays, reshoots, rumors that he film simply wasn’t up to WB’s liking, and more word that the film was, quite the opposite, a hugely successful and heart-wrenchingly emotional work. Thankfully, Warner Bros. chose to open their Comic-Con panel by highlighting the film, and if the footage screened for us today is any indication, “successful and heart-wrenchingly emotional” is by far the most accurate description.
Beginning with a brief video featuring Sendak and Jonze discussing the film, the panel focused largely on the fact that this isn’t a straightforward adaptation of the material. With Sendak’s blessing, Jonze is interpreting the material in a way that is meaningful and personal to him. Sendak is, in fact, overwhelmingly supportive of Jonze’s approach, stating that it honors the intention and spirit of the book while expanding upon its themes. As the film’s lead, Max Records, quoted of Sendak, anybody who doesn’t like the film “can go to straight to Hell.”
While Jonze was not in attendance, Warner screened three scenes for Con attendees. The first was a simple sequence of Max walking through the Kingdom of the Wild Things – of which he has been named king – with the monster Carol, voiced by James Gandolfini. They stroll through a forest lit by the late-day sun as Carol tells Max that everything in the kingdom – except that hole, that stick, that rock – belongs to him now. They proceed into a vast desert in which Max spies a massive animal and seems filled with wonderment. Carol simply says, “That’s the dog. Don’t feed him or he’ll follow you everywhere.”
The second sequence is one in which the Wild Things begin to play, jumping gleefully atop one another as Max tries desperately not to be crushed. Soon, Max is encased in small dome of creatures, who each murmur about the joys of the day as the fall to sleep, and so does Max. The final scene showed the building of a giant fort, as all the Wild Things pitch in for its construction, using their massive size and strength to dig tunnels, toss rocks and heft mile-high tree trunks.
What strikes us immediately about the footage is a strange, almost melancholic mixture of wonder and sadness, joyful exploration and a deep, desperate longing. The tone is immediately striking and, at least to a sentimentalist like myself, remarkably beautiful. This is underlined by the hulking, hunched-over, droopy-eyed design of the creatures themselves, creatures which seem exceptionally stylized and yet strangely real. There’s also a great sense of danger – that these are giants playing with a small, fragile boy, however good their intentions. In just those few short clips, there was humor and drama in plenty, and we suspect that fans might just be in for a magical, fantastical treat later this year.