Where the Wild Things Are is a 2009 fantasy film directed by Spike Jonze. Written by Jonze and Dave Eggers, it is based on Maurice Sendak's 1963 children's book of the same name. It combines live-action, performers in costumes, animatronics, and computer-generated imagery (CGI). The film stars Max Records and features the voices of James Gandolfini, Paul Dano, Lauren Ambrose, Forest Whitaker, Catherine O'Hara, and Chris Cooper. The film centers on a lonely boy named Max who sails away to an island inhabited by creatures known as the "Wild Things," who declare Max their king.

In the early 1980s, Disney considered adapting the film as a blend of traditionally animated characters and computer-generated environments, but development did not go past a test film to see how the animation hybridizing would result.[3] In 2001, Universal Studios acquired rights to the book's adaptation and initially attempted to develop a computer-animated adaptation with Disney animator Eric Goldberg, but the CGI concept was replaced with a live-action one in 2003, and Goldberg was dropped for Spike Jonze. The film was co-produced by actor Tom Hanks through his production company Playtone and made with an estimated budget of $100 million.[4] Where the Wild Things Are was a joint production between Australia, Germany, and the United States, and was filmed principally in Melbourne.[5]

The film was released on October 16, 2009, in the United States, on December 3 in Australia, and on December 17 in Germany. The film was met with mostly positive reviews and appeared on many year-end top ten lists. However, the film was a box office bomb, making $100.1 million from a budget of $100 million. The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 2, 2010.

Plot[edit | edit source]

8-year-old Max, a lonely boy[6] with an active imagination whose parents are divorced, is wearing a wolf costume and chasing his dog. His older sister, Claire, does nothing when her friends crush Max's snow fort with him inside during a snowball fight. Out of frustration, Max messes up her bedroom and destroys a frame he made for her. At school, Max's teacher teaches him and his classmates about the eventual death of the sun. Later his mother, Connie, invites her boyfriend Adrian to dinner. Max becomes upset with his mother for not coming to the fort he made in his room. He wears his wolf costume, acts like an animal, and demands to be fed. When his mother gets upset, he throws a tantrum and bites her on the shoulder. She yells at him and he runs away, scared by what transpired. At the edge of a pond, Max finds a small boat that he boards.

The pond soon becomes an ocean. Max, still in his wolf suit, reaches an island. He stumbles upon a group of seven large, monstrous creatures. One of them, Carol, is in the middle of a destructive tantrum caused by the departure of a female Wild Thing named KW. As Carol wreaks havoc, Max tries joining in on the mayhem but finds himself facing the suspicious anger of the Wild Things. When they contemplate eating him, Max convinces them that he is a king with magical powers capable of bringing harmony to the group. They crown him as their new king. Shortly after, KW returns, and Max declares a wild rumpus in which the Wild Things smash trees and tackle each other.

The Wild Things introduce themselves as Carol, Ira, Judith, Alexander, Douglas, the Bull, and KW. Soon, they pile on one another before going to sleep with Max at the center. Carol takes Max on a tour of the island, showing him a model he built depicting what he wishes the island looked like. Inspired by this, Max orders the construction of an enormous fort with Carol in charge of construction. When KW brings her two owl friends, Bob and Terry, to the fort, a disagreement ensues as Carol feels they are outsiders. To release their frustrations, Max divides the tribe into "good guys" and "bad guys" for a dirt clod fight. However, Alexander is injured during the game, and Carol berates KW for jokingly stepping on his head, prompting the latter to leave once again.

Max finds Alexander alone in the fort. Alexander reveals that he suspected that Max is not a king with magical powers, but warns him to never let Carol know. Max’s secret, however, is soon revealed by Douglas when Carol throws another tantrum in the middle of the night - this time over the state of the fort and Max’s failure to fulfill his duties as a king. Carol becomes enraged and rips off Douglas's right arm - though only sand pours from the wound - before chasing Max into the forest and attempting to eat him. Max is saved by KW, who hides him in her stomach. After Carol leaves, KW explains to Max how difficult everyone’s lives are, with Carol’s tantrums only making matters worse. Max realizes what his mother is going through, and decides to leave the island.

Max finds the crushed remains of Carol's model island and leaves a token of affection for him to find. Max finds Carol and tells him he is going home because he is not a king. The other Wild Things escort Max to his boat. Carol runs to join them after finding Max's token and arrives in time to see him off. He starts to howl and Max howls back; then all the other Wild Things join in. Carol looks at KW, and she smiles kindly at him. Returning home, Max is embraced by his mother, who gives him a bowl of soup, a piece of cake, and a glass of milk and sits with him as he eats. He watches as she falls asleep.

Cast[edit | edit source]

Live action[edit | edit source]

Voice cast[edit | edit source]

Suit performers[edit | edit source]

  • Vincent Crowley as Carol
  • Alice Parkinson as KW
  • John Leary as Douglas
  • Sam Longley as Ira
  • Nick Farnell as Judith
  • Sonny Gerasimowicz as Alexander
  • Angus Sampson as The Bull

Production[edit | edit source]

Development[edit | edit source]

Where the Wild Things Are started its development life in the early 1980s, originally to be an animated feature by Disney that would have blended traditionally animated characters with computer-generated settings. Animators Glen Keane and John Lasseter (who later moved on to Pixar) had completed a test film to see how the animation hybridising would work out, but the project proceeded no further.[3] Universal Studios acquired rights to the book's adaptation in 2001 and initially attempted to develop a computer-animated adaptation with Disney animator Eric Goldberg, but in 2003 the CGI concept was replaced with a live-action one, and Goldberg was replaced with Spike Jonze.(citation needed)[7]

After years of interest from various producers, Sendak favoured Spike Jonze as director, noting he was "young, interesting and had a spark that none of the others had".[8] The film was originally set for release from Universal, and a teaser of the film was attached to the studio's 2000 adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.[9] Disagreements between Universal and Sendak over Jonze's approach to the story led to a turnaround arrangement where the film's production was transferred to Warner Bros.[10]

Spike Jonze: Check. Dave Eggers: Check. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Check. Where the Wild Things Are has all the ingredients to become the hipster equivalent of Star Wars.

In 2005, Jonze and Dave Eggers completed a 111-page screenplay, expanding the original ten-sentence story. On 8 July 2006, production began open auditions for the role of Max.[12] The process took months, but, eventually, Max Records was cast. Academy Award-winning make-up effects supervisor Howard Berger (The Chronicles of Narnia) turned down offers to work on the film four times. Although the book inspired him as a child to work in special effects, he felt filming it was a "horrible idea."[13] Jim Henson's Creature Shop provided the animatronic suits for the Wild Things.[14]

Jonze kept in close consultation with Sendak throughout the process, and the author approved creature designs created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. To make the set a more comfortable environment for Max Records, Jonze encouraged the crew members to bring their children to the set. Some of them can be seen in the film's classroom scene.[15]

Michelle Williams was originally cast as the female Wild Thing KW only to leave the project after her voice "didn't match the original vision of how the Wild Thing should sound".[16] She was replaced by Lauren Ambrose, and filming continued.

Filming[edit | edit source]

Principal photography began in April 2006 at Docklands Studios Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia.[17] In 2008, test footage was leaked onto the internet, garnering mixed reactions. Jonze called the footage "a very early test... to see if our VFX plan for the faces would work," but early fan outcry over the video, along with rumored "scared children" in test audiences led Warner Bros. to delay the film's release for a year. On 20 February 2008, speculation emerged that Warner Bros. was considering reshooting the entire film.[18]

Then-WB president Alan F. Horn responded, "We've given him more money and, even more importantly, more time for him to work on the film. We'd like to find a common ground that represents Spike's vision but still offers a film that really delivers for a broad-based audience. No one wants to turn this into a bland, sanitized studio movie. This is a very special piece of material, and we're just trying to get it right." Producer Gary Goetzman followed, "We support Spike's vision. We're helping him make the vision he wants to make."[19]

At the end of 2008, Spike got together with Framestore in London to complete his movie and work with them to bring to life the performances through their animation and visual effects team. Over the course of the next six months, Spike spent time with the animators on the floor of the studio as they worked together to realise his intention for the performances that had started many years before with the voices, continued with the suit performances in Australia, and were completed in London's Soho.

Music[edit | edit source]

Main article: Where the Wild Things Are: Motion Picture Soundtrack

For the film's trailer, Arcade Fire provided a re-recorded version of the track "Wake Up" from their album Funeral.[20] The new version is not featured in the actual film or the soundtrack and has never been made available to the public.

During the film, various songs can be heard such as "Hideaway", "Rumpus", "Worried Shoes" and "All is Love" by Karen O, Zahida K, Anisa R K and the Kids.

Reception[edit | edit source]

Jonze unleashes his considerable creativity. The beasts are recognizable from Sendak's pages, but Jonze gives them names and distinct personalities that connect to aspects of Max's psyche and to the people he loves. Freud would adore this movie. They are vast, feathered, horned, clawed, beaked and definitely wild — irrational and dangerous, even when showing affection — and Jonze uses their threatening bulk as well as their capacity for cruelty to remind us that Max's taming of them is only temporary. For any child, it is near impossible to stay king of anything, even in fantasy.

—Mary Pols, Time magazine[21]

Box office[edit | edit source]

The studio decided not to position the film as a children's movie and spent 70% of the advertising on broad-based and adult-driven promotion.[22] The film was released in North America in both conventional and IMAX theatres on 16 October 2009.[23] Early Friday box office estimates show the film earned about $32.7 million on its opening weekend in theaters.[24] It grossed $77.2 million during its theatrical run in the U.S. and Canada, plus $22.8 million internationally. Overall, the studio took a loss as the final budget of the movie was estimated to be around $100 million.[25]

Internationally, the film was released in Australia on 4 December 2009;[26] in Ireland and the UK on 11 December 2009;[27] and in Germany on 17 December 2009.[28] It was released in Russia on 4 February 2010.[29]

Critical response[edit | edit source]

Reception to the film has been generally positive. The film holds a 73% approval rating on review website Rotten Tomatoes from 268 reviews with an average score of 6.9/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Some may find its dark tone and slender narrative off-putting, but Spike Jonze's heartfelt adaptation of the classic children's book is as beautiful as it is uncompromising."[30] Review aggregation website Metacritic gave the film an average score of 71 out of 100 based on 37 reviews.[31] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B+ on scale of A to F.[32]

Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A, declaring the film "one of the year's best."[33] Manohla Dargis of the New York Times wrote that Spike Jonze's "filmmaking exceeds anything he's done" before, while also noting the imaginative visuals and otherworldly feel, along with the fantastic creature effects on the "Wild Things".[34] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film four stars saying, "For all the money spent, the film's success is best measured by its simplicity and the purity of its innovation."[35] Roger Ebert awarded the film three stars out of four, saying, "All the same, the film will play better for older audiences remembering a much-loved book from childhood, and not as well with kids who have been trained on slam-bam action animation."[36] Dan Jolin of Empire Magazine gave the film a four out of five stars, saying, "A film for anyone who's ever climbed trees, grassed knees or basked in the comfort of a parents sympathy as they've pulled you off the ground crying. It'll make your inner child run wild".[37][37]

Some critics have noted the movie's dark adaptation for children, such as David Denby from The New Yorker saying, "I have a vision of eight-year-olds leaving the movie in bewilderment. Why are the creatures so unhappy?"[38] Stephanie Zacharek of criticized the film's visual aspect, "Even the look of the picture becomes tiresome after a while — it starts to seem depressive and shaggy and tired." She also stated that "The movie is so loaded with adult ideas about childhood — as opposed to things that might delight or engage an actual child."[39] The Globe and Mail's Liam Lacey branded the production a "self-consciously sad film."[40]

Critic A.O. Scott named the film the best of 2009 and placed it at number five on his list of top ten movies of the decade.[41]

Suitability for children[edit | edit source]

Warner Bros. initially feared that the film was not family friendly and would frighten children, but these fears were not shared by Jonze or Sendak,[42] and Jonze refused to compromise.[43] Maurice Sendak said after having seen a completed cut of the film, "I've never seen a movie that looked or felt like this. And it's [Spike Jonze's] personal 'this.' And he's not afraid of himself. He's a real artist that lets it come through in the work. So he's touched me. He's touched me very much."[44] After seeing the finished product, a Warner Bros. executive stated of Jonze, "He's a perfectionist and just kept working on it, but now we know that at the end of the day he nailed it."[22]

Film classification agencies have tended to assign "parental guidance" ratings rather than general or family ratings. MPAA in the United States assessed a PG rating "for mild thematic elements, some adventure action, and brief language".[45] A PG rating was also declared in the United Kingdom by BBFC, citing "mild threat and brief violence".[46] In Canada, the film also received a PG rating in Ontario with an alert for frightening scenes[47] while Quebec awarded a General rating.[48] British Columbia also assessed the film with a G rating with a proviso that it "may frighten young children".[49] In Ireland the film has been classified PG because of what is claimed as having "mild" violence[27] Similarly in South Africa, the film received a PG rating with a consumer content Violence indicator, noting there were "moments of mildish menace and poignant themes."[50] Australia also applied a PG rating to the film and noted "mild violence and scary scenes".[51]

The movie's release generated conflicting views over whether it is harmful to expose children to frightening scenes.[52][53] Jonze indicated that his goal was "to make a movie about childhood" rather than to create a children's movie.[54] Dan Fellman, Warner Brothers' head of movie distribution, noted that the film's promotion was not directed towards children, advising parents to exercise their own discretion.[53] In an interview with Newsweek, Sendak stated that parents who deemed the film's content to be too disturbing for children should "go to hell. That's a question I will not tolerate" and he further noted "I saw the most horrendous movies that were unfit for child's eyes. So what? I managed to survive."[55]

Home media[edit | edit source]

The film was released as a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital copy combo pack and on DVD on 2 March 2010.[56] The home media release was accompanied by a Canadian-produced live-action/animated short film adaptation of another Sendak work, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life, produced especially for the Blu-ray edition.[57][58]

Merchandise[edit | edit source]

Template:More citations needed section

Video game[edit | edit source]

Main article: Where the Wild Things Are (video game)

A video game based on the film was released on 13 October 2009, for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, and Nintendo DS. The former three were developed by Griptonite Games, and the latter by WayForward. All were published by Warner Bros. Games.

Skateboards and limited edition shoes[edit | edit source]

To coincide with the film's release, Girl Skateboards (which Jonze co-owns) came out with seven pro-model skateboards with the Wild Things as the board graphics.[59] Lakai shoes also re-designed most of their pro-model and stock shoes and added in different colors, adding in pictures of the Wild Things on the side and on others with Where the Wild Things Are printed on the side.[60] UGG Australia also designed limited-edition Where the Wild Things Are boots.[61]

Toys[edit | edit source]

A series of collectible vinyl dolls of the Wild Things and Max was released from the Japanese company MediCom Toys. Other releases include an eight-inch articulated figure of Max in wolf costume and smaller scale sets of the characters released under their Kubrick figure banner.

Novelization[edit | edit source]

McSweeney's published The Wild Things by Dave Eggers, a full-length novel based on the film adaptation.(citation needed)

Notes[edit | edit source]


References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Where the Wild Things Are. Retrieved on 2009-11-14.
  2. Where the Wild Things Are. British Film Institute. Retrieved on 26 January 2015.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Price, David A. (2009). The Pixar Touch. Random House. ISBN 978-0-307-27829-6. Retrieved on 2009-10-17. 
  4. "Spike Jonze goes 'Where the Wild Things Are' -", CNN, 2009-10-14. 
  5. Film Victoria - Where The Wild Things Are. Filmed in Melbourne. Retrieved on March 23, 2014.
  6. - The Official Online Store of Warner Bros. Studios Stub
  7. Etherington, Daniel. "Where The Wild Things Are Preview", Channel 4. Retrieved on 2010-01-05. 
  8. Bowles, Scott. "Spike Jonze bravely sails into 'Where the Wild Things Are'", 2009-10-15. Retrieved on 2009-10-18. 
  9. Mark Hooper. "Catch of the day: Where the Wild Things Are", Guardian Film Blog, 2008-02-25. Retrieved on 2009-03-26. 
  10. Template:Cite magazine
  11. How A Kid's Movie Became A Hipster Happening NPR audio report, 17 October 2009
  12. Henriksen, Erik. "Re: Roaring Terrible Roars, Gnashing Terrible Teeth, Rolling Terrible Eyes, Showing Terrible Claws", 2006-06-30. Retrieved on 2009-10-17. 
  13. Mike Szymanski. "Berger On Why He Said No To Wild Things", SCI FI Wire, 2008-11-25. Retrieved on 2008-11-26. 
  15.  Where the Wild Things Are documentary "The Kids Take Over the Picture" [DVD documentary].
  16. Template:Cite magazine
  17. Credits. Melbourne Central City Studios. Retrieved on 2009-10-16.
  18. Stephenson, Hunter (2008-02-20). Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are to Be Entirely Reshot?!. Retrieved on 2009-10-16.
  19. Barna, Daniel (2008-07-24). Spike gets final cut. Retrieved on 2009-10-16.
  20. Montgomery, James (2009-03-26). Arcade Fire Re-Record 'Wake Up' For 'Where The Wild Things Are' Trailer. MTV. Retrieved on 2009-10-16.
  21. Pols, Mary. "Where the Wild Things Are: Sendak with Sensitivity", Time, Time Inc., 2009-10-14. Retrieved on 2009-10-17. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 Where The Wild Things Are Runs Up $33M by Nikki Finke, Deadline Hollywood, 17 October 2009
  23. Template:Cite magazine
  24. Smith, Grady. "'Friday Estimates: Where The Wild Things Are On Top; Law Abiding Citizen Actually Does Well!", The Box Office Junkie, 2008-09-11. Retrieved on 2009-10-17. 
  25. Smith, Grady. 'Friday Estimates: Where The Wild Things Are On Top; Law Abiding Citizen Actually Does Well!.
  26. AAP. "Monster hit: Where the Wild Things Are tops US box office", The Age, 2009-10-19. Retrieved on 2009-10-24. 
  27. 27.0 27.1 Reviews of Where the Wild Things Are 6 October 2009 from Irish Film Classification Office. Template:Retrieved
  28. Wo die wilden Kerle wohnen –
  29. Where the Wild Things Are Russian release date 4 February 2010. Page in Russian.
  30. Where the Wild Things Are (2009). Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved on 25 June 2018.
  31. Where the Wild Things Are Reviews. Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved on 15 September 2015.
  32. Cinemascore. CinemaScore.
  33. "Where the Wild Things Are", Entertainment Weekly, 2009-10-14. Retrieved on 2009-10-17. 
  34. Dargis, Manohla. "Movie review: Where the Wild Things Are", New York Times, 2009-10-16. Retrieved on 2009-10-16. 
  35. Peter Travers (2009-10-15). Where the Wild Things Are. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2009-10-17.
  36. "Where the Wild Things Are", Chicago Sun-Times. 
  37. 37.0 37.1
  38. Denby, David (2009-10-19). Naughty Boys: Where the Wild Things Are. The New Yorker. Retrieved on 2009-10-17.
  39. Stephanie Zacharek. "Where the Wild Things aren't",, 2009-10-16. Retrieved on 2009-10-17. 
  40. Lacey, Liam. "In a magical world, monsters teach a kid a lesson", 2009-10-16. Retrieved on 2009-10-19. 
  41. Seidman, Robert (28 December 2009). "At The Movies" Best of the Decade Picks. TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved on 30 October 2013.
  42. Flood, Alison. "Maurice Sendak tells parents worried by Wild Things to 'go to hell'", The Guardian, 2009-10-20. 
  43. Rose, Steve. "Spike Jonze: 'I'm never going to compromise'", The Guardian, 2009-12-05. 
  44. Lee, Chris. "When Spike met Maurice: Bringing 'Where the Wild Things Are' to the screen", Los Angeles Times, 2009-09-22. Retrieved on 2009-10-16. 
  45. Ratings Search: Where the Wild Things Are (2009). Motion Picture Association of America. Archived from the original on 9 February 2010. Retrieved on 2009-10-19.
  46. Where the Wild Things Are. British Board of Film Classification (2009-10-06). Archived from the original on 2012-03-20. Retrieved on 2009-10-19.
  47. Where the Wild Things Are (2000083670). Ontario Film Review Board (2009-10-05). Retrieved on 2009-10-19.
  48. Where the Wild Things Are (325783). Régie du cinéma (Quebec) (2009-10-05). Retrieved on 2009-10-19.
  49. Where the Wild Things Are. British Columbia Film Classification Office (2009-09-28). Retrieved on 2009-10-19.
  50. Where the Wild Things Are. Film and Publication Board. Retrieved on 2009-10-24.[dead link]
  51. Where the Wild Things Are (Film, 35 mm) (2009-11-02). Retrieved on 2009-11-28.[dead link]
  52. "New film Where the Wild Things Are sends parents into a 'rumpus'", 2009-10-18. Retrieved on 2009-11-03. 
  53. 53.0 53.1 Bowles, Scott. "'Things' too wild and dangerous for a child to see?", 2009-10-20. Retrieved on 2009-11-28. 
  54. Thompson, Bob. "Not a 'children's' movie", 2009-10-17. Retrieved on 2009-11-28. 
  55. Template:Cite magazine
  56. "Where the Wild Things Are", DVD Active, 2010-01-24. 
  57. "Madame Tutli-Putli animators revisit Sendak tale", 16 February 2010. Retrieved on 21 December 2010. 
  58. Desowitz, Bill. "Making Higglety Pigglety Pop!" (Interview), 12 March 2010. Retrieved on 21 December 2010. 
  59. Girl Skateboards: Where the Wild Things Are Board Series.
  60. Lakai Limited Footwear Stub
  61. Where The Wild Things Are Limited Edition Boots Stub – UGG Australia. Template:Retrieved

External links[edit | edit source]

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