Perhaps the most hotly-anticipated, is-it-happening, on-again-off-again movie, the live-action film Where the Wild Things Are, based on the classic Maurice Sendak bedtime story, is finally emerging from its dark, unruly forest to see the light of day. Cinematic trailers of the film are set to premiere this Friday before screenings of Monsters vs. Aliens, and the film will be released October 16, 2009.
The film is more than an adaptation of one of the most popular kids' books of all time; it has monster-sized talent behind it. Wild Things is directed with expectedly quirky aplomb by Spike Jonze (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, various pyrotechnic skate films), with a screenplay written by certified kid-expert Dave Eggers, TED Prize winner, novelist (What Is the What?) and proprietor of the 826 Valencia and Once Upon a School nonprofits. Tom Hanks is one of the producers. The Jim Henson Creature Shop is handling the monsters, voiced by James Gandofini, among others. And Sendak is alive and well, thank you, and was able to consult on the movie as well (he apparently loves Jonze's version).
After years of development, the film was shot on location in Australia way back in 2006 but got bogged down in audience-testing hell. About a year ago, reports surfaced that early screenings of the movie were "too scary" for kids and that the main character Max was "unlikable." Last summer, it was rumored that Jonze was leaving the project and the film was being completely reshot by order of Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures (who cleaned up last year with The Dark Knight). This was followed by online petitions to "save" the film. In the end, Jonze got more money and more time to make a more broadly-appealing movie. We hope that doesn't mean we get the Teletubbies version.
In fact, scaring the bejeezus out of its younger audience would be all-too appropriate for this story. When Where the Wild Things Are first hit shelves in 1963, it was deemed too frightening and weird for kids and booksellers were hesitant to sell it. Now it's considered a literary classic.