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It's Not a Question of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, But When...

Beaks here... Looking forward to Spike Jonze's filmed adaptation of Maurice Sendak's WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE? Worried about the reports of "disastrous" test screenings and rumors of massive reshoots? Curious as to how a film once scheduled for release on October 3, 2008 might still be a full year away from finished? I interrogated producer Gary Goetzman about these myriad issues today (traveling down to San Diego on the CITY OF EMBER train), and I wish I could say I got to the bottom of it all. Unfortunately, after listening and re-listening to my conversation with Goetzman (a double-team, really, shared with Variety's Anne Thompson), I'm left with a whole new set of questions about the fate of this long-anticipated film. "I think that Warner Brothers' vision and Spike Jonze's vision may be a little different," allowed Goetzman. How so? Goetzman wouldn't specify, but the allegations of a bad child performance (from Max Records) and general incompetence on Jonze's behalf are 100% untrue. Records is in the film to stay, and Jonze is goin' nowhere. Goetzman referred to Jonze as "Final Cut Spike", and refused to entertain notions about the director's potential departure. According to Goetzman, "Warner Brothers has no intention of bringing down the hammer on anyone." But is Spike's cut of the film contingent on running time? And has the switch from practical animatronics to CGI compromised the director's initial vision? I've listened to Goetzman's answers twice now, and I'm still not sure about either. The former is obviously a contractual deal (I know of another big 2008 release that's currently contending with this kind of nonsense); that I couldn't secure an unequivocal reassurance from Goetzman gives me pause. As for the CGI, there seems to be little doubt that this is a creative fallback; Jonze wanted to go full animatronic, and it just didn't work out. It's heartening that Warner Brothers and Playtone are taking the time to get WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE right... I guess. A part of me worries that the studio is planning to reshoot everything and press for a more kid-friendly tone. They're definitely not happy with the way the film plays now. If Goetzman is correct, and the fate of Jonze's picture rests in Alan Horn's hands... then how 'bout shooting me an email, Mr. Horn? Does Spike Jonze really have final cut? And will we see this movie before the end of 2009? I'll have much more on Gil Kenan's CITY OF EMBER (which looks fantastic) tomorrow. Bring on the Con!

Readers Talkback
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  • July 24, 2008, 2:21 a.m. CST


    by Iron-kong

    I just won't

  • July 24, 2008, 2:21 a.m. CST

    Loved the book

    by Curtis Spicoli

    Hope the movie is half as good

  • July 24, 2008, 2:21 a.m. CST

    Loved the book

    by Curtis Spicoli

    Hope the movie is half as good

  • July 24, 2008, 2:22 a.m. CST

    It'll be worth the wait

    by BenBraddock

  • July 24, 2008, 2:22 a.m. CST

    This had the potential to be something special...

    by BiggusDickus

    ...unfortunately, it looks like another case of interference by the suits which will no doubt result in a lame, compromised version of the director's original vision and will end up satisfying no-one. Shame.

  • July 24, 2008, 2:23 a.m. CST

    It had pictures!

    by Iron-kong

    Funny. I never read the damn thing.

  • July 24, 2008, 2:31 a.m. CST


    by g-ride9000

    fuck these stupid know it all hollywood execs. Let a brilliant man make a film!

  • July 24, 2008, 2:31 a.m. CST

    more than likely

    by thinboyslim.

    Warner wanted a live action Monsters Inc and Jonze has delivered something far far darker. Here's hoping Spike can get his way with the suits but I'm not entirely convinced.

  • July 24, 2008, 2:36 a.m. CST

    Never liked the book..

    by conspiracy

    I hated the creatures and their big fuckin feet...looked like they'd smell rank. Over the years when I mention this book to other people whilst talking about childhood memories...alot of the time I get a blank just wasn't/isn't THAT popular. I see a Love Guru sized Flop in this...

  • July 24, 2008, 2:37 a.m. CST

    What other 2008 release is having trouble with running time?

    by SpencerTrilby

    c'mon Beaks. Don't be a tease!

  • July 24, 2008, 2:45 a.m. CST

    Sometimes, the studio does have to make back it's cash

    by TallBoy66

    I love Spike Jonze, and Adaptation and Being John Malkovich are amazing, but if he said to the studio "I'm going to make a kids film!" then he turns in Not A Kids Film, then they should try to get their Kids Film and make that dollar. If they feel they can't do it with Jonze's movie, then try to get it back by all sort of interfering. Sucks, I know, but the business does win out because these are the guys who ponied up the dough. (but I do want to see Jonze's cut, probably on DVD)

  • July 24, 2008, 2:59 a.m. CST

    We all know...

    by Wonko

    They should hire Renny Harlin to re-shoot the whole thing, with LL Cool J as Max, and Robin Williams as the voice of every single wild thing. After all, how is an ARTIST like spike jonze ever going to make a watchable film? I mean, that's just plain ridiculous to suggest!

  • July 24, 2008, 3:08 a.m. CST

    Sorry Beaks, but you are wrong.

    by landosystem

    The version I saw had practical effects with marker points to manipulate it with CGI. So it was originally going to be a mixture, which would have worked fantastically. It isn't "heartening that they are taking time", because he nailed it, and it was amazing, and everything they are doing to damage that vision will make it much worse, trust me. Spike managed to make a childs film that challenges its audience and gives kids pause to think, instead of filling it with fart jokes for easy laughs, which translates to failure in studio heads eyes. Sort of an "oh no, kids are walking out of our movie with a strange glazed look on their eyes, we screwed up!" reaction when in fact that was possibly many of those childrens first experience with not being talked down to. I couldn't be more sad that I won't have the chance to see this movie in its true form ever again. Bah!

  • July 24, 2008, 3:18 a.m. CST

    So Spike Jonze made a kids film...

    by zooch

    that no kid would want to see.

  • July 24, 2008, 4:08 a.m. CST

    Oh dear!


    Sounds like they just don't trust the Jonze!<P>Fucking A'Holes don't know what they have in a visionary director and they test screen it to a bunch of Tweeny moany little bitches and so now Spike will be forced to make the dialogue 'understandable dude' and 'where's the frickin 'Splosions man!?' <P>Such sad Hack jobs worths! Could have been a classic! I'll pass til the directors cut.

  • July 24, 2008, 4:24 a.m. CST

    Brass Tacks

    by Kizeesh

    If they are planning to kiddify and indeed Assify the movie, then they won't want to pin themselves down before it's out. If they go ahead now and say, yes we're reshooting Spike's melancholicly bleak tratise on adolescence and the meaning of innocence and friendship so we can replace it with a bright colourful and stupid kids film. No one will go and see it and they'll be hated.<p> They know it.<p> We know it.<p> Hopefully that means they'll make the right choice.

  • July 24, 2008, 4:31 a.m. CST

    I don't care what version gets released, I just want

    by henrydalton

    confirmation that a DVD of the original cut will be released at some point.

  • July 24, 2008, 4:53 a.m. CST

    More kid friendly means another Harry Potter/LotR clone

    by Guy Who Got A Headache And Accidentally Saves The World

    With sparkly fonts, glowing fairys, kids with looks of wonder and an elfman esque score or whatever. Fuck this bullshit.

  • July 24, 2008, 5:59 a.m. CST

    landosystem, Fart Jokes?

    by Mace Tofu

    How about stepping in some poo. Kids love when goofy animals step in poo. Studio Heads, that one is a freebie. I don't think it is fair to judge a movie where CGI is to be added to the face of the wild thing but show the preview audience puppets with X's were the face goes. Did they ever get that far as to have the finished eye and mouth movements animated onto all the puppets? Who wouldn't give low marks to unfinished test footage. I mean it's one thing to watch a movie preview were a shot or two is missing but how much of the wild things was shown unfinished with X's on faces? Was the music even done? Music can save many a film as-is. Hopefully the re-shoots are for technical reasons and not for more poo gags.

  • July 24, 2008, 6:01 a.m. CST

    I remember that test that was posted a while ago

    by Yeti

    Had the "fee" of the book down pat. Magical yet there's a tinge of sadness to it. Ugh I'd be a mess afterwards...

  • July 24, 2008, 6:18 a.m. CST

    henrydalton...hear hear. I loved that clip we saw...

    by FlickaPoo

    ...last winter...with I could have kept just that. Seriously, I watched over and over again. Sort of Sesame Street for grownups.

  • July 24, 2008, 6:21 a.m. CST

    You know what?, it reminded me a bit ot the really...

    by FlickaPoo

    ...sad segments they used to have on Sesame Street when nobody believed that Snuffleuppagus was real and Big Bird was left all by himself. I would get both sad and homicidally angry...

  • July 24, 2008, 6:22 a.m. CST

    Fuckin CGI.

    by Knuckleduster

    Bah! I say Bah!

  • July 24, 2008, 6:32 a.m. CST


    by Cobbio

    Thanks for the report, landosystem. I haven't read very much about "Where the Wild Things Are," but I figured Spike Jonze would give it a sobering, much more artistic take. I hope the studio keeps his version for release on DVD. I'd pay to see it.<p> Seems like it came down to this: the studio execs wanted bright and magical with fart jokes, and Spike Jonze wanted expectation-challenging drama. The kids in the test screening's eyes were opened to something new, and the studio execs didn't like that. They wanted cutesy pie status quo. Thus, reshoots, less scary monsters, and an inserted fart joke or two.<p> I understand the studio has to make its money back, and challenging movies are often villified as "too dark." But then again, "The Hobbit" I saw when I was six showed orcs chanting "Where There's a Whip, There's a Way" in thundering voices as they snapped whips across the backs of woodland creatures. That vision would've been "too dark" by today's standard as well. Thus the over-pampering of children by shrill, oxycontin-addicted parents continues. Sad.

  • July 24, 2008, 6:57 a.m. CST

    Directors Cut

    by stvnhthr

    There will be no directors cut because the visual effects were never completed. We are going to get one cut once WB decides which direction to greenlight on the cgi.

  • July 24, 2008, 7:25 a.m. CST

    Sorry Beaks, but you are wrong PART 2.

    by ingloriousjedi

    I know someone who worked on the film in Australia and the performance of Max WAS actually terrible. TERRIBLE. Spike knew it and the crew knew it. He should of did what Robert Zemeckis did when he realized Eric Stoltz was wrong for McFly; RECAST when he still had the chance. <p> One way I can see this going is if they replace the Max with a more 'cartoony' CG replacement with a kickass voice actor. I'm sure the Monsters being too scary are also part of the problem. But the real problem is THE LEAD FUCKING ROLE!

  • July 24, 2008, 7:29 a.m. CST

    "darker" and Where the Wild things are....

    by GrndlWnderer

    don't really go well together. On a site that has lambasted many a project for not holding true to a source material. Hearing someone actually talk about how a movie based on "Where The Wild Things Are" might lose it's dark edge is kind of idiotic. I have known and loved the story all my days ( my middle name is in fact,Max)and long held the story to be a personal favorite. I am passing that love on to my little son. But to call the story "dark" is both stupid and presumptuous. If Spike Jonze ( who I have heard is brilliant, but I have yet to be convinced that he isn't a bit more than clever, and there is a difference) wants to make a dark "Wild things", he is suffering from the twin failures many young artists go through of arrogance and blindness. The story is simple and wonderful, a basic adventure story set in the bedroom of a precocious and tad snotty little boy, sent to his bedroom without dinner due to his willful bad behavior. He imagines he runs (boats?)away, to a wild land were there are wild and monstrous (in a scary,yet 5 to 8 year old way) creatures. Said creatures at first challenge him,by making noises and faces, but then seeing his wild ways make him king. He then plays with his creatures, gets tired, misses home, goes back and sees that his mother had brought him dinner while he was away (dreaming) and is comforted. If you make this a "darker" tale, you are not telling the story. This is akin to anything from American McGee, add a sexual and sadomasochistic overtone to any childhood story and you make it "dark" and "important". Please see the Penny-Arcade comic on the subject to get the full stupidity of the issue( check the inter-webs). So in summation, and trying to be brief, now I am not attacking Jonze at this point, as I have not seen,heard or read anything from his project to this point. I am attacking those who want Spike to make a "dark" "Wild Things", to those I say, it's a small child's book, not a semi-adult , or young adult fiction story, it is a story about the wonder of imagination, and the security of home ( my interpretations both), but one thing it is NOT is a "dark" tale.

  • July 24, 2008, 7:35 a.m. CST

    for clarify

    by GrndlWnderer

    I am not slamming Spike Jonze, or being snide...he is clever and by far talented. Adaptation showed that....but brilliant, I am not yet convinced. Hitchcock, Kurosawa,Bergman,Fellini,Scorsese they are brilliant. Jonze is not yet in that company, not yet.

  • July 24, 2008, 7:47 a.m. CST

    "Monster House"

    by Yaw

    I went to the library at my college the other week with the son of a fellow tutor who works in the same department as me. I was appointed surrogate for a few hours or so. So we went to find some videos but the children's selection was a little thin; I really wanted him to see "Sounder" but I feel that that movie is a few years off for him. But he mentioned he wanted to see something scary. (We settled for a Harry Potter flick.) And remembering the comment on the Disney visit to see the new Pixar makeover of the place and the request for more horror stories for children - which I couldn't agree with more: the rush it is to be that age and scared by the images on screen, distant but so emotionally present, and how it all stays with you (WITHIN BOUNDS FOLKS! *Still scarred by the fact that Harry was watching "Texas Chainsaw" as a tyke.* But I remembered seeing Keenan's "Monster House" in theatres and how it felt like a timeless work. Keenan is a special director and I really thank him for giving fans of scary movies the gift of "Monster House." I was 25 at the time, yet I felt like a child - as if I'd magically shrank down into my chair, my clothes folding up, becoming baggier and baggier, my hands diminishing and getting lost in the sleeves of my jacket. Transportive. And a paean to the courage and resourcefulness of childhood at that. Actually, pretty similar to elements of "Stand by Me."

  • July 24, 2008, 8:07 a.m. CST


    by Yaw

    The dark elements concerned Max's selfishness, ie he isn't a highly likeable kid. From what he have been hearing, the studio representatives wanted something that was much more flat and clean, no rough edges. Take for example the very ugly things they have been doing to Dr. Seuss characters for the sake of selling tickets. No, Jonze's vision was that the monsters were like aspects of his own problematic behaviour and that through his journey, he was going to grow out of those attitudes by seeing it reflected negatively in them. It was supposed to have a hauting quality to it: imagine something like "Flight of the Red Balloon" or a good "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" movie. The colour pallete that we had been seeing was really rich autumn colours, maybe with shadows the texture and depth of a forest floor of ferns. It all sounded quite lovely and breathtaking; no, the studio wanted a product.

  • July 24, 2008, 8:16 a.m. CST

    There's a great story...

    by Yaw

    in the documentary about the documentary, "Grey Gardens." The filmmakers bring up the memory of a critic who flat-out loathed the film. As they started talking to them, drawing out his opinion, they believed that they were approaching more of a truthful vision of how he had seen the movie: much of his reaction had been based on a fear of growing old and apart from the world and the degraded but proud women of "Grey Gardens" awoke this hard-held fear of his (they are: a mother and daughter, relatives of the Kennedys isolated in a decaying mansion, they feed loaf after loaf of bread to the racoons in the attic who they are happy to have there and wander around the overgrown gardens of the house, argueing but loving: the daughter who has lost her youth has stayed behind for her mother and external concepts of time have passed them both by). Because Jonze is touching on how lonely and confusing the world can be when you are a child, I think that he's touched an emotional nerve with a group of men who have isolated themselves within financial concerns, lost touch with the art that they help to make. But that's just me.

  • July 24, 2008, 8:18 a.m. CST

    And yeah, I have a very idealistic vision...

    by Yaw

    of this film's possibilities. I believe the portrayal though is more decisive than it is horrible. But again, heresy. But I do have my hopes.

  • July 24, 2008, 8:21 a.m. CST

    Great post Landosystem

    by Yaw

    especially about the "glazed look because it is the first time they've never been talked down to." Really great. I love to hear from people who really appreciate the miracle of childhood.

  • July 24, 2008, 9:09 a.m. CST

    It's probably great, which is why they have to fuck it..

    by quantize

    since Hollywood is becoming expert at pumping out pure rancid overmarketed dogshit...

  • July 24, 2008, 9:11 a.m. CST


    by quantize

    oh fuck off...yes its a simple childrens story, but what are you fuckin blind? the whole illustrative style was 'dark'... wake the fuck up.

  • July 24, 2008, 9:16 a.m. CST

    The Test Scene Was PERFECT, But ...

    by cowboyone

    Supposedly the screening made a kid cry. (Probably a studio exec's kid) But hell, the studio hired Eggers and Jonze for the project. Look at their work. It's not candy colored gumdrops and pixie dust. If they wanted that they chose the wrong book and the wrong team. I feel like Eggers and Jonze (children of the 70's) are close to the material and aren't willing to totally cheese it out. Not to mention the fact that the Sendak family had to "sign off" on Eggers script. Also, why CGI? I thought the character in the test scene worked very effectively.

  • July 24, 2008, 9:24 a.m. CST

    Damn You Michael Bay


    Damn You Michael Bay

  • July 24, 2008, 9:30 a.m. CST

    "supposedly made a kid cry"...and that's a bad

    by FlickaPoo

    ...thing? Studio executives probably can't even cry at Old Yeller anymore. Anyone who can't cry at Old Yeller should be taken out back and shot.

  • July 24, 2008, 9:40 a.m. CST

    We all know that they will hire the Wachowskys in the end.

    by DerLanghaarige

    Okay, probably not after the commercial failure of Speed Racer, but I see a new 'Invasion' coming up. The only difference is that Jonze is a bigger name in Hollywood than Hirschbiegel and so is harder to replace at this point.

  • July 24, 2008, 10:25 a.m. CST

    fuck CGI

    by Stifler's Mom

    let Spike do whatever he wants and back the fuck off.

  • July 24, 2008, 10:29 a.m. CST

    ~~~~~hate to say it but...~~~~~

    by The Marquis de Side 3

    I've seen those anamatronic puppets. the movie looks good for an 80s film, and although I haven't seen the finished product, I can see how ill-received Spike's work might look for producers whose kids are used to seeing CGI transforming robots and battle armor polar bears. Spike is a great filmmaker and his vision of "WILD THINGS" is probably amazing. But the studio brass want CGI polar bears and robots.

  • July 24, 2008, 10:34 a.m. CST

    this should stay practical

    by Staldo

    Does any remember the Gorgs in Fraggle Rock? Does anybody remember how they looked almost EXACTLY LIKE one of the Wild Things from the book? This should have stayed as a practical effects movie. I'm really jealous of people that have seen the unfinished product, it sounds like an awesome throwback to when kids' movies meant something.

  • July 24, 2008, 10:48 a.m. CST

    a clip

    by Staldo

    Just saw the clip online of the kid hitting the Wild Thing repeatedly in the stomach with a stick (not as bad as it sounds) It did look incredible. How is it not awesome? Any kid who cries at that needs serious relaxant drugs.

  • July 24, 2008, 11:02 a.m. CST

    Just not interested in this at all.

    by The Eskimo

  • July 24, 2008, 11:14 a.m. CST

    who else is fighting for final cut, beaks?

    by welbrick

    i spoke to the production designer about 6months ago & he was prepping for 2weeks worth of reshoots on 'where the wild...'

  • July 24, 2008, 12:42 p.m. CST

    When things go this wrong it almost always shows.

    by fiester

    This will be mediocre at best.

  • July 24, 2008, 5:38 p.m. CST

    Has a movie studio ever been right about anything?

    by fastcars

    I know what Spike Jonze has done. What has this Horn executive done? Diddle his interns while giving out notes to directors to make their cast "more likable"?

  • July 24, 2008, 5:51 p.m. CST

    "A part of me worries that the studio is planning to..."

    by RetroActive

    "... reshoot everything and press for a more kid-friendly tone." --------- Um. Isn't that the point? It's a children's book!

  • July 24, 2008, 8:35 p.m. CST


    by Yaw

    but there are many different ways of interpreting that comment: "children's." For some people this is genre. For some it is a market. For some it is just fuckin' life. And a great part of that life at that. But a complex one. We've seen a great trend of pandering in the last few decades or so; with content standards for films dropping (you know, the rating system), a lot of things that were once allowed ALMOST ENTIRELY dominant children's films now. They are not all horrible; but most of them aren't great. *Sendak was a dreamer and I feel the same way about Jonze; while "Being John Malkovich" was a heavy ass film, he was really able to show this quality with "Adaptation." I point especial attention to the scene where it is revealed how Chris Cooper's "hillbilly" Laroche lost his very prominent missing teeth - Jonze understands that much of human diversity and eccentricity has a place of origin in suffering. And yet, we have gifts of personality, joy, and wonder, defiance to help us reconceptualize that pain, reach up and away from those wells of sadness. Jonze and Eggers have translated this conception of life to the life of a child. We live in a material society so afraid of discomfort that slowly we've alientated ourselves from certain truths of human existence, like pain and loneliness. In consequence, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our children are at a great moment in history, one I feel with a great potential for wide-spread of empathy. But with all our contentment, geographical freedom and relative physical peace, we are highly reliant on external stimulation for a sense of well-being: well, I'll buy this, I'll take this pill, I'll go there, I'll watch this movie... Movies can be truthful, despite thier medium, and in being truthful, challenge us. And if we feel that children are humans, we too should have the same standards for them. "Babe Pig in the City" is a wonderful example of this attitude; it is one of the most beautiful examples of acts of cruelty and kindness that I've ever seen. A lot of tears; but there are tears of joy, too. *I recommend Egger's "What is the What."

  • July 25, 2008, 12:01 p.m. CST

    I thought the plan was...

    by StovetopStuffin'

    to use performers in suits and then do CG faces. Are they doing completely CG characters now?