I very much look forward to Spike Jonez’ upcoming Where the Wild Things Are. I expect it to be a visionary project with Jonez’ unique signature and I see it cooking up some debate about look development in film adaptions – as it has already been doing.
Forest Whitaker says:
It’s one thing to read [scary stuff] in a book, but when you see an itty-bitty kid running alongside a 10-foot-giant on the side of a cliff, it gets intense.
Spike Jonez says:
I wanted it to feel “real,” or not-real because it’s not “real,” I wanted it to feel like… like when I was a kid, and I would play with my Star Wars action figures, or read Maurice’s books and imagine me being Mickey in IN THE NIGHT KITCHEN, or whatever it was… it felt like it was everything, you know? It’s like your imagination is so convincing to yourself that… you’re there, you’re in it. And I wanted this movie to take it as seriously as kids take their imagination and not, like, fantasy it up.
Moriarty says (about the Sendak book “Where do I come from?”):
…the cartooning style got the harder things past you, so you’re able to grapple with some of those bigger ideas. What I loved about Maurice’s book and still love about it is that it’s about emotional states, and what a crazy thing it is to write about for children… how sometimes you have these emotions that are just so big you can’t control them.
Witnessing this wonderful struggle for authenticity in story and visual means of transporting a story’s emotion, I wonder how npr might be used to tackle the same issues. Could it transport the feeling of spontaneity? The “rough and organic” feel with nothing of an artificial environment that Moriarty praises? How might reactions to the film’s look have differed had the original Sendak artwork been used more directly as a point of departure? Could a wonderful director such as Jonez work with npr stylistics as masterly as he does with the real Australian landscape?
And beyond the level of look development, there’s the element of communicating this target look within the community team of producing a film. I catch myself grinning that I-feel-your-pain kind of grin when I read this by Jonez: I told the studio, “I don’t think this is gonna be a movie for four-year-olds.” And I think they said “Oh, okay,” but I think that when they saw it, that’s another… you know, that’s something else.”
Determining expectations is difficult in any project, but the clash of cultures evident in Jonez’ art-speak is too beautiful. Just visualize what the ‘family-film’ suits at Warner Brothers had in mind when they hired Jonez and when they saw those grooved, raked talons hovering over a little boy’s shoulder in screening. Let’s hope they have the wisdom to allow it through as the director envisions it, and not sliding down that slippery slope of second-guessing.