I had to go back and look to see how long ago I’d first read about Where the Wild Things Are being made into a movie. It turned out that it was last February, and my feelings haven’t changed since then: I feel a deep sense of trepidation about the whole project. Sometimes a movie ruins a great book, and I worry about that, here.
So today when I saw that Lauren Ambrose has been cast as a voice talent for the project, I did not find myself feeling warm and fuzzy. Ambrose is a great actress; that’s not the issue. It’s that apparently the Wild Things will be talking. I’m already twitching. Though, people are apparently thinking really hard about this stuff:
Ambrose is replacing the previously cast Michelle Williams. According to a production source, the filmmakers enjoyed working with Williams, but her voice didn’t match their original vision of how the Wild Thing should sound.
You know how a Wild Thing should sound? I’m just guessing, here, but given a broad array of possibilities, I don’t think of Michelle Williams or Lauren Ambrose. Or, in fact, any perky young actress. Go figure. I could be picturing it wrong, I guess, but again, it all just seems a little weird to me.
So after reading about that and getting worked up all over again (“My preeeeeshus! You mustn’t wreck my preshus!”), I was delighted to run across this piece in Slate about the evolution of illustration in children’s literature:
Books were for schooling or for teaching religious and moral lessons—with properly serious illustrations chaperoning the text.
This somber mode continued through the Civil War. And then it went poof, dispelled by artists who became children’s illustrators by happenstance.
The piece is accompanied by a slideshow which is not to be missed. Where the Wild Things Are figures prominently in the history, of course, but so do Gellett Burgess’ turn-of-the-century Goops, who are an old family favorite of ours. (The article compares the Goops to the South Park gang, which made me laugh out loud.) Whether the movie meets expectations or not, there’s no question that Sendak’s Wild Things are an important piece of history. (But, uh, if the movie folks are reading? Here’s a special message from me to you: Please don’t screw it up.)